Advance Wars: Days of Ruin Review

I’m glad to bring you yet another installment of GN Convo Reviews! (Basically a review through a back and forth discussion between two people.) This time, Dac and I go head to head and ready our DS’ for an all out assault on Nintendo’s latest DS title, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. I call the Rubinelle Armed Forces!


Demetri: So Dac, you had a chance to check out the new Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. We both know that Advance Wars has become a popular franchise since the first one came out on the GBA. Do you think this new installment lived up to its name?

Dac: Well, let’s back up just a second, Demetri. The original GBA title was actually created well after the entire franchise was established in Japan. There, it was known as “Famicom Wars,” as it was originally released on the Famicom back in the late 80’s. I had a chance to play the original, and while it’s obviously nothing near what we have today, I can see why the AW series has such a great fanbase worldwide. With that being said, I’m just extremely pleased with the latest installment, Days of Ruin. Now, this was your first time playing an AW title, so what’s your initial reaction?

Demetri: Well thanks for the history lesson, there always seems to be some kind of sidestory to a creation of a game. You’re right, this was the first Advance Wars game I played and I was very impressed. I’m not the type of gamer who plays a lot of strategy games, be it on the DS or on the PC, so going into this game I had very little strategic experience. What I really liked was how the game introduced you to the tactics and style of battle in a very easy and friendly way. You weren’t bombarded with all of these terms and layouts, fending for yourself. With each progressing level, you learned something new and the NPCs went out of their way to teach you how to utilize each unit accordingly. I really liked that.

Dac: Believe it or not, the initial tutorials were far shorter than in previous renditions, which seemed to last forever, as if they were catering to people who had never held a DS before. It seems like Intelligent Systems found a pretty healthy balance in introducing new players without boring the hell out of war veterans like me.

Demetri: Yeah, the tutorial levels also didn’t feel like out of the way “let’s teach you how to play!” levels. The story started right from the beginning which definitely caught my attention. Speaking of the story, what did you think of it? I was very pleased to see such a grim, serious situation be addressed in such a fun to play game. The “end of the world” scenario reminded me a lot like the Fallout universe where everyone has to fend for themselves, survive or die. The characters were engaging enough to care for and the story felt important. I didn’t mash my screen to skip all the dialogue to get to the battles.Did you feel the same way? I heard this game’s story is a lot more serious and “realistic” than previous installments where you had hipsters as Commanding Officers.

Dac: The new story and “dark” feel are, by far, the most different aspects when comparing to the older titles. To be honest, in previous Advance Wars games, it seemed like every situation was taken far too lightly. For God’s sake, the main character would say things like “owned!” or “totally lame!” in the middle of combat, as if I were playing with 12-year-olds on Xbox Live. While the gameplay has always been phenomenal, the overall aura of the Advance Wars titles have always seemed far too childish for a war simulator. This is why Days of Ruin is such a breath of fresh air. For once, I feel like every single resource makes all the difference, and when my infantry get slaughtered on the field of battle, it brings the harsh realities of war closer than it’s ever been in this series. With talks of stealing, destroying, and murdering in the game, coupled with a visually dark look, it’s clear that Nintendo is trying to market this game to a more hardcore audience. And you know what? It absolutely rocks.

Demetri: Yeah, the story is engaging enough for me to care about the army and its personnel that I am leading. I think they did a really good job with that. You mentioned all of the different tactical strategies you can do such as capturing buildings, destroying HQs and killing off the enemy, I was a bit worried about the difficulty. The first few missions seemed a bit easy and short, but when the story started to take a turn so did the battles. You weren’t attacking with just infantry, jeeps and tanks anymore. You were introduced to different types of aircraft, battleships, artillery each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Soon I had to start using the terrain because it can raise your defenses depending on where you are on the map. With every successful kill your unit would level up, appropriately dealing more damage and raising defenses. And soon enough the enemy started to utilize all of these features as well, extending each mission to almost an hour’s worth of intense warfare.

Dac: Actually, the level-up system was also a new and welcome addition to DoR. It persuades the player to heal his broken-down but high-level vehicles instead of purchasing brand new ones, which seemed to be what was encouraged in the older versions. It kind of goes along with the “use everything you’ve got” feel this game has. Of course, when you boil down the gameplay, it’s almost exactly like the previous versions, which are tried-and-true. If there’s one area they did tweak, it’s the overall balance of the game. In previous versions, specifically the first Advance Wars DS, the CO powers were far too broken and unbalanced, and literally could turn an entire war around. This was such a huge turnoff for me considering strategy games should never have a seemingly-random situation that throws away everything you’ve worked for.

Demetri: You’re right. The CO’s do have special abilites but they definitely don’t turn the tide around completely to your advantage. Let’s talk about control real quick. When I first heard about the Nintendo DS the first idea that came to my mind was “this would make an awesome handheld for strategy games.” You have your stylus (which can act like a PC mouse) and from there you can control your buildings and infantry with ease. So when I went into this game, I was expecting a similar experience, and boy did it deliver. I don’t think I touched the buttons or d-pad once my entire playthrough. The whole game can be accessed and controlled by just the stylus. From moving units, to constructing buildings to zooming in and out of the map. Every asset is at your fingertips and I think Intellegent Systems did a great job in utilizing the DS’ capabilities.

Dac: As an AW vet, I’ve grown up with my d-pad and button controls. In fact, I don’t think I once tapped a stylus to the touch screen. Obviously, I tried out this method with the previous DS version, but found that I preferred the physical control over the virtual control. But I guess you’re down with the touch screen, and I’m into the buttons. It’s perfect control for anyone! It seems like Intelligent Systems really put good use to every aspect of the DS, including the wireless functions. I’d say, without a shadow of a doubt, the best addition to Days of Ruin is the full online play. We’ve been wanting it for years, and now it’s here, and it is just fantastic.

Demetri: So the bottom screen shows you the battlefield and the commands you can assign for each unit while the top screen is a database of useful knowledge. Everytime i chose a unit, be that mine or the enemy’s, it showed me everything I needed to know in an easy and understandable manner. From strengths and weaknesses, to how much ammo, health and gas I have left. On top of that, if you wanted to, in every level you are allowed to ask a CO about strategies that can help you win the battle.

Dac: Yeah, and the rock-paper-scissors style of gameplay keeps everything simple enough to grasp, but complex enough to master. I think now would be a good time to mention that if anyone has ever played a Fire Emblem game and had a good time, you’ll have a blast with Advance Wars. (And vice versa, as well.) Being that they’re both developed by Intelligent Systems, they’re extremely similar titles at the core. (Only, you know, one is a war simulator while the other is a Japanese RPG.)

Demetri: I’ll be sure to check that out. It seems strategy games have found a nice home on the Nintendo DS. Now all they need to do it make a good true port for Starcraft.


Dac’s Take: Really, I could talk for hours about the improvements they’ve made in this latest rendition. Sure, they’ve taken out a few things that some may miss, like the ability to unlock maps at your own rate, but at the end of the day, it’s the same Advance Wars we’ve been playing for years, just with a fantastic face-lift and long-awaited online play. Everything from the badass rock soundtrack to the compelling storyline is enough to keep the rabid AW fan happy for a long time. While this doesn’t bring anything groundbreaking to the table, it’s still the solidest Advance Wars title to date.

SCORE: 9.0


Demetri’s Take: For someone who has never played an AW game before, I was very impressed by the quality of DoR. Over 25 skirmish maps to play plus a map creator will keep you playing for a long time. If you have friends with DoR, it can be one of the best handheld online experiences you’ll have. Friendly tutorials and easy access to stats invites newer players to try their wits against other CO’s on the battlefield.

SCORE: 9.0


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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