Could Use A Shingler
HIGH The art style.
LOW The UI.
WTF The love of pumpkins.
Wartile is a strategy title attempting to do something different with the turn-based template by looking like something that should be turn based, while not actually being that thing, and also including a card-based element to boot. The approach is refreshing in a certain sense, but the end result isn’t as engaging as it might appear at first glance.
Wartile tells the story of a Viking village worried that they’ve fallen out of favor with the gods, so they send two warriors to sacrifice a goat. From there the two encounter aggressive Norse men, demons, witches and the like as they dig deeper into why their people have been forsaken.
Each level is beautifully rendered as a hex-based boardgame. When not in combat, moving characters (which look like miniatures mounted on bases) and performing actions is more or less a standard turn-based affair. However, once characters enter combat, a timer appears and controls how often a character can move. The pieces auto-attack enemies near them, and it’s up to the player to manage special abilities. Visually, it’s like watching a match of speed chess as the pieces trundle around and engage with each other in quasi-real time.
As in most miniature games of the kind that Wartile resembles, height differences and positioning matters, so there’s often a fair bit of jostling on the player’s part to find the most advantageous spot for each figurine, and higher ground is usually the wisest place to be. There are also a few other elements that allow the player to sway the game in their favor.
Each unit has a choice of special abilities that can be used regularly — things like stunning an opponent, drawing all units’ attention, or buffing all allies. And, as mentioned, there’s a card-based system as well — temporary cards can boost abilities, and in addition, there are other cards that can be bought with in-game currency and used to provide even more variety in support. On top of all this, there’s a leveling-up system for the units, gear to be bought or found, and higher-level challenges as the player’s group increases in capability.
So far, all the boxes necessary to create a solid game seem to be ticked, but Wartile just never comes together.
In large part, the combat struggles to find its own identity in a way that feels meaningful. Although it tries to incorporate a realtime element, it lacks the ‘plate spinning’ urgency of a true Real-Time Strategy while also sacrificing the measured, tense thoughtfulness of a deeper Turn-Based Strat.
It can occasionally be exciting to see units scramble for position and hit anything that goes near them — they auto-attack, remember — but for a lot of the time, it was just me waiting for my pieces to cut through enemies while I occasionally popped a buff. There was one interesting horde-inspired map where my team was holding out against waves of enemies that had me moving back and forth trying to hold the best position, but that was a rare one-off when the mechanics were working in tandem with the level design to create something interesting. The majority of play, however, is walking along a linear path, triggering an encounter and then waiting to win.
Wartile also extends its length by reusing maps, which didn’t help the feeling that I was just drumming my fingers waiting for each encounter to be over.
Finally (and this might seem to be a bit nitpicky) the UI design isn’t up to the standard set by the rest of the presentation. The text and box cut-outs look like placeholders, and text is often quite small. It might look alright played close to a computer screen, but when sitting on a couch several feet away, it’s hard to read.
It is a massive shame to feel like I can’t enthusiastically endorse Wartile — it has a winning visual style and the seed of a novel idea, but that seed doesn’t bear a fully-formed fruit.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Playwood Project and published by DECK13 Spotlight. It is currently available on PC, PS4, and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher, reviewed on the XBO-X. Approximately 9 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ and contains Fantasy Violence. This game features characters portrayed as miniature figurines. Animation is minimal and there’s no gore, salty language or sexual content.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is fully playable without sound. Text cannot be resized (it’s small!) nor can the color be changed.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. For a bit I thought there was no controls screen (don’t hide it in one specific menu guys!).