Switch version tested
Review code provided
When the ships were made of wood the men were made of steel
The world of Vikings may be one of the most intriguing eras in history and over the past decade, we have seen these worlds being explored more in pop culture and media. From hit TV series, Literature, Movies, Music and of course, Video Games. There is just something alluring about this harsh world of warriors who dedicated their lives to hard graft, exploration and brutal conquest, all while taking time out on a Saturday to groom themselves so they look pretty for the next weeks raiding and raiding is what you will be doing plenty of in Deck13’s strategy adventure game, Wartile.
After a brief delay to comb their beards and braid their hair, the Vikings of Wartile are ready to set sail on Nintendo Switch but will Thor strike his anvil in celebration of this mighty voyage or will the sun be swallowed and plunge this ambitious offering into darkness. Fill your horns and join us as we share our thoughts on the latest title from PlayWood Games and the publishers of Lords of the Fallen and The Surge, Deck13.
Warriors don’t show their heart until the Axe reveals it
Wartile is a single-player, “cool down” strategy game which has taken a heavy influence from tabletop gaming and blended it nicely with modern-day video games. Anyone who has played or is familiar Age of Sigmar, Middle Earth: Strategy Battle Game, D&D or any number of the popular tabletop adventure’s that fill the shelves of all good hobby shops will feel right at home and for newcomers, this may be the best way to see why tabletop gaming is still so popular.
The game features a deep campaign and this is where all the gameplay will take place, there are no additional modes such as free play, skirmish or any form of creation suit but don’t let this detour you, Wartile offers plenty of content within its campaign to keep you busy and coming back for more. You begin in the campaign room where you are presented with a map that shows the various boards where missions will take place. You can also use this room to view your figurines (characters) abilities and other information. We use the term figurine as that is the style that each character takes, similar to tabletop figurines you may have seen in the world of Warhammer, each figurine is fixed to a circular base although they are very finely detailed and have a decent level of animations.
When selecting a board to play on you will be presented with a set of scenarios to play, some boards have only one where others have several to choose from, each with their own dedicated story and objectives and rewards. Each scenario also has three difficulty settings so you can challenge yourself further. Thankfully Wartile offers a decent set of rewards for completing side objectives from new weapons, abilities and boards to make conquering the harder settings feel genuinely rewarding.
I would worry less about the gods and more about the fury of a patient man
Each board will have various enemies to overcome and objectives to complete so having the right raiding party for the task will be the key to glory. After a decent tutorial that delivers the key information but doesn’t overstay its welcome, you are given two warriors to set out with but you will soon be able to hire more raiders to fill up your party. The figurines are broken down into classes from your standard fighter class to long rage spearmen and archers to more tank-like classes and shamen, who can deliver a serious of spells to turn the tide of battle in your favour, all of whom can be equipped with a selection of weapons to suit their strengths and fighting styles. Each figurine has a base set of stats and can be levelled up as they gain experience from completing raids and side activities, levelling up grants access to tokens that provide a buff to that figurine from providing better physical protection to being more proficient with combat abilities etc. Figurines can also equip up to three ability cards which vary from laying traps for enemies, healing, special combat abilities and more. Getting the balance right within your party of warriors will require a bit of trial and error especially on harder raids but never feels like micromanaging.
The core of the experience will be playing out missions and the first thing that jumped out at us when entering the gameplay was how beautiful the presentation was. Again, taking tabletop gaming as an inspiration, the lands you play across are broken up into small tiles that each figurine, be them friend or foe can move across, think of it as a really elaborate chessboard. Unlike most strategy games that employ a similar layout, Wartile is not turn-based but instead, the gameplay and combat take place in real-time with an emphasis on “cool-down”. You can move your characters one at a time or as a group and positioning is absolutely key when facing off against enemies or choosing which objective you wish to complete first.
Let’s start by talking about combat, figurines will start fighting as soon as they come into contact with each other, most of the time this will be face to face for melee combat but warriors with a longer reach such as spearmen can attack from a tile away and archers can, of course, reach further still. A few key elements to note is that both lines of sight and terrain will play a big part in combat, your archers, for example, must be able to physically see an enemy from where they are standing in order to shoot at them. Just because we the player can see an enemy sneaking around behind some rocks does not mean your archer would be able to lay eyes on them from where they are stood, this is where the terrain comes in. Having an archer head for higher ground to get a better lay of the land below them will make them much more effective, this mechanic goes for regular combat too. Each action you take, whether to is a general movement to using abilities will have a cooldown, these can vary between ability and figurines so getting to know your team and using their abilities wisely will be paramount to success.
Hold the Heathen Hammer High
Vikings will need to embrace their inner Obi-Wan when fighting off enemies, choosing a tile that is higher than your foe but still within fighting range will give you the advantage in breaking down their defences, stacking works well too. If you are fighting a particularly tough enemy and you have fighters free, have them pile around the enemy to prevent them from escaping and wear them down with strength in numbers, also you can stack a spearman behind you as with their longer range they will be able to reach over your shoulder and hit an enemy thus delivering two blows to their one. Knowing when to use your special abilities will see the tide of any battle change, certain ability cards can stun opponents for several seconds or freeze them in place, preventing them from flanking or retreating, this will also be an ideal time to deal a heavy blow if you have a particularly strong warrior nearby and if you see enemy reinforcement approaching then lay down some traps or roadblocks if you have them.
Strategy games are an addictive genre and can sometimes feel a bit daunting to even the most seasoned players but Wartile honestly comes together and flows really well. As mentioned we were given a tutorial at the beginning and the missions themselves don’t bombard you too early but escalate in complexity and difficulty at a fair rate which gave us time to get used to the mechanics and before long we were sounding the horn of victory over the bodies of slain foes, or figurines in this case. We did find that time with Wartile was best spent in shorter hits instead of long sessions as the more paced gameplay and mission style doesn’t lend itself to a huge amount of variation but does create engaging encounters to keep coming back to which helps cement its place on the Switch for handheld use. Each mission is well presented with some great voice acting and dialogue telling the story and setting the scene before the action begins. The boards are great fun to explore, it would be straight forward just to head for the main objective but taking time to explore, finding secrets, treasures and items and completing side activities really add meat to the campaign and will put you in some sticky situations that once you fight your way out of provides a genuine feeling of success.
Running on Nintendo Switch we were really impressed with how much detail each figurine and game board contained, from the armour and weapons we could equip to each character to the terrain and foliage of the jungles to the snowy mountain peaks and beyond, this tabletop hybrid really oozes with life, charm and character though when zooming in and out the textures did muddy and blur causing us to feel like we had drunk one too many horns of ale when playing in handheld. The sound design was a triumph as it brought both battles and landscapes to life in a way that does justice to the imagination and creativity of all tabletop gamers who have seen various battles and warzones come to life with a roll of the dice. With all that detail we were pretty impressed with how well everything performed on the Switch, load times were acceptable and although certain inputs seemed a bit sluggish in the early going it helped to emphasis that this is the thinking gamers genre, not something to be rushed through.
Wartile is a fine addition to any strategy fans collection, it’s keen use of real-time combat and cool-down mechanics give it enough of its own identity to feel fresh and challenging yet welcoming enough for newcomers and fans of the genre to jump in and feel right at home. Though a bit samey in longer sessions Wartile offers plenty of content for a worthy price and TBG would love to see the addition of skirmishes or some form of multiplayer added in future or to a sequel.
TBG Score: 8/10
Platform: PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo
Release Date: 19/10/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Board Game
Developer: PlayWood Project Aps
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop