Wartile Early Access Preview

Wartile's gorgeous levels and tactical battles aren't overshadowed by simple animations and unimpressive loot.

By Woozie, Posted 19 Dec 2017

Although relatively small, Wartile’s Battleboards are gorgeous. They’re hex-based levels, set across various locations, where figurines battle it out in tactical encounters. Popping out of a level and into the menu puts one in front of several chests, one containing equipment, one for figurines, another for cards and, lastly, a world map. If there’s one thing Wartile gets right it’s giving players the feeling that they are, indeed, playing a boardgame that decided to come to life.

Wartile, Early Access, Preview, Screenshot, PC

Wartile takes a real time approach when it comes to combat. Figurines auto attack when near a target, having access to one cooldown based ability. Aside from character abilities, up to five god cards can be chosen. These require god points, obtained from killing foes, to be used and range from buffs, to stuns, area of effect spells or even allies that can provide aid. Before engaging, distant packs of enemies can be weakened with a well-placed area of effect poison attack, or distracted with the use of an ally. When caught in a fight against more foes than you’d like, a banner can make your warriors fight harder. Three of the five cards in your loadout are in hand at any time and, upon using a card, it is shuffled back into the “deck”, only to be replaced with one of the remaining two. The spacebar slows time to a crawl at the player’s whim, giving one enough time to think about positioning and ability use, while making sure the combat continues flowing.

In Wartile, mindlessly throwing units at the enemy is bound to leave them dead or with little health. Positioning, knowing when to retreat and proper use of higher ground and abilities/god cards are required if one is to get through levels, especially on higher difficulties. The figurines’ health is best thought of as a resource and efficiently used in between checkpoints which regenerate health. Ranged characters cannot attack through friendly figurines. Flanking a foe means dealing more damage while figurines on higher ground gain a defense bonus. Chokepoints can be used to one’s advantage. Certain elements of the environment need to be watched out for and enemy prioritization is the difference between having just one character or half your party on low health. Having only five available god cards can feel a bit limiting at times, but, overall, the tactical options available in Wartile are numerous.

Wartile, Early Access, Screenshot, Preview, PC

The characters’ animations are fairly simplistic however, they work well within the boundaries of a “living digital boardgame”. Simple attacks are enough to reinforce the notion that you’re using figurines. That being said, some animations are missing at the moment (throwing oil bombs will prompt figurines to adopt a T-pose for a couple of seconds) and those already present could benefit from some fleshing out. While I don’t think there’s place (or need) for Witcher-esque pirouettes, it would be nice to have individual attack animations that are a bit clearer, especially when zoomed out.

Despite getting a revamp, the merchant screen is still difficult to go through. Sometimes items sit on top of each other. If you’ve more of one item of the type you’ve equipped, the screen doesn’t communicate that. On top of that, the items the merchant sells are usually underwhelming. That can be extended to the loot itself. Not every game needs flaming weapons that summon hydra heads with spectral axes in their mouths in order to dispatch foes. In fact, Wartile’s down-to-earth approach when it comes to its loot design is refreshing. However, getting better loot doesn’t make one feel like they’ve improved their character. For something that often requires going to areas you wouldn’t otherwise go to, it’s often difficult to see how the improved stats of the item translate into the actual gameplay. Different weapon types are more effective against different enemy types however, in order to figure out which enemies are “heavy”, one needs to click on the figurine and go through its stats. I rarely found myself doing that, due to the rather unimpressive and limited UI that clumps stats together in the bottom left of the screen, instead relying on good old eyesight.

Wartile, Early Access, Preview, PC, Screenshot

There’s a distinct lack of depth when it comes to story or character development beyond the character descriptions. A concise paragraph sets the scene for each level, explaining how the party is there to retrieve some famed artifact from Norse mythology, or stop a ritual, but not much else.  Characters carry one of three cooldown-based abilities into battle. Battleboards put a limit on how many characters can participate in missions, the current maximum being four. As there are a total of six characters, there is replayability potential in running levels with different team builds to see which ones work out the best. Battleboards come in three difficulties, each offering the, theoretical, chance of increasingly better loot. Subsequent difficulties are harder to deal with, as the AI becomes more reactive, retreating and using range more effectively. The issue here is that the way they scale isn’t made clear. I still have trouble completing the higher difficulties on the second mission, while I could easily go through later missions on all three difficulties. With the exception of adding more foes to the equation, the harder levels use the same layout as their easier counterparts.

Wartile’s Battleboards have various themes, from snowy ascents to stone keeps or woods where roots of a giant tree stretch across the map. They also involve different objectives and mechanics. Attempting to save a king will require swiftly disposing of foes, unless you want reinforcements to arrive because of an alarm going off. Stealing an artifact will have you facing endless waves of undead, until you destroy their spawn points. Navigating icy boards is made difficult by cracks in the ice which stun your characters constantly affecting different hexes. The Battleboards’ exteriors are visible in their entirety from the very start allowing for a certain degree of planning. At times, decorative elements can get in the way of properly seeing things as the camera can only be rotated around a fixed point, allowing no change in elevation, but that doesn’t hamper enjoyment all that much.

Wartile, Early Access, Preview, Screenshot, PC

Wartile foregoes flash for a strangely down-to-earth take on things, even with all the mythological elements involved. To some, the rather simple animations will come off as unimpressive, to others as an exercise in subtlety. It’s precisely the extra step I wished figurines could take when playing boardgames as a kid. During my time with it, the game ran smoothly, except for a handful of crashes, one of which happened every time I’d start battle with a witch, rendering that map impossible to complete. Going through every map just once can be done in about ten hours, but with extra difficulties, six classes, different abilities and god cards, there is potential for replayability. To put it simply, despite its current imperfections, Wartile manages to create the impression of a living boardgame with gorgeous stages and engaging tactical battles.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Wartile

55/100

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Deck13
Developer(s): Playwood Project
Genres: Strategy
Themes: Indie, RPG
Release Date: 2018-02-08

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