One thing not many know about me is that I have quite a fascination with speedrunning. Not to speedrun games myself of course, as I find the fails during runs to be beyond frustrating, but witnessing ridiculous speed from runners can prove to be surprisingly entertaining. Just take this Elden Ring speedrunner for example, who somehow took what is at minimum a few dozen-hour game and transformed it into a sub-1 minute run! Awe aside, it’s this overarching fascination with speedruns that led me to become interested in Warstride Challenges, an FPS designed specifically with speedrunners in mind. Does it manage to use speedrunning to its fullest effect though? Find out in my early access impressions of Warstride Challenges!
Warstride Challenges is only available on PC through Steam, and so the impressions were done through that version of the game.
Gotta Go Fast (And Perhaps a Tad Violent)
Warstride Challenges at its core offers a very simple premise that should be starkly familiar to speedrunners of FPS games. You’re presented with a series of levels that must be completed as fast as possible, with the following levels becoming available as you finish whatever came before. To complete each level, simply kill all enemies and make it to the end door. End up taking more than the listed time, and you’ll have to try again to hit the mark. You can also complete said levels in a shorter time than listed to secure stronger medals and, naturally, score a much higher spot on the leaderboards.
Where Warstride Challenges differs from the usual liberties given to speedrunners though is rewarding players for reaching those milestones. As you score gold or even coveted platinum medals, you build up progress towards a set of bonus levels, only available to those who reach a high amount of each medal. There are even different difficulties to offer up not just refreshed ways to play each level, but extra medals as well. This may not be entirely surprising to those picking up a game designed for speedrunners, but it’s the thought that counts. Where it also differs is in the set of mechanics it gives you to master. Whether it be through the iconic bunnyhopping or a powerful shockwave attack, the added level of mastery for players can help a ton for replayability.
But with that replayability naturally comes a set of problems. See, the game goes about introducing mechanics the normal way a linear FPS would. You’re slowly given mechanics so that you have time to master each one and that can work well, though mechanics don’t get kept if you return to the levels that didn’t have the mechanics yet. While things such as speed pads make sense since that’d require complete map redesigns, being given abilities such as the shockwave attack would genuinely be game-changing when going to speedrun older maps, refreshing that experience. This would require some retuning, but it’d likely be worthwhile in the end.
The other issue comes in the form of aiming, though is more forgivable given the context. Weapons work as you’d normally expect and even offer some stark variety in what would otherwise be run-of-the-mill, though, with the need to go as fast as possible, the precision requirement tends to clash with how much your moving and adds some unwanted stress. Again, you could forgive this since it adds an extra layer of mastery, but it can make speedrunning quite frustrating to get into.
The last thing I wanted to touch on as far as gameplay goes, and a massive one at that, is the support given to creators to increase content available for players. A robust (if a bit barebones) level editor lets you create your maps and share them for people to play and speedrun. I have yet to create a map myself since I wouldn’t consider myself the most creative person, but the potential there for extra content should prove a worthwhile investment if this game sees players.
Dream Powered Games for sure has some kinks to work out, though the promise in my impressions is there for Warstride Challenges’ gameplay. Some things have less of a chance to be fixed upon launch, but no need to judge when the game isn’t fully released yet.
Mimicry in a Mixed Form
As I did my fair bit of research into the game before and following its release, I went in somewhat expecting this. Though with that being said, I’m shocked by just how much Warstride Challenges pushes for the whole DOOM vibe. Its aesthetics of drowned-out simple colors mixed with a vibrance of light feels near-identical, though unfortunately, it can’t replicate the unique settings the aforementioned series is known for. As of early access, there are two backdrops available. One takes the look of an abandoned crypt while the second takes the look of…an abandoned crypt covered in vegetation. Sure, the differing level design helps things a bit, but you can’t help but notice how lazy it comes across as. Still, what’s there does look nice enough so it’s hard to complain.
This repetition I found in my impressions of Warstride Challenges can also be seen in its music, which seems to suffer from the same issue. The suite of tracks each has a distinct feel to them and fits the fast-paced slaughter you often find yourself entranced in, but it’s the sheer lack of different tunes that makes the music feel repetitive and tiresome. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t switch to my own music partway through playing the game for these impressions, as the nature of both the repetitive beats and lack of variety is far too much sometimes.
Verdict: My impressions of Warstride Challenges so far, while imperfect, do offer promise for the game’s future. It may be putting a focus on a fairly niche audience in speedrunners, but the liberties it gives those sorts of players to grow and improve, not to mention be rewarded for those efforts, is admirable. While there are some kinks the team needs to work out in both variety and refinement in its mechanics, Warstride Challenges has plenty of jumps, drifts, and gruesome kills to hold you over in the meantime.