Having recently seen the brash, flash, voice-commanded Xbox version of Endwar and been reasonably impressed, we had an inkling that the DS version might not be the disaster area it initially promised to be when announced earlier in the year, and so it proves to be. Obviously the full-fat exploderising doesn’t feature here, but instead we’re treated to a perfectly playable, well-executed, turn-based strategy game that’s only a few ranks below the genre-defining Advance Wars.
The meat of the game is a three-tiered Campaign mode set some 20 years in the future, with American, Russian and joint European forces at each other’s throats. While not connected to any particular canon, the story is standard Clancy stuff and as such is distinctly lacking the charm that puts Advance Wars in a league of its own. Good job that the action makes up for the dryness, then.
Each campaign takes place in a different territory, has around 30 distinct battles and there’s a progressive difficulty level that starts you off with minor skirmishes that are easy to complete and finishes with epic encounters that’ll fry your noodle with their tactical complexity. Although there are two phases to each turn – movement and combat – this is essentially a posh game of chess, just like Advance Wars. The battlefield is a grid of hexagons and each side has a variety of unit types. Each of those units has a set movement range depending on terrain and an attack range depending on the enemy. You’ll need to assess the battlefield using the map view, then decide which of your units to send against which opposing pieces and when. Wading in all missiles blazing works in the earlier levels but quickly becomes a redundant tactic.
The all-important control system is fiddly but does its job and there’s a choice between D-pad and buttons or drag-and-click stylus work (or, for the best results, a combination of both). A beefy two-player versus mode adds to the value – or would if you could share a cart – and there’s a map editor too. The Endwar to end all wars? Not quite, but a decent effort.
Dec 1, 2008