Release 04/04/2019 (US)
Switch version tested
Review code provided
Welcome to the fog of war, is the best way to describe Arcade Distillery’s latest release War Theatre. This turn-based strategy game has much to offer if you’re willing to do the grunt work. Fans of the recent War Groove will feel right at home as the player selects 1 of 7 hero campaigns to undertake as they lead their army to victory. In addition, WT boats a multiplayer suite as well as a skirmish mode for more customisable engagements.
On the surface, everything you would expect is here. The mission objective is stated from the start and you are set off on your road to victory. Therein lies the first bump in the road. WT certainly does not hold your hand, in fact, it doesn’t even attempt to help you out at all. Fans of the genre will understand what to do immediately with the factories and understand the strategic importance of capturing cities. However, there is no explanation here for newcomers. In addition, the perk system is confusingly buried into the quest system, which itself is outside of the campaign inside the Arms Dealer menu. This odd UI choice muddled the experience at the beginning as progression seemed nonexistent. Individual unit movement is handled well and matched by fluid controls. Once selected a grid appears showing possible movement locations. Enemy movement is brisk. You will never feel the game is slowing down while the A.I. thinks about its next move which has been a problem in other games.
Visually, WT is inline with Arcade Distillery aesthetic. Character design is unique and creative. General Mort is the real standout as a giant mechanised war machine controlled by the human remains dangling from his hand like a marionette. The map design is standard fare with different terrains acting as either a help or hindrance. The minimal use of colours really adds to the gritty feel of war. The two armies serve as the main colour against the bleak palette inhabiting the world.
On the audio side, WT does an admirable job. The musical score feels appropriate and has moments where it swells during the heat of battle. The sound effects are a nice mix of bombastic explosions and rattling gunfire. There is no voice work here, but that is neither missed nor is it needed. The story is handled through pre and post engagement text scenes further developing each of the 7 heroes perspectives on the all-consuming conflict.
Multiplayer consists of 30 maps and 3 game modes (Conquer, Assassination, and Annihilation). Turn time is able to be set from 10 minutes to 12 hours. Given the variety in time WT allows you to be engaged in up to 3 different online matches at a time. At the time of this review, the servers were not live. The multiplayer has an opportunity to really elevate this game. The only concern will be player balancing as in the pre-battle lobby you are able to select any of the available perks and purchased heroes to use in battle.
War Theatre is a game with odd design choices and a lack of explanation, yet once you get past that there is a very engaging, deep, turn-based strategy game. While there certainly are UI design issues the fun factor cannot be overlooked. The multiplayer has a chance to really elevate this game and build a thriving community. The single player offering is solid and fun. Arcade Distillery has done an admirable job creating this unique world started within Plague Road and runs through into War Theatre.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Vita, Steam
Release Date: 04/04/2019 (US)
No. of Players: 1-2
Category: RPG, Strategy
Publisher: Arcade Distillery
Download link: eShop