Tinkering with the gameplay mechanic of a classic game can make or break a remake – remember Bomberman: Act Zero? The classic Atari title Warlords has seen quite a few reiterations over the years, and developer Griptonite Games version refreshes the chaotic action with additions that are fitting to the original – but it may not be enough to make it a classic amongst the new generation.
In the original Warlords, four players each defend a castle in their assigned corner of the screen. Players take control of a shield that moves from left to right along the outside of the player’s castle walls, deflecting incoming fireballs or grabbing and charging fireballs in order to release a faster, devastating attack back at opponents. Castle walls weaken with each hit and points are accumulated until that fireball is deflected or picked up by a competing Warlord. After a few hits, the wall is destroyed, leaving your opponents open to attack. If a fireball passes through there walls, they are eliminated.
One noticeable difference over the original – besides the graphics of course – is that your castle is now a semicircle as opposed to a square. This is a significant improvement, since the curved walls allow for better gameplay fit for the analog stick. On the downside, the fireballs and shields feel sluggish in comparison with the original, but overall it is still close enough to be enjoyable, especially if playing against three friends.
The single player experience consist of a campaign mode, tutorial, and quick match. The single-player campaign is essentially a fleshed out tutorial and can be beaten in a few hours. It teaches the basics of the original Warlords game as well as the new gameplay elements that add an extra layer of strategy. Players can send armies of Snoots to attack enemy walls, repair your damaged castle walls, collect power-ups, or fight opposing Snoots. Power-ups include troop invincibility, slow or reverse opponents shields, shield extenders, damages all enemy walls – amongst others.
In addition, you need to contend with a Black Knight who randomly spawns and attacks the nearest castle in the direction from which a charged fireball hit it. Just when you think the action can’t get even more chaotic, a dragon will add extra fireballs onto the playing field at different intervals. All of these new gameplay factors make sense as an evolution of the Warlords principle but with so much going on, the screen becomes way too busy.
All of the action on screen causes the frame rate to noticeably stutter. This becomes even more apparent during a four player game, which is disappointing since Warlords is all about multiplayer. The graphics are cartoony and medieval with the main characters slightly resembling an oversized Castle Crasher knight. The sound is similar, with a playful, animated, feel to it, in an attempt to create a lighthearted and comical atmosphere. Players also have the option to toggle between two different views – one high above the playing field and the other giving them a 3/4 perspective of the action.
As previously stated, multiplayer is where the fun really begins in Warlords. Players can take on there friends from either locally or online. Playing against the AI is not nearly as satisfying experience as playing against human opponents – plus the ability to talk trash is an added bonus. In multiplayer you can customize your game by setting the max number of fireballs that come into play, determining the number of players (1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2 team play, and full on 4 vs. 4 matches). You can also choose to randomize the playing fields stages or choose from Nature, Fire, Ice, or Black Knight environments.
Overall Warlords is a functional remake that adds some cool gameplay elements while staying faithful to the arcade classic. At times it does suffer from the implementation of all of these new elements, but it is still a fun experience when played against a group of friends.
Editor’s Note: Warlords was reviewed using a PlayStation 3 copy of the game. If further investigation reveals any substantial differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.
Release Date: October 9, 2012 (PSN), November 14, 2012 (360) • Publisher: Atari • Developer: Griptonite Games • Genre: Action,Strategy • Multiplayer: 2-4 players local or online • Achievements: Easy • Cost: $10 (800 MS Points) • Replay Value: Moderate