Once again, Nintendo DS owners are graced with a new Advance Wars game. Once again it enters the fray with all guns blazing, not to mention some bazookas, tanks and anti-air cannons.
Dark Conflict sticks with the same formula that has seen Advance Wars succeed as a strategic turn based war game since the days when it was played on the GameBoy Advance. With the new title comes a new Campaign mode to fight your way through. Each battle reveals a little more of the story behind the post apocalyptic setting of Advance Wars: Dark Conflict, with players earning medals based on their overall performance for each scenario.
For those who have never played an Advance Wars game before, the concept is simple. You are in control of an army with many versatile units. Each unit, ranging from standard infantry, to tanks, artillery, battle helicopters and war ships are at your disposal. Players take turns commanding their army, giving individual units their specific instructions for that 'day'. Whether it be to move to a more advantageous position on the battlefield, attack an enemy unit, capture a building or some simple reconnaissance work.
Once you have given all your units their orders, it is your opponent's turn to do the same. Of course, it goes without saying that each unit has its own advantages, disadvantages and special abilities. Only infantry and motorbikes are able to capture cities and climb mountains. Vehicles with wheels can travel further on a road than on plains or forest. Even the type of terrain you position your units on counts towards the outcome of a possible firefight. Mountains provide good defense for infantry, whereas sitting on an open bridge leaves you weak and vulnerable.
All these details require the player to carefully plan their turn and think strategically about how they should go about attacking the enemy, while making sure that they don't leave themselves open and defenceless while their opponent makes their turn. The method behind playing is rather easy to pick up, but once the ball gets rolling after a few of the earlier maps, you will soon come to realize how deep the game actually gets. Learning to be cautious and knowing the limitations of your units is vital to success.
Included on the single player side of things is a 'Free Battle' mode. Here you can play a single match unrelated to the campaign missions. There are over 100 different maps to play on, whether you want to have a head to head duel, or make things a little more interesting with 3 or 4 armies present. Unlike the campaign, Free Battle allows you to select your C.O. (Commanding Officer) giving you and your opponents bonus abilities unique to their C.O. Each Commanding Officer also has a special power that they are able to use when certain requirements are met on the battlefield. These last a limited time and include things such as boosting the mobility of your ground units, healing your units, or increasing their defence and vision. All these small advantages can help turn a battle in your favour.
New to Dark Conflict is something that most Advance Wars fans will have been waiting for. That is, online play. Players are now able to stage wars against any opponent worldwide, or, by trading friend codes, set up matches between friends without having to be in the same room.
Of course, the traditional multiplayer methods still exist. Whether you have friends with their own copy of Dark Conflict to play over wireless, or go back to the traditional method of all having all your friends huddled in a circle, playing on the same Nintendo DS and passing it on to the next player when it is their turn. No matter how you choose to play it, the multiplayer in Advance Wars has always been where the series has shined. With many maps and options to customize, no game will ever be the same.
Once you begin to grow tired of playing the hundreds of preloaded maps, Dark Conflict allows you to create custom maps to play on. These can be used off-line and on-line to add that little bit more replay value to the game. The editor is simple to use, giving you a space to work with, and the ability to create any type of terrain, building and even pre-place units for each army. Once you have created your monster, you are able to trade maps via WiFi, letting players from around the world see your creations, and in turn, seeing what ideas other people have come up with. This adds to the huge amount of replay value already present in Advance Wars: Dark Conflict.
In all, Dark Conflict is another great addition to the Advance Wars series. It comes off as being a well rounded turn-based strategy game. If you own and enjoyed the previous Advance Wars games, the new campaign and ability to play over WiFi certainly push this towards being a good purchase. If you have never played Advance Wars, Dark Conflict is as good a place to start as any.