There’s a new land out there ripe with problems, from war to the plague and anything in-between and more. People are scared, bandits roam the countryside and monsters lurk in the deep and infested areas of the world. If all those problems registered to you as potential profits and adventure, then you’re either a Dungeons and Dragons party or a Mercenary group. That or you’re both and you’re ready to get some contracts and explore the world!
Wartales is the game that I’m talking about and it’s one of the best Co-op RPGs released this year. Yes, you heard me right, a co-op game in 2023! A rare gem, and this one shines bright, you’ll just have to work for it! Get your friends, ready your party and let’s see what this game has to offer!
Mercenaries, Dungeons & Plague with Friends, a Wartales Review
Wartales has been in development for a while now in Steam Early Access. Throughout the years they’ve consistently been giving out updates making the game better. There are some things that they removed though in favor of other mechanics and that should be good. A developer should know when to remove a mechanic if a better one presents itself. Now that it’s in full release let’s see if it’s a great game!
Mercenaries of Fortune
In Wartales you play as a mercenary group that takes missions and contracts from people. The choices you pick at the start changes the starting composition of your party. It doesn’t limit you though since you can hire anyone in taverns or in prisons, so if you want a mercenary band of archers you can do that. The game’s character customization is alright in terms of looks, but you can have some really interesting character builds.
When running around the world of Wartales you get to do contracts from towns. It can also be missions given to you by certain individuals. Some of these are your usual randomly generated missions and contracts, while others let you go to points of interests giving you a chance to explore the world. There are bandit camps to clear and plunder, ruins to explore and new towns to find that have more work.
A True Adventure
Despite being a mercenary band, you act more like a DnD Adventuring party. Yes, you do need to worry about wages, food, rest and all of that. The thing is the game’s world is so beautifully made that every new point of interest you see in the horizon makes you want to check it out! Maybe you found a ruin deep inside the forests, you see ghostly figures at night and want to check it out. At first the world does a great job of disguising as a normal medieval one, but as you progress through the regions you notice that this is more of a low-fantasy setting.
From giant broodmothers that spawn plague-ridden rats to creatures in the darkest depths of ruins. The game has a lot of different enemy types than just your standard bandit or wolf. The great thing about it is that you stumble upon these enemies as you go adventuring. The sense of learning the existence of a new enemy is not lost in this game. You progress and you find more interesting stuff out there.
A World Filled with Problems
By problems we mean actual problems from NPCs and not bugs or something. Although there are bugs out there as well that can suck the blood out of your troops so watch out for those enemies! Each region in the game has their own stories, and you get to see it progress via a bar on the upper left of the screen. When you’ve done all the related quests and missions you get to have a finale for the region.
The finale for regions can be quite interesting and it can depend on your choices and actions. At the starting region of Tiltren you can choose to help refugees from the war or antagonize and kick them out. Other regions give you a middle ground, strangely enough only the starting region doesn’t. This can lead to what I believe is a nonsensical finale if you help the refugees.
I usually avoid spoilers, but this one finale in the starting region is not what I expected nor liked. If you help the refugees in Tiltren, they actually attack the region’s capital and make it their own city. I was absolutely livid because I thought I was just trying to help them survive because they were running away from a war-torn region.
Instead, they bought war to a new region. I wish them luck in ruling the region, their legitimacy of rule in a medieval world will be a problem. Hopefully they have a spare nobleman or bastard lying around to be their legitimate ruler. If not, then it’s just free land for the bigger nations to conquer.
The other regions though are far better than the starting one and their stories can be engaging.
Fighting through Peasants and Monsters
Combat in the game is turn-based, what’s great though is that on your turn you can pick any character that hasn’t moved. This can add a bit more depth to the combat and makes you plan out your turns. You can move in to deal some damage, or you can engage that archer there so they can’t shoot. Is it good to risk charging your ranger in to deal poison damage? Well, if you make sure he doesn’t get engaged it’ll be good. There’s a lot of strategy there as expected from turn-based games.
The mechanics of the game is pretty simple to understand but has quite a high skill ceiling. At the start you’ll learn to engage enemies to keep them off other allies. Then you use certain debuffs and skills to make your enemies worse. Suddenly you’re chaining different attacks, using debuffs to you advantage and making sure not a single enemy can effectively do anything.
Then you get an axe that can pull an enemy to your character with an attack. If the enemy is engaged with another one of your units, you get an extra attack. Did I mention that the enemy will now be disengaged from your other unit? Oh, and since the axe wielder gets a valor point for engaging, you get to use a valor skill leading to another attack. It’s chaining mechanics like this that makes the game more fun.
There are some aspects of the game though that can be lackluster or downright detrimental. For example, in the game you can capture animals. There are wolves, boars, bears and even your own donkeys with the right skill. Having a party filled with battle animals may sound great, until you get to feed them. Then you learn that these animals can’t be controlled unless you have an archer with a certain skill. Add to the fact that animals can’t make valor points unlike humans. Don’t use animals, they are not worth it!
You Don’t Have to be Alone
The game has co-op from the start, and you can start and end your adventure with friends. Playing coop with friends can be fun specially as you plan your adventures and combat. The co-op mode however is hamstrung by weird design choices that makes the game mode a bit annoying to deal with.
For starters, interacting with towns or points of interests in the map needs all the players present. That doesn’t sound bad until you learn that when one player interacts with an NPC, the other player has to wait for them. When one player interacts with a shopkeeper, everyone interacts with them. If someone wants to go to the Tavern and someone else wants to go to the Apothecary, you can’t. Everyone needs to be in the same place, which can take a lot of time.
Combat in Co-op though is still fun since it’s just the single-player combat but now with friends. Which can be both a blessing and a curse, since you all still share the turn pool. Co-op with friends sounds great until someone uses their turn to throw poison bombs at you for no reason than it being funny. It was not funny, it was painful. Still, that’s part of the fun!
Nearly a Perfect Gem
Wartales is a game that can be downright addicting. The sense of adventure that you can get in the game rivals that of other DnD-like games. There are stories that you can get into, some of them sprung long conversations with my co-op mates on what to do. The world is filled with things to explore, quests to do and money to be made. It has a bit of roughness here and there but these are stuff that they can easily fix in future patches. It’s not the perfect gem out there, but it’s close to being one of the best Turn-based RPGs this year. I’ll give it a 4/5, as I highly recommend you play the game and experience it for yourself and hopefully with friends!