4/3/2020 0 Comments
WarTile has a great premise: a tabletop-style RPG faithfully recreated on console. I can think of more than a few games that have done this before but always geared towards the pen & paper style. WarTile decides to take the idea of a full-on figurine and diorama route. Will they succeed in replicating that authentic tabletop feel, or will their adventure end up in a shattered pile of plastic and cardboard???
WarTile isn’t a plot-heavy game. The emphasis is more on the gameplay and figurine customization. You’ll get blurb read to you in the description of the level, and a bit of story before and after the level. It’s a simple bit of narration to give your adventure a bit more depth. Hakon Goldenmane (that’s you, sailor) becomes the new village chief after his father and current chief passed away from an illness ravaging the small Nordic village. Setting off with a small Warband, you sail off to appease the gods with a blood sacrifice, uncovering an ancient evil curse in the process. To be honest, the first 5-10 minutes of gameplay was really rocky for me. The control scheme feels quite awkward and clunky to start with. On top of the vagueness of the tutorial it almost made me quit on the spot. I was hoping that I would get accustomed to the controls as I went along, and I did. Once you get used to them, you should have no problem except for the occasional snafu in the heat of battle.
The whole crux of the WarTile experience is the strategic combat and how it plays out in real-time. Once you have selected your level and your Warband (level restrictions determine how many members, up to four max) you are placed onto the map. Now this is what I really love about WarTile. The levels are essentially a big 3D diorama for you to explore, much like an actual tabletop game. Your characters can more or less move freely across the environment, coming across enemies and items while you explore every nook and cranny to complete your quest and optional objectives. There are other things to interact with, such as environmental triggers for traps and such or buildings and caves to enter and navigate. I do have a few gripes, though. For one, the camera pans too slow when in free mode. My other problem is that sometimes the objectives can be hard to spot. A little marker or something would go a long way. In one instance later in the game, I had to move my characters to a certain part of the wall that looked almost identical to the rest in order to proceed. It took me a few minutes panning around the map using that frustratingly slow free mode camera to spot it. A lot of the battleboards are over fairly quickly, running anywhere from 4 to 20 minutes long. There are a few complicated levels such as the Thor’s Wrath battleboard, where your Warband will find themselves navigating a more complex environment full of hidden enemies and multiple tunnel systems built into the mountain tend to take the longest. It’s a good thing if you want to just pick up and play a few levels if you’re short on free time.
The battleboards are in a constant state of flux, as the game never pauses the action. You can move one figure at a time or use the alternate button to move them all at once. Pushing the left stick switches between units on the fly. Movement takes place on a hexagon-style grid, the range of movement depending on the figurine. Each movement has a very short moment of cooldown before you can move again. Fighting begins when you move within the sight range of an enemy; you don’t have to do anything special for basic attacks, your units automatically attack once within range. While some enemy figures will stand toe-to-toe and fight, classes like the archers and spearmen will constantly be jockeying for a superior position. This makes for some slick battles as you are quickly trying to close the distance while maneuvering multiple units into better positions to trap and destroy. It gives a nice smooth flow to the combat. If you find yourself getting flustered by the pace at any given time, you can slow down the combat to a snail’s pace at the press of a button. Of course, there are other tactics available to turn things to your advantage. Each unit has a unique combat ability that undergoes a cooldown period after each use. In addition to that are your cards from your battle deck. These cards can be used by expending the battle points you get from defeating units. They range from traps set in the field to damaging magic spells and temporary buffs for your Warband. You start the game with a small selection but more can be earned from quest rewards. You can only equip five at a time, though.
The tabletop is where you spend your time in between fights. From here you can visit the tavern to purchase new units, visit the merchant to buy and sell items, manage your battle deck cards, customize your figurines, and view the map to choose your next level (also known as battleboards). Beating a level not only unlocks the next one, but it also unlocks a higher tier of difficulty for the one completed. Each level has three difficulties; each one offering better rewards, such as unique arms and armor or a potent deck card. You can also check the special objectives found in each level. Here is where I ran into a couple of weird issues. For one, once your map is populated with more levels, it becomes a bit of a challenge to select a specific one, since the game will sometimes move your cursor off the map and to one of the other side menus. The other mishap is the way the text prompt description of the merchant and the deck card customizer runs off the screen. While they aren’t game-breakers, it makes the presentation feel sloppy.
Collecting and customizing your figurines is such an awesome idea. It’s a shame that there are only six figurines in total. The game starts you off with two, with more unlocking for purchase in the tavern as you progress through the game. Each one has their unique strengths and weaknesses, plus a unique set of ability cards to use in battle. You can use the archer from a distance, but she gets slaughtered in close quarters combat. Your spearman is best used to engage units from one hexagon away, just out of reach. The figurine heroes also use specific weapon types, for the most part. Arms and armor can be bought from the merchant but I found most of mine on the battlefield by looting chests found lying around. Besides, looting is what Vikings do best. Tokens are another way to further power your figurines. Tokens increase specific stats like health or damage when equipped. You start with one slot and then gain an extra one with each level increase. In addition to regular tokens and their slots, each figurine has one special slot where they can equip a unique token. These badboys are quite powerful and grant special effects. A prime example is the Freyr’s Omen token that revives the equipped unit with full health the first time they fall in battle. All token types can be equipped and swapped at any time, just like the other equipment.
WarTile is an interesting game, although not without its problems. Should you play it? Yeah, I say it is worth a gander. I loved the idea of collecting and customizing your figurines and the whole diorama-style presentation. The game is fairly short; I beat it in a couple of sittings, getting all the achievements (except for one glitched). I wish they would have expanded it some more. On the other hand, there is something to be said about an RPG that can be short yet still offer up an interesting experience, and WarTile provides exactly that. Not every roleplaying game has to be a sprawling epic to be enjoyable and WarTile proves that.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7/10
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