REVIEW / Wartales (PC)
I’ve been meaning to check out Wartales ever since it hit early access on Steam. Everything I had read about the game checked all the right boxes for me: tactical RPG; open world exploring; squinting my eyes and seeing an overworld map that looks a lot like Mount & Blade 2, etc. But time got away from me, and eventually Wartales hit version 1.0. Perfect time to download and see what this game has to offer.
For the uninitiated, here is the skinny. Wartales is a turn-based tactical RPG set in a low fantasy medieval world. Players take on the role of a mercenary band, tasked with completing contracts, exploring dungeons, and fighting enemies. The game features a deep combat system with a variety of weapons and abilities, as well as a complex party management system. Players must carefully manage their party’s resources, such as food, water, and ammunition, in order to survive. Otherwise, you will starve and you will die. But if you are lucky, you will also find glory, riches, and misplaced ponies.
Luckily, you can ease yourself into the combat, the survival aspect, or both. I did just that in my first run at it to figure out the combat and further understand the survival mechanics. I watched some iron man runs on YouTube and this game can be absolutely punishing if you want it to be, but that isn’t fun to me personally. So I took an hour to hang around the novice setting then switched over to normal to really dig in.
The combat in Wartales is a turn-based tactical affair (as mentioned earlier), with each character taking their turn to move and attack. The game features a variety of weapons and abilities, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. One of the key features of Wartales combat is the ability to flank enemies. Your rangers are going to love this, as these characters serve as your sneaky thief/rogue role for backstabbing, but also flanking an enemy gives your characters a significant damage bonus, so it’s important to position your characters strategically in order to take advantage of this. Additionally, certain abilities can only be used when flanking an enemy, so keep this in mind when planning your attacks.
Another important factor in Wartales combat is the use of environment. Certain terrain features can provide cover, which can help to protect your characters from enemy attacks. Additionally, some terrain features can be used to block enemy movement, which can be a valuable way to control the battlefield. Finally, it’s important to remember that Wartales combat is not just about dealing damage – it’s also important to protect your characters. This can be done by using defensive abilities, such as shields and armor, or by positioning your characters in areas where they are less likely to be attacked. Should one of your members fall in battle, there are other characters out there to recruit to take on their mantle.
In between fighting, you’ll be exploring the world and managing your parties survival. There are plenty of items to manage here, so take the time to learn about best practices for inventory management, character management, as well as camp management to get the maximum out of the game. Wartales does a decent job of explaining things, but you might benefit from hitting up a “top 10 things I wish I had known before playing Wartales” type video on YouTube.
If you have played games like Mount and Blade, the survival/party management aspect is pretty rudimentary in that regard. Your characters need food to eat, rest when they are fatigued, and booze if they are drunkards. Also coin if you want them to be happy and watch your back. Luckily, food can be bought or looted, or if you have a character who has pursued the life of a handy fisherman, you can find food on your travels. Certain foods can give your party bonuses when consumed, so be on the lookout for those tasty treats.
There are 6 character classes in Wartales. When setting up your warband, you can choose (through a backstory) which character classes you want to bring with you. You can customize each character, add bonus traits at the price of a negative trait, and give them all awful haircuts if you so choose. There is enough diversity here to feel like your characters don’t all look the same. However, if you are staring at a brute and a warrior class side-by-side, you might not get the difference at first. In Wartales defense, this is a low fantasy RPG, so there are no wizards to choose from, so class overlap/hybridization is inevitable.
Oh, and don’t forget your pony (your beast of burden) who should just be a strong boy that’s a bit unlucky (if you catch my drift). Horses in the game are your main mode of carrying your inventory around, so keep that in mind as you progress that one pony may not be enough.
As your characters level up, they gain additional stats and abilities, all which can really help the team if employed synergistically. You can also adjust how they level up by spending knowledge points in your compendium, which are basically your leader perks (and you are the leader in this instance, the human person clicking the mouse). There are a bevy of useful perks to unlock that can help your progression throughout Wartales, and I highly recommend taking a moment to learn which each one is about, both for your band and for their potential professions. I like this aspect a lot, but I wish this had more of a tree-like presentation so I could better understand what the potential hidden skill unlocks would be. I think there are some UI improvements that could really help players navigate the compendium, but seasoned players will likely be used to its clunkiness.
Did I say something about professions earlier? Aren’t there enough systems in Wartales to manage? Nope, because your characters can have jobs (and only one unless you choose to change it) to take advantage of the different mechanics throughout the world. You’ll need thieves to steal, blacksmiths to make weapons and armor, and tinkerers to tinker. There are more than enough jobs to go around, so plan these carefully as your character level up the more they do their job. If you decide to switch their profession at any time, they lose that sweet progression and start at entry level. I want to like these professions, but there just feels like one too many. I think there could be some narrowing of job titles that would make this feel less like a sacrifice in every job-specific instance you are presented. I would think a woodchopper could also swing a pick axe, right?
Last, but not least, is the “tales” part of Wartales. The story of this game is completely up to you. You’re given a set of objectives to accomplish in each region, with side quests/bounties sprinkled around for good measure. Should you play the game region-locked, you’ll stick to progressing in one region before moving onto the next. Otherwise, go forth and seek out your adventure and hopeful fortune. Visit towns to talk to NPCs, collect bounties, shop the latest armor fashions, get robbed, etc. Find the next town to repeat this process like any good RPG player would do, and so on. But stick to the roads as much as you can, because stamina can really run out quickly trekking through the woods. All that being said, if you are looking for a deep story, this isn’t it.
What will your Wartale be?
Overall, Wartales is a deep and rewarding game that offers a lot of content for players to explore. The game’s combat system is complex and challenging, and the party management system is very in-depth. The world is also very immersive, and players will find themselves getting lost in Wartales‘ many different locations. However, the game does have a few weaknesses, such as its lack of a clear story and its sometimes over-complexity with different in-game systems. Also, there will be plenty of growing pains as you slowly unravel how the game works and kick yourself when you find out you’ve been botching your own progression. This is the ultimate weakness of this game in end, but nothing that a wiki can’t help you solve.