Nintendo are good at streamlining genres. Pokemon saw them do it with the traditional RPG, whilst Advance Wars simplified turn-based strategy. And now, with Days of Ruin, they’re, um, doing it even more with turn-based strategy. The result? A slimmer, trimmer but nevertheless brilliant entry into the series.
Days of Ruin strives to cut the fat off a bloated series. Take the previous entry, Dual Strike, which saw multi-screen switcheroo battles bemuse even the most hardened series veterans. Days of Ruin completely emancipates itself from previous instalments by killing off 90% of the world’s population in its opening sequence. From then on, you must traverse the ravaged landscape battling off moustachioed generals, wild-eyed bandits and scientists who look suspiciously like swans. Oh, and a virus which turns people into plants.
The franchise reboot works well, with the often-infuriating CO powers stripped back hugely. Whilst it is sad for series fans to wave goodbye to their favourite characters, it means that the game is no longer bogged down by back-story; fitting for the thoroughly dip-in-and-out nature of the gameplay. Players must build and command air, naval and ground units on a grid-based landscape, ordering troops to capture cities whilst tanks march on the enemy’s HQ. This is all supremely addictive, of course, and very easy to get to grips with. It can also get supremely difficult as the game progresses, the AI launching near-perfect campaigns and thoroughly trouncing your men on a regular basis. In essence, Days of Ruin is the perfect handheld game; accessible but with immense depth.
The game also boasts lovely graphics, throwing away the twee Playmobile stylings of previous entries in favour of a grittier, more hand-drawn look. The music, too, is very good if a bit superfluous as it’s rare that you’ll actually bother listening to it. If you do, however, watch out for the track which sounds oddly like a heavy metal version of Riverdance. The game also benevolently allows you to skip any dialogue or cut-scenes and also provides a surprisingly good “tip” option when players get stuck. Combined with the long-awaited online mode (not that you’ll be able to use it on campus) and you’ve got the ultimate Advance Wars package.
Committed fans may prefer Dual Strike for all its more traditional style, however this is a marvellously leaner game which still brings plenty new to the table. Highly recommended.