Bite Sized Reviews: Empires Shall Fall

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Bite Sized Reviews: Empires Shall Fall

Advance Wars is one hell of a drug, and Empires Shall Fall might just be the next best thing on PC right now. Fair warning, I ran into some technical issues before writing this. Not a fault of the game, but I had a minor outage on my laptop during some freak hailstorm yesterday. I have absolutely no idea what happened, but Steam completely blew up the bed, erasing all my campaign progress. Even the Steam Cloud did not work, so I ended up losing about 10 hours of gameplay. While that’s not ideal, I wanted to be transparent upfront. This will be a shorter article than I usually do, but I plan on a follow-up in a future episode.

Advance Wars has long been one of my favourite video game franchises, featuring turn-based combat across expansive stories and a ton of flavour. Advance Wars ½ Boot Camp launched last year after a bizarre year-long delay due to the ongoing War in Ukraine. I’ll be honest: that delay might have been the nail in the coffin for the series. We had a long wait for that reboot, and while I’ve enjoyed Reboot Camp significantly, it just did not do enough for a remake. The lack of matchmaking for a franchise built for matchmaking was a poor decision in my eyes. The long delay probably contributed to its poor sales. I hope we’ll get another Advance Wars game when the Switch 2 comes out, but my hopes aren’t high.

Rambles about the past aside, it is tricky to find a game like Advance Wars on PC. The Wargroove games do an honourable job, but their lack of truly distinctive factions (only their hero units have specialized abilities) makes them an uneven alternative. I’ve played both Wargroove 1 and 2, and their extensive campaigns and robust map editor make them solid strategy titles in their own merit. I just wish they brought more diversity to the factions. They do feel like a reskin of each other.

Empires Shall Fall launched earlier this year, and you can tell from the start how much inspiration it takes from Advance Wars. That is a good thing because it might be the best PC option available to us. It might look humble, but I recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in the strategy genre.

Coming into these pixel art strategy games, don’t expect miracles in visual design or voice acting. This is a one-man team after all, and while the art design won’t win any prizes, they’re clear and comfortable on the eyes. This isn’t Cyberpunk 2077 after all. Seriously, the visuals and city design in that game… (Chef’s kiss)

Empires Shall Fall lacks voice acting in any way, but I wasn’t expecting any. For any small project, this stuff gets expensive. I’m not going to hold that against the game, although there is a fair bit of dialogue in-game that might’ve been better if characterized. As the story goes, it is a typical ‘war-torn world, defend your empire from the evil enemy’. The usual stuff, I guess? None of it is poor, but it might feel too familiar to some.

The game focuses more on gameplay to sell itself, and the narrative feels secondary. There are a couple of campaigns to chew through, one focusing on a tutorial, as well as skirmish maps. There’s even a map editor, although I haven’t found a way to share maps with other players. There is probably a way, so if I find it out, I’ll edit the post to reflect that. In terms of gameplay, it’s all pretty much what to expect. Supply mechanics keep things interesting, and units have the rock-paper-scissors balance that feels enjoyable. The difficulty feels balanced: not piss easy with maps that will challenge you, but not to the point I felt frustrated. Looking at you, Wargroove!

The quality of life features are all solid. The game runs well on pretty much any hardware, even on my ancient GPD Win 1 with its Intel Atom processor running it at full speed. There are options to speed up gameplay and animations, with the ability to save and reload at any time. These may sound like obvious features, but you will be surprised how often games lack such simple quality-of-life pieces. In turn-based combat, matches can last for a while so being able to speed up combat scenes helps a ton.

While I’m not invested in the story or characters, it’s hard to find real faults in Empires Shall Fall. It is a solid strategy title with a ton of content for the price tag as well as frequent updates, all for a competitive price tag of £10.99/15$. It is worth picking up even if you have never played Advance Wars before, as it stands on its own feet as a turn-based strategy game outright.

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