So, a few days ago a delightful little game called Warlords was released on PSN. It is a remake of an Atari game older than me, released in 1980 with the title of Warlords as well. Now, there are few games that I know nothing about, my stupendous age allowing me the knowledge of kings and such, but this one I had to look up. It’s an oldie alright, but the formula works. Let’s dig in.
What is Warlords? Well, it is an amalgam of genres piled up into one heap, creating a very fresh and unique game even today. Also, it is one of the most complex games I have ever played. At the very base of it all, it’s a Pong sort of game. You’ve got a paddle and a base, facing an enemy paddle and base. You bat a ball back and forth with the left stick until you break down the outer wall and strike the other base. In this case the ball is a smoldering piece of dragon breath and the base is a castle with a circular wall.
Alright. So, the first thing we should complicate (in a good way!) is the base. They’re circular and the field of play is hexagonal, which makes the variables in bounces very hard to judge. It’s quite fun. Next on the docket, the balls. Why settle for just one? In Warlords, as the round progresses, you can get up to five balls bouncing off angled wall and your circular base. Sheesh. It gets super frantic.
We’re not done. No, no. Not even close. Five balls, infinite angles? Let’s add the ability to hold and power-shot balls. When a ball hits your paddle, you can hold it in and fire it for more damage if it strikes true. The caveat is this: It damages you a little, too. Needless to say, this is my favorite thing. Whether it’s 1v1 or 2v2 or free-for-all (the game has a lot to choose from in this regard), offense is the best defense, right?
Oh, wait! Did I mention that when all of this activity is happening there is a light real-time strategy game going down?! Take all the aforementioned details and add these little dudes called Snoots. You have a leader and an infinite mob of grunts. While defending, paddling, and power-shotting, you use your Snoots to capture points that give buffs to your tower. Also, you use them to combat other Snoots, heal your tower and attack the enemies’. You control these creatures with the right stick. And don’t even get me started on the Black Knight.
Well, considering this is an explanation, I guess I have to.
Where are we? We’re shooting, defending, commanding, capturing, bouncing, healing, attacking and being generally overwhelmed. Every couple of minutes General Badass (my name) a.k.a. the Black Knight shows up with his gang of goons. He has a penchant for slaughter, bloodshed and destruction. My kind of guy, a proprietor of chaos. When he spawns, a white shield does too, making your Snoots invulnerable to General Badass and Co. It obviously becomes a mad dash for that shield, because when you hit him with a fireball — and, believe me, you will — he goes all roid rage on your base. You don’t want that.
And that’s the gameplay! It is so smart and fun and delightfully anarchistic that it makes you really test your mettle in a way few other games do. It can be too frantic, and the camera is a bit too far way. The game also suffers from a lack of real replay value but, boiled down, it’s really good.
From the presentation side, I love it also. It’s certainly a bit low-budget, but the design itself is top-notch. The characters are funny, uniquely realized and not typical fantasy-grade garbage. Just look at the Warlord himself! Sort of reminiscent of the Overlord series in a lot of regards. The many worlds are all beautiful and the game runs like butter, baby. It is a great, complicated, hectic time. For a 32-year old, Warlords still has it. Pick this one up.
Review Platform: PlayStation 3
This game also comes out on XBLA on November 14th.