Wargroove might be a humble indie title from Chucklefish, but it’s a meaty package. A worthy successor to Intelligent Systems’ own Advance Wars (a series that hasn’t seen a new release since 2008’s Days of Ruin), in fact.
If you’re a fan of the Advance Wars or Fire Emblem franchises, you’ve probably already started to dive into the long-awaited Wargroove. Have you unlocked all the varied commanders for Arcade Mode, though? Probably not.
Let’s take a look at them all, their Grooves and the missions you have to complete to unlock them for play. Beware, though: the last trio of commanders constitute story spoilers (as do the titles of missions throughout, if you’re really spoiler-sensitive) so don’t read too far into this guide if you don’t want that.
Now, technically, the Queen of the Cherrystone kingdom doesn’t need to be unlocked. She’s the only commander available right from the start of Arcade Mode (which is itself unlocked by completing the first chapter of the campaign).
As is fitting for the first commander we get to control, she’s a solid and reliable pick. Her Groove is Healing Aura, which heals all her units in a wide AoE around her. It restores 50% health to each unit in range and herself, and it charges quickly to boot.
This is very useful, as it gives her the ability to press an attack (and remain in the front line) like few other commanders can.
That’s right. Second up is the commander you’re really here to learn about. The good-est of all good boys, Caesar. This magnificent pupper is another commander of the Cherrystone forces and Mercia’s beloved pet.
He’s the second commander to become available in Arcade mode and the first you technically unlock. To get him, you have to complete the campaign’s first side mission, Act 2 Side 1: Canine Justice.
Caesar’s Groove is one that’s going to be familiar to all fans of that amazing Eagle ability from Advance Wars. It’s called Inspire, and allows all units adjacent to Caesar to take another turn.
Next, we have our first commander from another faction. All the way from the Floran Tribes, please welcome Greenfinger.
This wise old tribal elder is the ruler of the Floran, and is actually named Zawan (Greenfinger is his title). He has the rare ability to create and control plants, which is… well, that’s quite a party trick right there.
To unlock him, you have to complete the campaign’s next optional mission: Act 2 Side 2, Banishment. Do so, and you’ll be able to play as the kindly ruler in Arcade.
Greenfinger’s Groove is an unusual one. It’s called Wild Growth, and allows the player to choose five tiles within range on which to spawn vines. These can be used offensively or defensively, and mastery of this Groove will probably define true Wargroove experts.
The second commander of the Floran tribe can be acquired immediately after the first. Nuru is a mysterious member of the tribe, whose origins lie elsewhere (though she isn’t telling where). She’s small, but very powerful.
To unlock her, simply head across to the next side mission (a branching path in the campaign makes both available at once), Act 2, Side 3: Making Friends. It’s a friendly match between Mercia and her new ally, which takes place on a very small and compact battlefield. Defeat her, and she’s yours to command in Arcade mode.
Nuru’s Groove is Teleport Beam. This allows the player to produce any unit (at its usual cost) in an adjacent tile. As with a lot of these Grooves, this is a toned-down version of familiar powers from Advance Wars, and can be very useful on stages that usually limit your ability to produce units.
The next commander available to unlock is a member of the Felheim Legion. Ragna is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a warrior, pieced together from parts of some of history’s finest fighters. She was created by the Legion’s ruler, Valder.
You’ll have encountered this familiar foe in the campaign already, and can unlock her by completing Act 3, Side 2: Who Is Caesar?.
Her Groove is the first we’ve seen that’s strictly offensive (that is, damage-dealing itself) in nature. Shield Jump sees Ragna target a specific area of the map near her, unleashing an AoE jumping attack. On impact, all opposing units in the area take damage equal to around 2/3 of Ragna’s full attack strength.
Here’s another first. Mercia’s wise old advisor Emeric is the first commander who isn’t unlocked via side missions (and one of very few who isn’t). To play as him in Arcade mode, you simply have to advance through the campaign until you complete the second mission of Act Three, An Old Friend.
His Groove is another very versatile one. Elder Shield allows the player to place a magic gem on the battlefield on a tile near Emeric, granting a defensive bonus to all friendly units in its range. It can be attacked and its HP will degrade each turn automatically, but the +3 terrain bonus it imparts can turn the tide.
Keep in mind, also, that its effect will always grant allied Alchemists critical hits (they need 3 or more defense to deal crits).
If you’ve completed the earliest chapters of Wargroove’s campaign, you’ll be familiar with Sedge. Another commander of the Floran Tribes faction, they personify all the ruthless hunting impulses that the Floran are sometimes renowned for.
To unlock this sadistic fighter, you must win the first optional battle of Act 4: Sizzlepalm Forest.
Sedge’s Groove is another curious one, perhaps the most unique in the game. While Sadistic Rush doesn’t sound like much (it simply deals 35% damage to any enemy unit), it has some interesting mechanics. If the opposing unit is defeated by this attack, Sedge’s Groove ‘charge’ isn’t expended, allowing the player to use it as many times as they like in a match (providing it’s the finishing blow on an opponent each time).
It charges very slowly to balance this, but with canny use, you can get a lot out of it. And avoid a lot of counterattacks, of course.
Over to the Heavensong Empire now to meet our next commander, Tenri. The Empress wields magical fans with which she manipulates the wind, which sure does come in handy in battle (as we’ll see).
To unlock her for the Arcade mode, you’ll need to complete Act 4, Side 2: Halcyon Days. Things really do start to get tough at this stage of the campaign, but Tenri is worth the effort.
Her Groove is Rising Wind. It allows her to move a unit (friendly or opposing, any but the commander) from its current location to another tile within a wide range. Armchair strategists will find all kinds of cunning uses for this. Dropping an enemy behind a wall or other obstacle? Sneaking a key attacker into range of a foe that wouldn’t otherwise be vulnerable? Rising Wind can do it all.
The next member of the Heavensong Empire faction is Koji. He’s Empress Tenri’s son, and a brilliant little inventor (as the huge wooden puppet he rides on probably makes clear).
There are no side missions to complete this time. You just need to finish the first mission of Act 5, Here Be Monsters, to be able to play as Koji in Arcade.
He brings another unique Groove to the table: Sparrow Bombs. On activation, this will spawn two Sparrow Bomb units. They have limited range, but are excellent for dealing quick AoE damage to clustered enemy units (50% of Koji’s own max attack power to all enemies in range on detonation). As with most Grooves, it’s all about when and where you choose to use it.
The final playable commander of the Heavensong Empire is Ryota. This fanatically loyal young man rose to become Tenri’s right-hand man, by virtue of his tactical ability and tenacity.
To play through the Arcade mode as Ryota, you’ll need to complete the second optional mission of Act 5, Settling the Score.
Ryota’s Groove is another formidable damage-dealer. Blade Dash lets him charge through ranks of enemies, dealing 45% of his max attack power as damage. The potential of this Groove depends on the arrangement of the enemy units (he can charge through those that are clustered together). The key here, then, is trying to bunch enemies together with your regular units first.
Ah, yes. We meet Sigrid right in the first moments of the campaign, and are left in no doubt as to her dastardly vampire ways. She’s a formidable warrior in the Felheim Legion, and a huge (and devoted) asset to Valder.
She’s unlocked for play in Arcade mode very late. To get her, you need to win the second side mission of Act 6, which is A Fragile Blockade.
Her Groove, Vampiric Touch, is the darn best of them all in my eyes. It will instantly defeat an opposing unit and add whatever health it had to her own. This is a fantastic ability, making her one of the few commanders who can reliably heal themselves in the front line. Not to mention effortlessly taking a key opponent out of play (no, not a commander).
To complete the list of 12 standard commanders in Wargroove, we have the devious Valder himself. Leader of the Felheim Legion and wielder of the Fell Gauntlet, Valder (himself a mortal man) has the power to summon an undead army for his cause.
Naturally, he’s the last of the standard commanders you can unlock. Emerge victorious in Act 6, Mission 3, The Fortress and he’s available for Arcade runs.
Appropriately enough, Raise Dead is his Groove. The player can choose a tile around Valder and immediately produce a skeleton warrior, which is able to take its turn right off the bat. Coupled with its fast charging time (among the quickest), this ability can let you do what skeletal warriors tend to do best: swarm their opponents.
And now, onto those last few postgame spoiler commanders you may not want to know about.
While you need to unlock the standard commanders for the Arcade mode, they’re all available to play from the off in multiplayer. These final, special commanders are an exception to that.
First up, we have Elodie, princess of the lost Kingdom of Cacophony. You have to complete the Campaign mission An Ancient Adversary to unlock her (the not-quite-final mission), for both the Arcade mode and multiplayer.
Her Groove is very simple but very effective. With Nocturne of Woe, you can immediately ‘charm’ an opposing unit (commanders aside), permanently putting it under your control. Pick the right unit at the right time, and this can be devastating.
2 Dark Mercia
That’s right, friends, they’ve done that super cool and clichéd thing where there’s a shadowy, dark version of an otherwise goodly character. It’s hardly new and exciting, but it’s a neat enough addition and quite an interesting story twist.
After the ‘final’ mission in which Elodie is unlocked, there’s just the epilogue to go. Victory in The Enemy Within will unlock Dark Mercia for use in the Arcade and multiplayer modes.
Dark Mercia’s Groove is Aura of Ruin. It has super useful healing properties, but it works in the opposite way to Mercia’s own Groove. Rather than healing nearby allies, it drains health from surrounding enemies (30% of their maximum value), before restoring herself by the amount drained.
Rounding out the Wargroove roster, we have a commander who is a bit of question mark for now. As we know, Mercival II is the King of the Cherrystone Kingdom when the campaign begins, and meets a grim end at Sigrid’s hands in the prologue. The event leads to Mercia’s coronation, and is the catalyst for the whole story.
Mercival himself does not fight in this mission, simply coming to an abrupt end. However, the official site states that he can be unlocked for play in other modes. At the time of writing, though, players don’t yet know how this is done. He doesn’t appear to be a mission-based unlock like the other commanders.
Once you do get him, though, he’s more of a novelty than anything. His Groove is Gone Fishing, which you can activate when you’re adjacent to a water tile. He throws in his rod, reels in a fish, and… that’s it.