Taking the fun out of warfare, the rated "E10+" for Everyone Ages 10 and Up, "Advance Wars: Days of Ruin" for the Nintendo DS systems from Intelligent System, is the same great strategy based game the series has been known for with an updated darker look and storyline to match. The world has been decimated by a natural meteor strike and 90% of the population has been wiped out.
The 10% that's left either hang on to whatever hope they have and rebuild, try to dominate and control the military due to the chaos or just plain destroy whatever is left as they give in to the hopelessness of this dire and desolate new world. You are the sole young survivor of a military academy directly hit by a meteor who comes across a group of bandits who want to kill you for no other reason finding you alive. Luckily you are saved by a roving battalion who goes around looking to help survivors with the mantra that the world can be rebuilt as long as there is hope left in humanity.
It's a definite change from the "brightly colored army" versus "darker army" mentality that the series has used so far.
As for the gameplay, it takes the standard "Advance Wars" ideas and improves on a few of them. The two opposing armies will start on a mapped grid with different terrain, buildings and cities on them and with a certain number of units available to each of them. The goal of each skirmish is either wipe out the opposing army or capture the enemy's headquarters. As you would expect, each unit has certain strengths and weaknesses that you will have to use to your advantage when positioning and attacking the enemy. You also have to ability create certain units as you capture factories and control cities on the map.
There are some new changes that increase the strategy of the game that makes things a little interesting. If your commander for the match is riding in a unit and that unit destroys and enemy unit, that unit will level the commander up which will provide the unit with special bonuses along with the unit's own level up bonus. You even have the ability to move your commander to a different unit and provide them with the bonus should your tactics call for it.
While the ability to play against opponents using the DS Wi-Fi capability has returned, you can now make and edit your own custom maps and play those maps online as well. Sadly, I did not have enough time to take the game online, but the fact that you can do so with this title (and that I've heard pretty good things about it) cannot be a bad thing.
I know, I'm disappointed with me too on this game. Sorry everyone. I was just way too into the single player mode and storyline. While it wasn't Oscar worthy, it was enough to definitely keep me interested. The visuals also do their part to bring you into the new desolate tone of this new world. Unfortunately, this is one issues I had with the game.
My other main issue is the difficulty. The game starts off easy with tutorial missions to get you back into the "Advance Wars" swing of things, then ratchets up after the 7th or 8th mission pretty quickly, as if to make sure you've been paying attention to the game's tutorial missions on how to use and control your units efficiently, so be ready.
With the new found "more realistic" darkness to the story, visuals and the increased difficulty, I would have to recommend newcomers to the series to the brighter, less serious "Advance Wars: Dual Strike" before this one. The difficulty curve on Dual Strike seemed a little more forgiving to me on " Advance Wars: Dual Strike", and the storyline is more light-hearted and carefree, (or as carefree as you can be when launching an aerial assault against your enemy.)
For this iteration, it keeps to its namesake. "Advance Wars: Days of Ruin", is more for the advanced gamer to enjoy and fully appreciate to get the most out of this game. If you've never played the game but want to know what all the fuss about this series is about, pick up any of its predecessors for an easier wade into the strategy pool. Veterans to the "Advance Wars" saga, or strategy games in general, should definitely jump into "Advance Wars: Days of Ruin" with both feet; the warfare is just fine.
Alejandro's GameCore Review Equation: (Advanced) Challenging + WiFi + User Made Maps + Darker Overtones - Not for Beginners = Good Buy ONLY if you're used to "Advanced Wars" or other strategy games.
By Alejandro K. Brown