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Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Deck13 Interactive
Developer: Playwood Project
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2018

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PC Preview - 'WarTile'

by Brian Dumlao on April 14, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

WarTile is a medieval fantasy-themed strategy game that invites the player to select a band of miniature figurines and embark on a campaign or a multiplayer match, set on gorgeous diorama battle boards.

The PC is home to countless strategy games, especially of the real-time variety. It's also a place where digital conversions of board games are popping up with more frequency, and that's not even counting the fan-made conversions created in Tabletop Simulator. Wartile, a game from a development house comprised of former DONTNOD and IO-Interactive people, tries to marry both disciplines, and the results are quite interesting.

Before you begin a match, you select the characters that will make up your party. You start with a small army and grow your collection of troops over time, but you can only have four players in your party at any time. You also choose your card deck, which determines the powers you can initiate — as long as you have the requisite mana points. Like the party size, your deck is rather small; you can only have six in your possession per fight, but using them in battle means they're recycled in your deck instead of losing them forever.

Once you get into the game, you'll run into a mash-up of mechanics that feel familiar but are presented in new ways. The field is hex-based, and while you can move your characters in any direction by picking them up and dragging them to a new spot, their movements are limited by the amount of tiles they can traverse. It immediately feels like a turn-based strategy game, but there's no visible turn counter. Instead, everything is moving at real time, and each figure you move has a cooldown timer, so you can't move it again until the timer expires. Once you move a character next to an enemy, the action immediately begins, and you have no control over when they attack or defend. You also can't direct your party members to attack a specific foe, but you can influence them to go after someone by simply surrounding that enemy. The cards in your possession can be dragged onto your character or foe, depending on what's being used, to harm, heal or activate buffs. Defeating an enemy gives you a chance to earn mana points. Along the way, you'll encounter treasure chests for gold, switches to open pathways, control points that earn mana, and barriers you have to destroy, all of which you need to manually click in order to interact with them.

As far as real-time strategy games go, Wartile is one of the slower ones due to the addition of movement cooldown timers. The automatic attacking and defending also mean that you can't pick and choose your battles since you have to avoid getting close to an enemy at all if you want minimal fighting. The game still engages in some good strategy thanks to your small party size. Some situations provide a chance to get new members on the field, but there's no chance to resurrect your fallen comrades without restarting over the game, so each death feels impactful. The map layouts also provide some choke points, and with characters unable to jump, you have to map out your movements very carefully if you want to ensure that your team won't helplessly look on as the other members get butchered. The demo doesn't provide the player with the chance to employ any high-level tactics, but you can already see the potential for some nice runs once more work is done on the mechanics.

Since the game is in a pre-alpha state, there are some areas that could be fixed up or tweaked. On paper, it might seem like a nice idea to manually click on coins from treasure chests or mana points from checkpoints and fallen enemies, but in practice, it's just an extra activity that you don't feel like doing. The camera also needs some work. You can pan, rotate and zoom, but sometimes, you can't find the correct angle to see things clearly, or objects are blocking your view. Depending on the stage, that also means that some of your movement indicators aren't shown clearly; this becomes even more annoying when you're in a snowy environment and your movement dots blend into the frosty landscape.

Speaking of which, Wartile has some upcoming features that would be nice to see. Though the demo lets you collect new pieces for your figures, the section where you can use them isn't currently working. The list of figures you get to play with isn't final yet, and neither are the cards you have in your deck. There's the promise of experiencing two different stories, and with that come the maps. After experiencing what's in the demo, we can't wait to see the kind of battlefields we can interact with in the future.

The only mystery surrounding the title is the release date. There isn't one available on the game's Steam page or the game website. The Kickstarter has also been canceled, and while that would normally sound like title has potentially been canceled, updates are still being posted to their Twitter and Facebook accounts. At this rate, the game has a nebulous release planned, so it's difficult to determine when you should start anticipating its arrival.

So far, Wartile is intriguing. The combination of mechanics from the real-time strategy and board game genres makes for a rather fresh experience, and though it can seem complicated on paper, it doesn't take long before it all becomes second nature. Even though not all of the mechanics are here yet, what's listed under "coming soon" makes it feel like the game is constantly improving. It'll be fascinating to see how all of it ultimately gels, so we're looking forward to watching the development progress on Wartile.

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