Wartile is a sort of RTS from Playwood Project currently available as an Early Access title on Steam. More specifically, it puts Norsemen on a grid for real time SRPG combat. I am not a fan of typical real time strategy games, but then this one is hardly typical. Since I do generally enjoy SRPGs, I decided to try it out.
*Key provided by the developer/publisher.
In Wartile, players take command of a band of Norsemen and battle in various locations with a variety of goals. There does not seem to be much of a narrative beyond that. Still, it does seem as though the developers at least tried to give it some lore. The mission select screen gives an overview of your objectives on a card. These cards are often filled with unnecessary details that seem to add some world building. However, nothing ties any of it together and it is difficult to care about any of it.
The mission descriptions are also full of errors. Issues include incorrect homonyms, misused punctuation, inconsistent spelling, and at least one missing verb. It is not too difficult to get the gist, but the abundance of mistakes leaves a bad impression.
Considering the units are supposed to be figurines, it is difficult to complain about the lifeless eyes in Wartile. Still, it is unpleasant to zoom in on the face of an idle soldier. Swapping out equipment changes appearance as well as stats. Most of the gear has a similar aesthetic, so this seems inconsequential, but it is still nice that they put in the effort.
Certain parts of the environment move while others remain motionless. Plant life sways while crashing waves remain frozen in time. Since this game goes for a tabletop aesthetic, I assume that plants are light enough to be affected by wind while the plastic water is more rigid. Though even if I can explain it, it still creates a mildly unsettling effect. When the camera moves near a building, the roof automatically flies off to give the player a better look inside. While that is nothing spectacular, it is still a nice system.
The game has a function that allows players to slow time. If players use the keyboard to pan the camera while this effect is active, the camera movement will be slow as well. Since this game relies heavily on the mouse and the mouse can move the camera, this is hardly a major issue. Still, it seemed to be worth mentioning.
There are times during the campaign in which the battle transitions into dark places. These locations are little too lacking in light. It is difficult to see the layout of the board in these rooms which makes navigating a hassle. These areas are also cramped which makes it easy for the scenery to get in the way of the camera.
For most of my time with Wartile, I thought it lacked music. I simply never heard any of it until the final mission. Eventually, I did manage to hear the faint sound of ominous drumming. Since there are no audio options beyond an overall volume level, the sounds of battle easily drown out the music.
The game does lack voiced dialogue. Still, units do grunt. I found the noises of discontent that characters make when trying to pick them up while on cooldown to be rather amusing. However, that seems to be the only time they feel the need to make noise during gameplay.
Aside from that, the game also features some ambient noises. Depending on where you pan the camera, you can hear the crashing of waves, the hooting of owls, or the croaking of frogs. Said croaking actually persists even when you destroy all the frogs on a map. While the inclusion of these sounds is a nice touch, it is a bit odd hearing the waves but not seeing the water move.
While Wartile has the hexagonal grid of an SRPG, it is very much a real time strategy game. Once a unit moves into the attack range of someone from another faction, it will automatically begin attacking. Players may then continue to move units to gain a tactical advantage while the battle rages on.
One odd quirk is that there is a system in place to prevent units from freely moving past enemies, but it only takes effect during close range combat. As long as an enemy is not adjacent, units can easily slip past the entire opposing army. The enemy AI also has delayed reactions, so players can time their movements to avoid incoming enemies and never get hit.
The computer seems to have an overwhelming advantage in this game, but the player does have a few tricks to offset this. Each character can equip one of three special abilities. These abilities have no cost, but they do have a cooldown. The wait is annoyingly long, but patient players can enter each confrontation with a full set of abilities at the ready. Human players also have access to universal spell cards. While these do not have a cooldown, they do have a cost. Defeating enemies and completing objectives refills mana, but use of these cards is still going to be rather limited. As such, these abilities are mostly for emergencies.
Outside of combat, players can modify their selection of cards and their units’ equipment and stats. As units rack up kills and complete objectives, they earn experience and can eventually rank up to level 5. With each level comes one stat point that players can assign at will. However, aside from health, chance to hit, and chance to parry, stat increases seem absurdly low. There is a shop, but it only sells one of each unit. To gain more equipment, players must open chests which contain random loot.
In the current build, there are only four stages and three maps. However, each stage contains three difficulty levels. Higher difficulty levels increase the number of opponents. Enemy stats may be higher as well, but those are not visible so it is hard to tell. Getting through the first two stages was easy enough, but the third required some grinding. My attacks rarely connected while the AI had no problems landing theirs. Once again chance to hit, chance to parry, and health seem to be the only stats that matter.
The game balance seems to be a little unfair. The AI already has the advantage in numbers, so having relatively high stats on top of that makes things frustrating. It often feels as though players must resort to the cheap tactic of using choke points simply because they would take too much damage otherwise. Strategically re-positioning units in the midst of an all-out brawl for momentary advantages can be fun. Playing matador as a frail ranged unit against a tough melee foe can be fun. Waiting for enemies to charge into certain death is never fun.
There is multiplayer in Wartile, but I never managed to find a match. Rather than having public lobbies, the game only has a quick match system, so I have no idea how many people are ever online. The game does not have practice matches either, so the only information I have on the multiplayer comes from the tutorial text.
According to the tutorial, online play consists of capturing objects that fall from the sky. To capture, players must keep at least one unit by the object while driving off all enemy units. The first player to three points wins. The tutorial message also mentions that if you win, you are awesome.
I really do not want to be harsh on Wartile. While I was in the process of writing this preview, the developers released a fairly significant patch. It is clear that they want to make a good game and the premise at the core is not inherently awful. Mostly, it just feels like it was made available too early. Still, I did not have much fun with the game. There is hardly any story present and the gameplay balance feels significantly off. It very well could become something great down the line, but I can not recommend it in its current state.