Rating : 6/10
Tabletop games are all the rage these days with shops full to the brim with turn-based and deck-building adventures of various different genres; from murder mystery to exploding cats. With any board/card game, there is an element of imagination and that’s why videogames and board games are a match made in heaven, or in WARTILE’s case: Hel.
WARTILE is a self-defined ‘cool-down based strategy game’ set in a fictional Viking world, specifically Norse mythology – the same setting as used for BAFTA Games award-scooping Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. You control figurines around terrarium-style battle boards with movement and abilities having cool-downs and point costs, rather than being reliant on turn-based mechanics. Move your figurines to a hexagon in range and when an enemy is nearby they begin attacking automatically in a staggered fashion.
There’s a lot to like with WARTILE. It’s got a unique aesthetic, with music, visuals, and menus all fitting the theme well. The score can vary from sombre string and choir to epic drum and orchestral, and the diorama battle boards are lovingly created and wouldn’t look out of place on a window-sill or in an art exhibition. Personally, however, I don’t think the boards translate well to the actual gameplay.
Navigating around said boards can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, given that there’s no auto-camera movement – you will find yourself battling it a lot. Visually there’s a lot going on and it’s often difficult working out what hexagon your pieces can move to, especially when you have scenery blocking your view.
Each board has different primary and secondary objectives that are pretty basic and repetitive: wipe out your enemies, reach a certain point, or pick up a certain item and bring it somewhere. Some boards task you to navigate through narrow caves with options in the paths you take, giving them a bit more depth. Early-on, you’ll seldom need to backtrack, with forward movement normally leading to success. Whereas in later stages in the game, the entire boards are used to complete both sets of objectives.
There’s a frantic nature about WARTILE that ironically wouldn’t really work on a real-world table due to the number of intricacies such as; the various different abilities and cool-downs, and the constant movement and attacking/defending. The game’s speed is regulated at the touch of a button with a simple slow-down feature, allowing you to make moves and attacks at a fraction of in-game time – a crucial addition for when you start managing three or more figures at once.
The figurines themselves are well detailed and have a good variety of animations. New ones can be unlocked and then customised as you progress through the story by using the gold you find and earn for completing missions and objectives, with bonuses given for the number of enemies destroyed and the time it took to complete the missions. Items collected from boards can be equipped on the home screen, giving boosts to stats like attack and defence as well as new weapons relevant to certain figurines. You can also buy these from the merchant too, with new equipment available after each successful mission.
Alongside individual character abilities that vary from figure to figure, Godly Cards are used throughout the game to give boosts, buffs, or effects in battles to your team and enemies. To use them, you must defeat enemies to earn battle points – each card has a varying point cost. Despite a deck of five cards being chosen before you begin, you only wield a hand of three cards. Whilst usually that would be fine, in the first few missions, the ‘Touch of Eir’ card is vital to keeping your health up – which costs three. The ‘It’s a Trap’ card places a trap on a hexagon you choose – costing just one point. So, if your ‘Touch of Eir’ card isn’t lining up in your hand of three, you end up just spending a bunch of single points on trap cards waiting to draw the healing card. This leads to having loads of traps on the field you have to avoid that enemies seldom land on, draining your health further. When you’re going to be ‘burning’ cards just to roll the one you want, there’s no point to this whatsoever, considering you’re always playing a CPU and not another player.
Furthermore, at times combat and movement can feel a little disorganised and unintuitive. Dragging cards from the HUD (or selecting with the numerical keys) onto a space doesn’t always ‘land’ on the space or figure you want, either selecting the adjacent one or just deselecting the card altogether. The ability to position figurines as a group instead of individually gives inconsistent results, so you end up fine-tuning your moves most of the time anyway. It’s also not immediately clear when attacks hit – sometimes your figurine will defend an attack, sometimes it’ll land in seemingly random accord with attack and defence stats failing to show any coherent effect.
For a game that will only set you back £14.99/$19.99, there’s enough going on to keep you going for a little while. As the game progresses, you’ll find yourself replaying missions on harder difficulties to level-up figurines for future missions, extending the game’s only mode a little longer. What starts off as a tricky to grasp, linear and honestly boring yet unique tabletop game, does begin to be more tactical and interesting but fails in being wholly engaging – due almost entirely to the clunky and unreliable controls, with character abilities and attacks feeling a little hollow and uninteresting.
The developers – Playwood Project – intend to not just fine-tweak WARTILE in its current state, but use the core mechanics in other worlds and themes. Before they do the latter, communication of abilities and meaningful stats on-screen, more of a focus on satisfying player control, and maybe an eventual dynamic camera should be at the top of their list for improvements and tweaks. If you’re looking for something different as a fan of tabletop games and have the patience to bear with the controls, you’ll likely enjoy WARTILE.
If you’re looking for something different as a fan of tabletop games and have the patience to bear with the controls, you’ll likely enjoy WARTILE.
James spends his time playing almost anything. Talents include: having a socially-awkward hair colour and getting far too angry after losing