Warpips belongs to a class of games that I buy because they remind me of Advance Wars – visually at least. In truth, Warpips is not Advance Wars, and it’s not trying to be, and that’s fine because the thing it is trying to be is pretty excellent anyway.
I think this is tug-of-war at heart. The battlefield is a long corridor of land here, with your HQ on one end and the enemy HQ at the other. The objective is always the same – destroy the enemy HQ and don’t let the enemy destroy yours. But the matches that unfold are never the same.
It’s real-time, and you have no direct control of your units once they’re on the ground. Even so, this is a game dense with choices. Firstly, you choose which units to deploy, as and when you can afford them. Then, when they trot out to kill enemies and earn XP, you choose what to spend the XP on. You can use it to buy more war pips, which allows you to deploy more units at once. You can use it to boost your cash supplies – cash builds up overtime anyway, but slowly – so you can buy more units faster. Or you can use it to rank up your units so they get better and do more damage and all that jazz.
This is the heart of the game. But like Doctor Who, I’m tempted to say this game has two hearts. You can get lost deciding where to place your XP – that is, games can be won or lost by the extent to which you are prone to mismanaging this layer of tactics – but you can also get lost picking between units. Pick the wrong kind of unit for the wrong kind of enemy and things get bad quickly. So maybe place some sandbags for cover instead, or fire rockets that randomly strike an enemy target, or operate a gun turret that gives you a roving cursor and reminds me of Mashed, may it rest in peace. On and on and on as the campaign grinds onwards and the unit types multiply. But whatever you’re buying, you’re not buying something else, and there’s the secret choice you’re making.
It’s all about pushing a wall further along the battlefield til you’re actually damaging the enemy HQ. Like I said, it’s tug of war. As such, I’ve been enjoying this simple, complicated pleasure for the last few weeks. Only recently have I decided to take things seriously, though, which means that I’ve been paying attention to another element – a little bar at the centre of the UI that tells me when my enemy is going to surge and when they’re going to hold back. It’s a guide for my own deployments, and in its colourful ribbon lies much potential for strategy. So in a way, Warpips has three hearts. Not like Doctor Who, then, but still a lot of fun.