Since Intelligent Systems have concentrated exclusively on the Fire Emblem franchise, the Advance Wars series has essentially become one of the more fondly remembered ones that Nintendo have forgotten existed. A new game on the Switch is long overdue, but developers elsewhere are taking inspiration, such as Solid9 Studio’s Exorder – a colourful medieval fantasy take on the series.
Taking place in a nicely animated isometric viewpoint, Exorder’s plot revolves around a kingdom at war. After beating her brother Tristan in a trial to become the ruler, Queen Beyla’s kingdom finds itself under attack from another neighbour. It certainly hits similar notes to the basic premise of most Fire Emblem games, but it’s rather barebones and predictable.
Exorder describes itself as a “not-overly complicated tactical turn-based game”. This is apparent in the number of unit types there are in the game, barely reaching double digits. There are no levels or upgrades to worry about, meaning that the units available are the units you get. What is disappointing is that there are inconsistencies with health values of similar units, but this is rare.
The aim of each map is to occupy houses and disable bases, recruiting allies with gold in either captured fortresses, or hiring mercenaries in the campaign mode only, to allow enemies to reinforce themselves. In the campaign, the goal of each map changes with each level, but the skirmish mode that has several maps on offer has the goal of beating the enemy commander. Skirmish mode is available to play locally or via online multiplayer, though there were no takers for online at the time of review.
While Exorder is fundamentally a rather basic game, the units themselves are diverse and unique enough; actually playing the game is a joy – most of the time. Its main flaw is that you can’t undo or confirm movement actions, which given the difficulty of the game means that you can easily fumble at the last hurdle. The UI also seems somewhat clunky and incomplete in places, which is a disappointment.
Sadly the good times end around the halfway mark in the campaign as missions suddenly take on one of the more frustrating elements of the genre – missions where you have to defend one unit and escort to a point. Granted there are other variants of these missions earlier, but the margin for error is perhaps too great, especially when enemy reinforcements keep arriving. The odds are blatantly stacked in the enemy’s favour, which makes playing these campaign missions a slog.
At 12 missions overall, the game may not seem like a big one on paper, but the difficulty of some of the later missions, artificially so in some places, really pads out the experience. There’s certainly a level of scope to expand on the game, since the game’s map has an entire area left blank, so hopefully there’s a separate campaign in the works with new units.
Exorder certainly has some potential, but it ultimately has a few issues with the UI and balancing of the campaign missions. Playing around in Skirmish mode was fun for a few minutes and the campaign certainly started on the right note, but the over-emphasis on escort missions spoiled the broth somewhat. With room for expansion, there’s perhaps something to Exorder later down the line, but it’s a difficult proposition at this juncture.