EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
Wartile, the new strategy game by Playwood Projects, is an interesting piece of work. Based around Norse mythology, it uses a system called cool-down based strategy. Let me explain: you play with a group of hero figurines, embarking on quests. Each quest involves progressing through a level by moving your figurines between tiles, but once moved they enter a cooldown period before they can be moved again. The same also applies to enemy figurines. This means that strategically, both the cool-down period and the speed of your actions are important.
Most of the time you will find that the main strategy of the game is anticipating or forcing where the enemy will move next. You also have power cards at your disposal, some of which are character abilities, others of which can be played using the in-level currency, which you collect by defeating enemies. These cards vary from applying poison to a set of tiles to erecting a totem that spawns undead warriors. You also have gold which can be used to buy new heroes, weapons and armor at the tavern and merchant respectively.
Wartile has an incredibly appealing authenticity - from the home screen, with all the pieces laid out on a table, to the beautifully crafted model-like levels, it feels like a board-game. I don’t mean that in a reductive way either - the addition of cool-down based strategy, incorporating both real-time and turn-based elements, feels distinctively board-gamish. My favourite example of this authenticity is the tavern, which is literally a cardboard cutout of a tavern scene, that you might find in a board-game. Despite this, I think the combat system currently holds the game back.
Having both unit ability cards and then other cards which cost a currency you gain in-level seems unnecessarily complicated. The system would make more sense if the game gave incentive to use less of the currency, by giving it a use outside of levels, but as it stands, there isn’t one. There is also a distinct lack of healing cards or healing abilities. In this game, the combat plays out automatically - you can use abilities to effect the combat, but because the combat is not based on individual skill, losing health is an inevitability. There are some healing items you can pick up in level, such as mead and healing herbs, but not nearly enough. It would make more sense if you could construct an entire deck, prioritizing cards as you, the player, needed them. Or simply if the game gave one of the characters a linked-healing ability.
Wartile is a lot of fun and has a very distinctive style that I think will appeal strongly to strategy players. For me, however, that fun was somewhat impacted by overly convoluted aspects of the combat system and the fact I couldn’t make it past the later levels because of a lack of healing items. It’s the 101 of party-based strategy that one of your characters is always a support character, and while I can’t speak for later purchasable heroes, I can say that I think an early game support character is sorely needed. Or if not that, simply an inclusion of purchasable healing items. The game still has a way to go before release though and these issues are very easily fixable. Wartile on the whole presents itself very well, be sure to keep an eye out if you’re a strategy fan.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.