Wartile is an upcoming game developed and published by Playwood Project. The player takes control of a band of Vikings as they seek to conquer Scandinavia and England in the name of their king. The game is in the early development stages, backed by a Kickstarter campaign, and is expected to enter early access later in 2016, with a full release planned for early 2017. Before that, and in order to whet our appetites, a pre-Alpha demo has been released. And it looks amazing.
Wartile is a strategy game unlike anything I’ve seen before. Sure, there are a number of hex-based strategy games around and some of these are very good, but Playwood Project have done something truly unique. Every tile, figure and item looks like something from a tabletop wargame. The map is presented as though it was sitting on your table, the unit selection is a tray you can place figures (this game’s units) on, even moving the figures is carried out by picking them up and moving them as though by hand.
Another unique mechanic is the gameplay. Normally games of this nature are played out in turns – you take your turn, then the opponent (AI or otherwise) takes their turn. This is not the case here. Instead you can pick up any figure at any time and move them to another tile. There is a short cooldown timer between placing a figure and picking it up again but it only lasts a couple of seconds. Each figure can only move a certain number of tiles before it has to be put down again, but even with the cooldown you can very quickly move a figure from one side of the map to the other.
If you move one of your figures within range of an enemy figure they will automatically attack each other. You can move other figures to position them better or even move an attacking figure to a different tile – thus withdrawing wounded figures or setting them up to surround an enemy. The figures spring to life with impressive animations as they hack, slash, batter or otherwise cause hurt to each other. If your figures are killed they are gone for that level, however they are still available for selection in the figure rack between matches. Defeated enemy figures explode, leaving behind tokens you can click on to collect and put towards your special abilities.
Abilities are represented by cards. You have a hand of three cards at any time – plus an extra card for specific figure buffs – and you can spend battle points to play these to heal your figures or damage opponents. Once you use an ability it is discarded and a new one drawn. There are lots of duplicates of cards so you don’t really need to worry about hanging on to a heal card if you really need to use it – you’ll more than likely draw the same card again. The only limitation is the points required to cast it, and these can be gained by defeating enemies or reaching certain map locations.
The maps themselves are very impressive. Three are included in the demo: the somewhat simplistic tutorial map to teach you the basics of the game; a coastline map which does a fantastic job of portraying a windy and icy mountainside; and a monastery map with a large area and plenty of terrain and buildings, complete with monastery. It really does look like something from the table top and I can’t praise the design enough. It kind of makes me want to build these things for real.
There are some difficulties that I came across – for example it can be hard to collect battle points before they disappear, or sometimes it can be hard to pick up and move figures if they are just out of sight of the camera. Fortunately it’s easy to move the camera and swing it round to get a better angle. I left some feedback to this effect so hopefully it will be improved.
Apart from that I haven’t really found any major issues with the game and, even though this is only a pre-Alpha demo, I found it very enjoyable to play. If anything, this game is worth looking at just for the visual style and animations. If the developers keep up this standard throughout the development process this really will be an excellent game. And right now it’s looking very promising indeed.