Monday, December 06, 2021
Wartales - A rough, low-fantasy gem
I've been playing a lot of Wartales over the past week, and am up to 35 hours now. Enough to give my first impressions. Not review, because Wartales simply isn't a finished product. It has a *lot* of rough edges, the level cap is relatively low a 5, and pretty much every quality of life feature you can think of is missing, including a tutorial. Well, the tutorial is announced for the next update, and the level cap rise for Q1 2022, with full release planned for end of next year. Right now the game definitively is still "early access". So why should you play that? Because Wartales has arguably a better tactical combat gameplay than XCom, and that is quite a high bar.
In Wartales you play a group of mercenaries. They ain't heroes. The have humble backgrounds, like having been farmers or caravan guards. They don't have special destinies or prophecies attached to them. They are just armed guys trying to make a living in a very harsh world. So harsh that learning "Cannibalism" as a skill to cut down on food cost is actually an option. The start of the game is particularly difficult, and refugee caravans are the easiest targets around (and unlike merchant caravans they don't rise your wanted level, although you might still end up paying for stolen items). Oh, and by the way, there is no magic in the game, other than a bit of alchemy. In short, Wartales is a low fantasy / dark fantasy world, which feels quite refreshing after so many high fantasy / heroic fantasy games.
But the real reason to play Wartales is the tactical combat, which is excellent. There are some really innovative things here, like characters being able to "engage" only one enemy instead of having a zone of control. Despite the low level cap at the moment, there is already quite a good variety of different skills and abilities, that can be combined in interesting ways. Also, each weapon comes with its own fighting ability, so some two-handed axes might do area of effect attacks, while others don't. Instead of having "action points" per character, each character can move and do his base weapon attack every turn; if he wants to do more, he needs to spend valor points. Each character has ways to gain temporary valor points by specific actions in battle; you can also recover your valor point reserve between combat by resting. This makes combat quite interesting: For example, you are well advised to use a skill that costs a valor point if the use of that skill will kill an enemy, and you have the ability to get one temporary valor point each time you kill an enemy. But if you use all your valor points without gaining any back, you might well miss them later in the combat, because even first aid requires them. Combat has a lot of factors, from area attacks to increased damage from behind, especially for rogues (who are called "rangers" in the game, probably a translation error). Unlike XCom, there is no chance to miss in Wartales, only a chance to deal more damage with critical hits, and slight variability in damage output.
Due to the early access status of the game, some people will want to wait until the game is more polished. But then I'd definitively recommend to putting the game on your wishlist and getting it later. I am very much enjoying this game right now, and I have only finished 2 regions out of 3 of the current version yet.