Available On: PC
Developer: Playwood Project
Genre: Strategy, RPG, CCG
Official Site: Wartile
Release Date: February 8th, 2018
Where to Buy: Steam
Board games and miniatures games are in the middle of a renaissance right now, mainly due to the rise of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. Wartile seeks to capture the best of the board game aesthetic: everything in this squad-based strategy game, from units to items to environments, are designed to look like board game components. Units are attached to bases and look like they are hand painted. The map itself is divided into hexagonal spaces like a board game. It looks like a tabletop game come to life and is a joy to look at.
Don’t let the aesthetic fool you, however; this is not a turn-based, XCOM–like affair. Battles in Wartile happen in real time, with nearly every ability set on some sort of cooldown. This is a striking design choice, and one that the developers have had to defend repeatedly. It may look like a hybrid of XCOM and Hearthstone set in a viking universe, but the frenetic gameplay will remind you much more of a real time strategy game. There are elements of Wartile that I really enjoy, but the strange marriage of aethetics, expectations, and reality do not always gel.
Honestly, the best thing about Wartile is the way it looks. I am a bit of a tabletop gaming fanatic, and being able to piece through my collection is a joy: rotating figures, substituting equipment, and creating the perfect Viking squad – it all works. The animation and sound are both great as well, and I frequently found myself hitting Spacebar to slow down time (the closest Wartile gets to being turn based) so I could zoom in and admire things. It made me long for more customization options and some sort of multiplayer element; I would love to see what figures and squads other players would unleash. Sadly, this is a single player only affair.
Wartile is a strange hybrid. You select figures before entering a mission, and each figure has different abilities. In addition, you also can build a deck of special cards that use different amounts of a limited resource. You move around a map, fighting enemies, avoiding traps, and collecting objectives. Since everything happens in real time, you need to constantly be alert of where your units are; lose track of one and they could get quickly overwhelmed by a force of enemies. Units attack automatically when their cooldown is up, and each unit also has special abilities on other cooldowns.
There is a lot to keep track of, which is where the strategic elements started to fall flat. Rather than setting up intricate, complimentary squads coupled with strategic abilities, I found that brute force typically was my best option. Throw all my heavy hitters together, spam abilities, and repeat. If you were really grinding for high scores, there may be more thinking required. But without some sort of punishment system like Darkest Dungeon or XCOM where you permanently lose soldiers thrown into dangerous situations, I saw little reason to hold back or protect my favorites. Just load from the last waypoint and try again.
The campaign also leaves some meat off the table. There is a story, but it functions as a pretty flimsy reason for you to jet around to different maps. Every level is essentially “kill enemies on the way to the end, where you either need to collect something or defeat somebody.” Along the way, you’ll probably have some optional collection or discovery objectives that can net you additional loot. In addition, Wartile is rather short. Coupled with the repetitive gameplay, there is little incentive to go back through – other than seeing if there is any cool looking stuff to unlock. Plus the campaign is pretty darn short. Lack of grind is nice, but it also feels like Wartile lets off the gas just when it should be introducing more.
One other complaint is stability issues. Wartile crashes a decent amount, although a few patches early on helped dramatically. The main issue I found was massive GPU use. I have a pretty hefty gaming rig, and I could hear my graphics card laboring to run Wartile. It has never labored to run anything, and basic fixes did nothing to curb the issue. It probably boils down to a simple user error, but a PC that runs The Witcher 3 and Grand Theft Auto V on their highest settings with no problem should not be working so hard to run Wartile with the graphics turned down.
Verdict: I enjoyed my brief time with Wartile. The main issue is the wasted potential: the beautiful look pulls you in, but the strange combination of gameplay elements, repetition, and lack of strategy left a lot to be desired. I would still go back if some of the stability issues are fixed and a bit more content gets implemented (multiplayer may not work well with the hybrid combat system, but be still my heart if there were better ways to customize and a way to look at other players’ collections). If you’re looking for something different with a really cool tabletop look, Wartile might be just what the viking ordered.
- Amazing aesthetics
- Customization options
- Lack of difficulty and strategy