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Apr 12, 2023

Wartales Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $34.99
We Recommend: $34.99
  • Developer: Shiro Games
  • Publisher: Shiro Unlimited
  • Genre: Adventure, Indie, RPG, Strategy
  • Released: Apr 12, 2023
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

Wartales is an RPG set in a medieval low fantasy open-world from developer Shiro Games that is continually impressive. The world is expansive, the characters and quests are interesting, and you’re writing your own story as you go along. This actually reminds me of Battle Brothers , only in 3D, in that there are quests that have an affect on the region with their own storylines as you control a band of mercenaries. I also find it to be comparable to something like Heroes of Might and Magic , because of the way you across the overworld map in real-time and have to manage your resources carefully – the marriage of these two styles of games is beautiful and one to remember. Wartales is excellent at letting you author the story you want to tell, and allowing you to discover things at your own pace for an immersive and satisfying open-world RPG.

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Wartales opens to not much in the way of story, but it’s been one-hundred years after the fall of the empire. As a result, bandits, mercenaries, and thieves have run rampant, and what’s left of order is the kingdom trying to maintain it. Before you starting, you’re presented with a series of options around the difficulty of the game, from combat to exploration. This game can be pretty challenging on its default difficulty, but you can adjust what you want, when you want. Next, you decide whether the game will scale with you, or be region locked to specific difficulties – I chose “Region-locked Exploration” as have been satisfied with this. From here you’re brought to the customization screen where you can make your band of mercenaries the way you like, or let them be randomly generated. After this, the games shoves you into its open-world without a beacon to guide you. It can be overwhelming at first, but it sets the tone for the game and is really the best thing about it. It’s all about discovery and exploration as you happen upon mines, camps, abandoned towers, farms, and the like. You just see where the road takes you, and follow the path in hopes of helping someone in need or destroying the last bastion of the empire; where you’ll either choose a side, or play both.

In the overworld, you’ll move in real-time with all the members of your party, picking up resources and uncovering the fog of war that represents your knowledge of the area. Getting into combat is a highlight, as you’re transported to a grid-based arena where you’ll utilize turn-based tactics. You’ll first place all your units into your desired starting positions, and from there initiate moves and/or attacks. Given the nature of the setting, you’ll more than often not fight humans or animals, though you might have to engage in battle with infected rats. For instance, I came upon a huge rat infestation that was near a border crossing and even forced me to kill a nearby farmer who became infected via a bite. Through this battle, I was consistently swarmed by new rats during every round, as the rat would belt out a roar that would summon more to fight by its side. As I got surrounded by now dozens of rats, I knew our team’s fate was sealed, but it didn’t stop me fighting the broodmother until the bitter end. You do have the option to flee and retreat from a fight you cannot win, with some minimal losses, which far outweighs the death of a companion. Fights in Wartales can be really epic and exhausting, and utterly thrilling. Friendly fire is enabled, so it is possible to inadvertently damage members of your team with sweeping attacks or an errant arrow. Melee hits are guaranteed to hit 100% of the time, whereas shots from a bow have a chance to miss, and it’s something I can appreciate and is rooted in reality. If members of your party take too much damage, they’ll enter a “dying” state where they can no longer attack but can still be revived. They’ll have to be picked up by a member with an ability to do so. If not, they’ll have to be kept from harm, otherwise they can die permanently once they’re attacked again. Now if you’ve got a companion in a state of dying, and you defeat all the enemies, then they’ll all be revived immediately at the completion of the fight. It’s here where you’ll want to camp for the night after an exhausting day of traveling and fighting.

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Along your adventures, you’ll have opportunities to recruit some folks into your party, especially if they have a particular skill that’ll be useful. You can also catch outlaws to then make them your prisoner, and turn into the guard for a monetary reward. Having them in your custody might mean that bandits might find you and try to free them, in which you can hand them over without a tussle, or scrap over them. In one case, I found a blacksmith who was being held against his will by the guard, and so we freed him with a lockpick I had on me. In doing so, he requested we escort him to a nearby town. Along the way, we fought off multiple encounters with the guard, and when we reached our destination, everyone was elated to see him. He then joined that town as the blacksmith they sorely needed, and even I could now use him at-will. It was a really fun and worthwhile endeavor to take on, even if it was challenging to fight off so many guard. While a lot of this is scripted, roaming for missions yields its own satisfaction when you come across moments like these.

This is an open-world RPG, and your companions will be leveling up, and so you’ll be given points to invest into a specialization tree, such as earning new abilities to use in combat or passives that buff your combat effectiveness. Even the ponies you use to ride and carry your inventory can level up, and hilariously have options for setting them up for combat. As you work your way across the land, you’ll need to have different professions established for each member. I set one as the angler, another as a thief, and another is a miner. Spreading out the professions ensures less opportunities are missed when their need arises.

If you need a respite from anything, you can pause time just pressing spacebar. Unfortunately you can’t fast forward time for the sake of respecting your time when having to backtrack an area to complete a quest. You can however teach your party the ability to run, and use that to get places faster, but it comes at the cost of them getting exhausted quicker. And really, this ability is meant for outrunning enemies in pursuit. I just wish it had that Heroes of Might and Magic speed-up time button to zip across the map, but this isn’t that type of game. It’s more methodical and tactical, where you’re meant to feel the journey, and not skip over it. One thing Wartales does have, is a slider to speed-up the speed of combat animations, which I fully maxed out and it feels just right, without looking silly.

There’s an overarching questline you stumble upon, and that’s the Fate of Tiltren, a scenario that guides you through the early part of the game. In addition, you will gain knowledge through exploration and completion of quests, which can be used to purchase abilities like the aforementioned run, or making your companions more frugal with the money they receive, even so much as to not require so much food if things become dire. Wartales even has a wanted level, called suspicion that raises as you do more nefarious things (like steal from good people or kill unprovoked). You don’t have to follow the main scenarios, but they provide the most rewards and equally interesting events as you would just roaming and taking on random bounties.

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You have to maintain resources carefully in order to feed your party, resting at a camp, all in order to keep them happy else they become unhappy. The game tracks resources of happiness, influence, valour points, food, and krowns (gold). These are all used together that shape up your party. At camp, you can even resolve squabbles with your companions, or even celebrate the good times. It’s heartwarming when things go right, and it’s much better than everyone going to bed angry. The game rewards you for doing specific actions through paths, which there are four of them that contain challenges and even unlocks rewards similarly to the knowledge system. It has a notable set of passive perks to invest in, such as making companions less likely to be injured in battle. The benefits are too great not to take the time to figure out how to achieve and unlock them for use.

What’s unique for Wartales among everything else that makes it so distinct, is that the entire game can be played cooperatively and online with three other people. Each person will control a someone in the party, and they even have agency in what that character does or doesn’t do. It was one of the most requested features when Shiro Games asked the community, and its inclusion is a really special one, and definitely worth it if you’ve got a group of tactical friends.

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Wartales isn’t a terribly demanding game, but now that I’ve ascended to an ultrawide monitor, I’m gonna be that snob that talks about 21:9 support. This game supports 21:9 effortlessly, and does it while looking beautiful. The game’s color palette is a bit drab and desaturated, by design, but it’s gorgeous all the same. On the whole, the gameplay is smooth and runs at a high framerate without the need of NVIDIA DLSS, which isn’t even present. The only negative thing I can say is that the victory kill animations are jittery, but that’ll likely get ironed out in a patch. Everything else in Wartales runs buttery smooth and looks incredibly good.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)

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Wartales is unlike anything else I’ve played this year, as it boasts a massive landscape of near-emergent gameplay where you are not the hero of the story, but you do have a crucial role to play in it. It’s a grim, dark world to take part in, but it’s utterly fascinating at the events that take place, and how you can help shape or unmake it. The dynamicism in which things unfold makes replayability high, and the inclusion of multiplayer co-op is the perfect kind of game night with friends. Shiro Games have crafted something special here, and Wartales excels for letting you make your own successes or failures through the choices you make along the way.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes