Franchise finally admits war is hell
Platform: Nintendo DS
At its core, Days of Ruin doesn’t tamper much with the time-honed formula of the Advance Wars franchise. Players take command of land, air and sea units to defeat rival armies on strategically rich maps. An intuitive rock/paper/scissors mechanic governs combat, which is deepened immeasurably by the individual units’ strengths, weaknesses and movement capabilities, as well as mechanics like terrain bonuses and fund allocation. But Days of Ruin’s dark tone definitively breaks with the franchise’s lighthearted tradition. This is evident in its setting—a post-apocalyptic dystopia—and in the talking-head sections between battles. Out with adorable cartoon officers supporting and affirming one another, seemingly oblivious to war’s human toll, and in with murderous anarchists and neo-fascists talking hardcore tactics and ethics. But this shift to a grittier realism is somewhat disappointing, as the franchise’s juxtaposition of Candyland-tone and grisly carnage has always been part of its weird charm.