The fate of the world may be at stake, but that doesn’t mean you can’t crack a joke or two. Warlocks 2: God Slayers is a side-scrolling action RPG developed by Frozen District Games that features the intense combat and high-stakes storytelling that characterize its genre, but handles it all with a sense of humor. You’ll venture through numerous distinct environments across different planets in your quest to defeat evil. But can its combat and attitude make the experience more than just another example of a well-worn formula?
Warlocks 2: God Slayers is available now on the Nintendo eShop for $17.99.
RPGs are typically serious affairs when it comes to their stories. They can deal with heavy topics like dangerous monsters, important quests, and often the fate of the world itself. Warlocks 2 is no different—with one key difference. Whereas many games handle these subjects with a grim sense of gravity, Warlocks 2 takes a much lighter approach. Its story of wrathful gods and fallen heroes may appear to be perfect material for a grave narrative, but instead its tale is packed with wisecracks and jokes. It presents a world of angered gods who have unleashed countless enemies and curses upon the land, leaving your player character, a hopeful member of the Order of Warlocks, to vanquish these vengeful deities and return peace to the land.
On the surface, this sounds like a serious story – many a dark RPG has told the tale of a conflict between gods and men. What makes Warlocks 2 different is how it takes these tropes and mocks them at every turn. One character makes a joke about how annoying fetch quests are, immediately after sending you on one; another character in the main hub area muses about creating a game about “fighting evil and warlocks.” Not many of these quips ever made me laugh out loud (aside from one instance, which was due more to unexpected profanity usage rather than any clever humor), but the lighter writing was nonetheless appreciated. In a genre full of bleak games that take themselves with the utmost seriousness, it’s refreshing to see a title that dares to smile every now and again.
That being said, the humorous writing can’t distract from the issues with the larger structure of the storytelling. The narrative rarely feels focused. There’s so many random smaller activities scattered throughout the game that there often doesn’t feel like there’s much of an overarching story at all. The structure is full of starts and stops. For instance, about five hours in, there’s a boss battle that’s built up to be the game’s grand finale. Yet the game continues on after it, and an entire new cast of characters and objectives are suddenly tossed in. None of the various colorful characters that inhabit the many worlds feel memorable; they’re simply vehicles for exposition, fetch quests, and dumb jokes. The humor is enjoyable in its own way, but it doesn’t do much to keep the larger experience engaging. All told, the levity of the story is appreciated, but that lightness comes at the cost of a well-paced and engaging narrative.
As with its story, the gameplay of Warlocks 2 is fairly typical action RPG fare. There’s a total of five different Warlocks to choose from at the start of the game, which will be your characters throughout the rest of the campaign. It’s an incredibly diverse group including everything from goat-riding warriors to young boys with firebirds to lords of the underworld. These wide-ranging characters share the same general controls and abilities, but manage to feel distinct with some unique characteristics. For instance, one character may be slow but can pack a heavier punch, while another may be comparatively weaker but makes up for it with their mobility.
Regardless of who you pick, you’ll start out with one basic attack before you begin to learn more with the experience points you get after each fight. Up to four spells can be equipped to the four shoulder buttons at a time, and they can also be upgraded with your experience points as well. There’s a good variety of abilities which can be used both for attacking and navigating the environment. Learning new spells and exploring their usages was always enjoyable. There were a few cases where the game abruptly halted the pace to force abilities to be used in ways that had never before been implied or expected, which could be a bit frustrating.
The entire campaign can be played in single player or experienced with up to three other friends in local multiplayer. Disappointingly, online multiplayer has been excluded from the Switch version, meaning that you’ll have to have all your friends in the same room if you want to experience the multiplayer. This is a shame, since sharing the experience with a friend always makes a game more enjoyable, even if having multiple players can make battles feel too chaotic at times.
The combat is engaging enough on its own, but the rewards reaped after every fight can be the most exciting part of the typical gameplay loop. There’s a heavy emphasis on gaining loot, treasure, and new equipment. These can be found abundantly through chests scattered around the world, or most commonly in spoils dropped by defeated enemies. It’s remarkably satisfying to take out a massive horde of enemies and be greeted with piles of valuable treasure, useful healing items, and powerful new equipment.
The game’s many quests will take you to a wide variety of locations. The adventure will even span multiple planets, each of which has about six individual areas. Most of these regions are sprawling and hide plenty of secrets to discover. As should be expected when traveling to different celestial bodies, every environment has a distinct identity with its own unique themes and ideas. Unfortunately, the quests within them don’t share that variety.
There’s effectively two kinds of quests – defeat a group of enemies or gather a certain number of items. The developers do a good job of veiling this formula in different formats throughout the game, but there’s no denying that all the quests boil down to either one of those two basic patterns. It gets repetitive quickly, even in the game’s short duration of roughly ten hours. What is even more frustrating is the game’s heavy reliance on backtracking towards the end of the story. There’s no fast travel or shortcuts to be found, so whenever you have to go back to one other end of a massive level, there’s no way to do so conveniently. Trudging back and forth through the game’s extensive areas can become extremely tedious, extremely quickly.
From a technical perspective, things can get rough. Performance is generally consistent, but there were times when the framerate could chug down to a slog, persisting at a sluggish 20 frames per second for extended periods of time. There were also a handful of game-breaking glitches that froze the game and forced me to restart. These problems weren’t enough to drag down the entire game, but their presence detracted from the quality of the package as a whole.
Graphics and Audio
The presentation is among the most consistently solid aspects of Warlocks 2. It adopts a beautiful pixelated style that isn’t restricted by any ideas of retro loyalty or nostalgia. Character art is large and detailed with plenty of personality, and backgrounds are generally bright, colorful, and striking. It was a pleasure to travel to each new area not only to experience the gameplay and dialogue to be found there, but also to see the artwork for the new enemies and backgrounds.
However, the biggest visual issues with the game has to be its menus, and its text size in particular. The menu text size is far too small. Playing it in handheld mode makes it nearly impossible to read much of the text in menus or quest descriptions. Likewise, the menu itself is often frustrating to navigate with some text boxes covering up certain items, making it difficult to understand what you’re seeing. Even worse, much of the text that describes each region simply doesn’t fit in its box, leaving many incomplete descriptions. It’s oversights like these that really drag the game down.
In terms of its audio, it’s generally strong as well, even if it also suffers a dip in quality towards the end of the game. Most area themes are just ambient enough to fit the mood of the region but also feature distinctive melodies to make each region feel distinct. In the earlier levels, there was unique battle music that would seamlessly transition in and out of the normal area themes whenever enemies were present. However, this was dropped entirely in the later portions of the game, which felt like a letdown after the soundtrack started out so strong.