Game Review: Days of Ruin

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
8.5 of 10
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Developer: Intelligent System

Turn-based strategy games are probably the most enjoyable and highly addicting form of entertainment for me. Playing these games, I always remembered being shackled onto my desk, staring at my 15" CRT monitor with bloodshot eyes, hours upon hours, neglecting both food and sleep, and leading my glorious pixelated empire into prosperity. Throughout the years, the genre has thrived and I've played many great titles such as Civilization, Galactic Civilization and Disciples -just to name a few- for the PC. Unfortunately, I haven't tried any turn-based strategy games on other gaming platforms. That's why I decided it's high time that I did so and picked up Advance Wars: Days of Ruin.

The story, a post-apocalyptic in genre, is set in the aftermath of a meteor shower that devastated civilizations and has left the world in ruins. As one of the survivors and a member of Brenner's Wolves, a group of soldiers dedicated to help all who survived the cataclysm, you will fight against marauders, mad scientists, and megalomaniacs who are after your life and supplies.

While I haven't played any game from the franchise, it's safe to assume that Days of Ruin isn't connected to other Advance Wars titles because I didn't had any troubles understanding the story. But there's nothing notable about the story though. Albeit there are many surprising twists and turns in the plot, the writing (or perhaps the translation) is just horrendous to give it substance. The dialogue, especially, and characters feel too campy and cliched. It's like watching a trashy B movie.

Thankfully, the gameplay is nowhere near the storyline in terms of quality. The game is just too addicting and it's very hard to put it down. One element in the game that I found commendable is that the units are well-balanced, each has their strengths and flaws. A battleship may be the bane of cruisers. But it is a sitting duck against a submarine. Cruisers, however, can easily deal with the submarines. So there's no way for you to blot the screen with just an army of wartanks. A variety of units is a must in this game if you want to beat it.

The game's AI is sneaky and -well- intelligent too. It responds to the type of units you create and your strategy. If you make an army of wartanks, it'll create an army of anti-tanks to counter your offense. If you make bombers to get rid of his anti-tanks, it'll create fighters to take down your bombers. If you happen to have an artillery bombardment as a defensive strategy, it will try to keep its ground units away from your range and will cautiously try to take it down when you drop your guard.

While the game is fun, it also comes with a bit of frustration. In addition to a really smart AI, your computer opponent also has an unfair advantage of extra units, money, and bigger guns. Making the game, in some chapters, nigh unbeatable until you find the perfect strategy. I swear I was stuck in 2, probably 3, chapters for weeks. And without an option to change the difficulty of the game, I almost gave up on it after a lot of my strategies have failed.

Graphics & Sounds
The graphics in Days of Ruin is mediocre, overall. The main game screen lacks color and feels dated. You'll mostly see gray, blue, and red units on the map. The units also have simple designs but are distinguishable from one another. The characters and the units in the battle screen, however, are well designed and nicely drawn. I especially liked Lin, a Lieutenant in Brenner's Wolves, with her long silky black hair.

While it lacks voice acting, the game produces a pretty good sound. The music is hard rocking and memorable. Too memorable, in fact, that if you play the game long enough the music will haunt you in your dreams. The sound in the battle screen is also crisp and clear. The bombs whistle when they're dropped, machine guns rattle when they're fired, and armors make tinkling sounds as bullets hit them.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin yielded a fun gaming experience. Possibly because of the well-balanced units and a smart AI. The game can get hard in some chapters, however, and might become too frustrating. But it's nothing a good game guide or walk-through can't fix. Sadly, I didn't had a chance to play the other modes. But I bet the multi-player mode is a lot of fun to play with friends, and will increase the game's replay value. Overall, if you like turn-based strategy games, I recommend getting Advance Wars: Days of Ruin.