Advance Wars: Days of Ruin Preview Feature #2: The Changing Face of Warfare

Installment two of our preview series focuses on the new units, controls, and commanding officers in Nintendo's strategy sequel.

Next week, Nintendo will answer fans' cries for a new Advance Wars game with Days of Ruin, a grittier installment in the hallowed portable strategy series from Intelligent Systems. Yesterday we took a look at Days of Ruin's darker tone and art style, and today we're back to examine how the game will play, including the changes made to the interface and controls, new types of units, major changes to the commanding officers and their abilities, and more. To start with, the fundamental gameplay here is 100 percent classic Advance Wars. The look and feel may be different, and there may be new units on the battlefield, and so on, but the core turn-based tactical combat that has been the heart of the series is still fully in effect. Veterans of past games will already be intimately familiar with the movement and offensive and defensive properties of the various tank, artillery, infantry, support, air, and naval units.

Luckily, Nintendo has improved the stylus control in Days of Ruin considerably, making stylus-only play a perfectly viable alternative to the traditional D-pad-and-button combo. In fact, you can play the game entirely with the stylus, never touching the other controls. All movement and attack functions are accessible with a tap of the screen or two, and you can scroll around the battlefield by dragging the stylus to the edges of the screen. Even more advanced functions are easy to pull off--viewing an enemy unit's movement and attack ranges, for instance, can be accomplished simply by tapping or holding on that unit, respectively. It's telling that we've played almost halfway through the single-player campaign now without ever touching the traditional controls, and we haven't missed them.

No strategy sequel would be complete without some new battlefield toys to play with, and while the ones we've seen so far in Days of Ruin have provided some nice new functionality, we haven't seen anything totally game-changing. There's the bike unit, which has exceptionally long movement range and can capture buildings just like an infantry unit. As a wheeled vehicle, though, it can't traverse obstacles like mountain ranges. The flare unit is handy for defeating the fog of war, since it can project a flare remotely to reveal an area of the map for a limited time. Watch out, though--its armor isn't very tough.

The new commanding officer powers are less potent than before, but they still pack a wallop.

The old armored personnel carrier has been replaced by the rig, which serves the same function--it can transport troops long distances--but it can also be turned into a "temporary airport" over the course of two turns, making it a supply point for your various aircraft. Then there's the antitank unit, which is sort of a mix between traditional artillery and a tank. Like artillery and rockets, this unit has a firing range covering multiple spaces but is limited to moving or firing (but not both) in a single turn. However, it can also counterattack when fired upon directly by an adjacent unit. And as the name implies, it's especially good at killing the various kinds of tanks in the game.

There are even some new terrain features in the game. Some of them are mostly cosmetic; new tiles like wastelands and city ruins are similar to existing terrain types but fit in more closely with the postapocalyptic theme of the storyline. There are some remnants of the global disaster that actively play a role in battle, though. For instance, jets of flame shoot up from the ground on some maps, and these can illuminate the area around them when fog of war is active. There are also fragments of the meteorites that have ravaged the planet in some maps. These will actually fire jets of destructive plasma between each other, which is of course lethal to your units. Luckily, you can destroy these fragments to nullify this effect.

The revamped commanding officer system is perhaps the biggest change to the gameplay in Days of Ruin. In the past, your choice of commanding officer would provide a specific passive benefit across the battlefield, and you could also invoke a special CO-specific ability that was often powerful enough to change the outcome of the battle in a single stroke. This new game limits the CO's influence pretty drastically from what we've seen so far; Nintendo has said in the past that this change was meant to more strongly emphasize general battlefield strategy and clever use of tactics without letting players lean too heavily on the overwhelming power of the COs.

Commanding officers aren't disembodied overseers anymore; now they're units on the battlefield. You can load your CO into any unit while it's still located in a factory (and doing so will take that unit's entire turn). Once the CO is in a unit, he or she has a specific range of influence inside which other units receive a bonus. For instance, Brenner provides a buff to the defense rating of units inside his relatively large zone. Lin's zone is smaller, but she increases both defensive and offensive capabilities of units directly next to her. Most of the COs' passive abilities seem to be balanced between the size of their zone, the degree of increase to offense and/or defense, and in some cases the kind of unit (land, sea, or air) that receives this buff.

Meteor fragments--and the plasma jets that fire between them--can be a real hazard to your armies.

When a unit causes damage to an enemy within a CO's zone, the damage point value will be added to a meter underneath the CO's portrait, and when this meter is full, you'll get to bust out a sweeping special ability similar to those in the past Advance Wars games. But again, these abilities seem less powerful than before. Brenner's power adds three hit points to all units on the map, for instance. Isabella can give all units an extra two units of mobility and two units of range to indirect attackers. Lin's ability increases each ground unit's range of sight by two spaces. These CO abilities are effective in the right situations, but they certainly don't seem to be battle-winning on their own merits alone. You'll still need a solid underlying strategy to get through each mission.

On top of all these new additions and changes, Intelligent Systems has finally taken Advance Wars fully online with Days of Ruin. Tomorrow, we'll be looking at the game's head-to-head multiplayer (including voice chat) via Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service, as well as the map editor and online map-trading capability. Come back tomorrow for more details on these features.

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Discussion

44 comments
Snifbask
Snifbask

*drooooooooooooooooooooooool* is All I can say:D

Dr_Evil_PhD
Dr_Evil_PhD

I like the powered down CO powers I just sucked when you were winning a battle in the last game and then suddenly, BOOM!!! half of your units are destroyed by meteors and you're now just 2 turns away from losing.

CovieEngineer
CovieEngineer

head-to-head with voice? On a HANDHELD? We've come a long way.

MichaeltheCM
MichaeltheCM

man there have been a lot of DS games coming out lately. too bad i dont have a DS :(

Phopanda112
Phopanda112

Dang! I love the new addition to the CO powers and especially the new bike unit.

StarFoxEXR
StarFoxEXR

I'm also happy about the CO powers. I'd much rather have the game more based on strategy than bull crap powers.

edpeterson
edpeterson

I'm getting this game on the day it comes out, it looks great

BigDaddy973
BigDaddy973

Meh. They are good, but not for long.

xpisigma
xpisigma

...WiseWarrior101, there has been plenty of other DS games with voice chat. Can't wait, though! I bought a DS back in the day purposely for Duel Strike, now this new game is nearly out already. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's news.

Sunnyboy777
Sunnyboy777

man this game could be something....the last one i played was advance war 2 (or i think it was the 2nd or w/e) and i couldnt even get past the last mission....it was so damn hard for me lol.

WiseWarrior101
WiseWarrior101

I'm gonna love the WiFi, finally a DS game with voice chat.

KALHETMAN
KALHETMAN

Coming soooon... Fan´s of turn base strategy games must be happy. Look like game MUST HAVE.

Dark_Link142
Dark_Link142

Glad they're changing the CO powers. They were way too powerful before. It's good they're used here as a nice pick up if you're having trouble but don't entirely change the losing side to winning necessarily.

plasmachild2k
plasmachild2k

Lol and gtr seriously are you getting emotional thinking about the old characters lol? You sound like a whining 5 year old lol. IT's a game and every sequel is meant to be changed so deal with it crybaby.

plasmachild2k
plasmachild2k

All of you old AW AW:BHR and AWDS fanboys seriously need to get a life. You haven't even played the game and you are calling it crap? Seriously. It's a damn good idea that they toned down the powers. When I played AWDS, sure it was a fun game, but goddamn it felt like the whole game was a filler level. And gtrslinger good job on calling people noobs for hating on the retardedly souped up powers in AWDS, I mean after all, It takes great skill to move 2 times in one turn and completely take out your opponent with no strategy or thinking at all right?

REVOLUTIONfreak
REVOLUTIONfreak

I really want this game! The thing I don't understand is the release date though, every online retailer seems to say the 21st of January, but Gamespot and the official website both say the 23rd of January... so, which is it? Even in the interview the guy said the 21st.

lowenergycycle
lowenergycycle

gtrslinger "Can't wait till they go back to the original idea since everyone will hate this." Speak for yourself, misery-guts. The new CO limitations have got me sold. I much prefer the idea of having a stat-buffing area-of-effect, and then actually having to use that unit to build its Special powers up.

alucarDtnuoC
alucarDtnuoC

Get a grip Jebril. What about fire emblem is being mixed into this? (aside from them already being smilar genres: Tactical turn-based strategy games) Fire emblem has a huge emphasis on story and character, and also on making sure you lose as few units as possible on each map, because dead units never come back. Advance wars doesn't have that, never has. Ive also heard that when a unit that the CO is traveling with gets destroyed, the CO goes back to your bases and can be sent out again with another unit

Jebril
Jebril

So their mixing a bit of Fire Emblem into it? Eh.....There's a reason why their two separate games.

oKiRe
oKiRe

does this mean you can get your CO killed on the battlefield? and they stay dead :O???

rsnow7
rsnow7

Well, I guess the story in AWDS wasn't that great. The extra features made up for it, though, and AWDS is a great game. Maybe this game will have a better plot and gameplay?

gtrslinger
gtrslinger

this game looks like crap. The older AW games had style, This is just a lame rehash and it will not sell that great. It looks too different and "pinkish ground" is not more realistic. I don't care about the new CO's at all and the DS CO powers were awesome. The fact that they toned them down is retarded. Screw teh noobs who couldn't handle it. I don't care if this is online or not. No max, andy, hawk,etc... = I DON'T CARE!! Way to screw up a franchise. Can't wait till they go back to the original idea since everyone will hate this.

Dualmask
Dualmask

I'm in full agreement with TsubameOzuno. I'm cool with the toning down of CO powers (some, like Kanbei's, were entirely too powerful), but I kind of liked the passive benefits (more move range, higher attack power, etc.) that were distributed among the entire army. The new scheme is more realistic, true, but it seemed to me the CO powers were what made Advance Wars more interesting than a simple military strategy game would be otherwise, and the way they affected the entire army under one CO's command made picking different characters more fun. It seems now that the differences between COs is becoming more-so cosmetic than strategic. Strategy is important, but a little flash of un-realism is what makes games more interesting than real life, at least to me. Still, change can be good...we'll see.

cskousen
cskousen

This game looks awesome. I am so getting it the first day it comes out. Less than a week. Woohoo!!!!!

chipmunk884
chipmunk884

This looks like such an awesome game! And panta, it comes out the 21st.

Gundam_Fan
Gundam_Fan

Hmmm, I can't wait for this game to come out. He just said the 21st... is it the 21st or 23rd?

Corvidae
Corvidae

As a HUGE Advance Wars fan, I couldn't be happier that they're limited the power of the COs. I found it to be very unbalanced and a frustrating aspect of the series. DoR will have me for unlimited hours, possibly causing me to sleep with my DS... I have no shame.

fffreak999
fffreak999

I'm not impressed with the new COs. It was one of my favorite part of the game. The pressure of having the enemies have these awesome powers, the difference your CO could make, the way each CO was adapted to a specific style It was great. The new system seems to be a downgrade.

podliver
podliver

I didn't think Dual Strike could get any better, but apparently it can :D

yoshi_64
yoshi_64

The new way CO powers operate is definitely interesting. I'm curious as to what else these powers may do in the right situations. Well I can't say I agree wholeheartedly about the decision, but I'm not to grim about it either, at least until I go at it myself. However, this game is still sounding solid, and I cannot wait to start carnage online. 8)

TsubameOzuno
TsubameOzuno

Kinda makes me sad to see the COs change, as there seems to be a much smaller variety too, from the CO selection screenshots I've seen. I was really a big fan of the map-wide plusses and negatives that each CO gave, as it made each CO feel very different (Do I want to play with really powerful expensive units, or mass cheap units that may be weaker?). Now it seems that COs will be so minor that it'll hardly matter who you select. More balanced perhaps, but it'll unfortunately lose a lot of variety in matches. I'd have been fine with a nerf to the CO powers, but I'm sad that there is no longer a map-wide playstyle change.

Lord_Pisces
Lord_Pisces

I can't wait. I'll be sure to pick this one up in four days.

vgxtremist
vgxtremist

Curses that 2 day delay, but I can't wait!!!

PENGUINKK
PENGUINKK

Looks great, I hope I can pick it up soon after release. Did anyone notice the "Yesterday" link leads back the same article?

Cantius
Cantius

awsome. I remember when I finished a stage for Advance Wars : Black Hole for my friend,and he got to playing it again and finished it. It was pretty nice helping someone.

monkeytoes61
monkeytoes61

I hated Dual Strike but this game looks great.

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

Well, so far, it sounds like the changes have been positive ones. While I will greatly miss the horribly cheap CO powers and Dual Strikes of AW: DS, for online play, I think it's great that they're balancing them out a little more now.

fiscope
fiscope

Awesome! I hated how CO's were so unbalancing. This seems like a great compromise.

Bio_Spark
Bio_Spark

Sounds mostly like a change for the better.