The most striking thing about Wartile at first glance is the art style. Instead of a standard video game presentation of 3D models, the characters in this title are very clearly model figurines. Each of them stands tall upon a base, they playfully hop across the hexagonal places, and brutally shatter their enemies in combat.
This Nintendo Switch version includes the Hel’s Nightmare DLC, allowing players to bring the full content of the game on the go. However, as fun, as it might be to curl up in bed and steal barrels of mead, the UI interface isn’t a good fit for the small screen of handheld mode.
STORY – NORSE CODE
The actual storyline is fairly light, but each mission starts with a well-written summary that sets the tone for what you’re about to experience. Initially, you play as the son of a recently deceased Jarl who must avenge his father’s death. The journey to bring honor back to his name takes him and various warriors that join the party across different lands and situations, encountering enemies alive and dead.
I can’t actually find a way to go back and read any of the story content without replaying the beginning sections and experiencing the cinematics again, which is a pain. Without the ability to reread and enjoy the lore again, it’s easy to just let it fall by the wayside. As a fan of Norse mythology, I’d love to have a menu where I could read about the exploits of my party on their adventure thus far, but if I have to go and replay missions again, that is just a dealbreaker.
GAMEPLAY – SMASH AND GRAB
The goals of each mission are pretty straightforward. You control a small band of warriors who traverse various maps, accomplish different goals, and fight enemies. Each level comes with a breakdown of what needs to be accomplished in order to clear, as well as usually some secondary goals that grant additional loot. Characters are moved around a grid of hexagonal tiles, and all actions are subject to a cooldown period.
While this means you can’t shoot a swordsman across the map, it does mean there’s a focus on utilizing the characters you bring along and balance them out accordingly. I got wrecked a few times by allowing my three figures to be surrounded by stronger enemies, leaving me with no way out. By adjusting the loadout and skills that I had assigned, I was able to try different approaches and steadily carve my way to victory.
Each level has three different difficulties that can be attempted as you grow stronger, and there are better rewards each time. This was an easily accessible way to get more content out of the parts that I enjoyed, and weigh my options about returning to what I didn’t like. The replayability is high, and there are plenty of areas to get through over the course of the game. That’s not even factoring in the DLC content, which you can’t unlock until the main campaign is over.
The core of the gameplay is honestly, really solid. The variety of goals kept things from being boring. Sometimes I’d be tasked with taking out the boss of a clan, other times I’d have to collect golden frogs to experiment on their magical qualities. There aren’t a whole lot of repeated objectives, so each new area was fresh and interesting.
Combat, on the other hand, is somewhat of a mixed bag. Since you’re not actively taking control of anyone, the effectiveness of their combat needs to be engrossing and give a feeling of accomplishment. But health gauges are shown on the bottom of each figure’s stand, and during skirmishes, it’s easy for everybody to blend into a group. There isn’t a whole lot of individuality among enemies, and in most encounters, it’s hard to determine which opponents you should focus on.
That being said, the customization and item options are more robust than I expected. Weapons and armor are found throughout levels, and they can all be sold to a merchant between missions to purchase even stronger items. With six different characters to outfit and send into battle, there’s plenty of variety to play as you see fit. When you combine all that with the Battle Cards, your figures have all the tools to really do some damage.
There are two types of Battle Cards, Godly and Tactical. Tactical Cards are Wartile‘s version of secondary loadouts, through which you can bring things like bear traps and healing components into battle. Godly Cards are character-specific and are changed on the inventory screen. These allow certain members of your party to use their weapons in different ways, like using a throwing axe or bashing an enemy with their shield.
I really like the implementation of Cards, and it gave me another strategic angle on how I approached a situation. There’s a pretty big variety of different Godly and tactical Cards, and finding which ones worked best to achieve my goals felt like a puzzle that was satisfying to solve.
GRAPHICS/AUDIO – STATUESQUE STRATEGY
I really can’t get over how nice these graphics look. Speaking strictly to the art design, it’s incredible. The enemies and party members actually look like tiny figurines, and the fact that each mission begins from a tabletop and takes place in a diorama really sells the aesthetic.
Just look at the screenshots. Everything looks like it would be found in the study of a rich uncle that I only see at funerals. The game features an art style that is beautiful and somewhat feels out of reach. Being able to experience intricately detailed wooden dioramas created specifically for pretend battles between statues aren’t something I expected to be able to do, and with the release on Switch, I can do it from wherever I am.
However, I don’t know that I would want to. I played through the game on my Nintendo Switch Lite, which is the lower-cost, handheld-only model of the console. It ran perfectly fine, it wasn’t any performance issues that I was dealing with, it was entirely presentation. The user interface was clearly designed for larger screens, which makes sense as Wartile was initially in Early Access on Steam in 2017.
The informational windows are just too big for the smaller screen of the Switch. Everything takes up too much valuable real estate without the option to resize, so much of the levels are obscured. When I transferred my data to a standard Switch and played on my TV, things were still the same proportionate size, but I was able to zoom farther out and adjust my viewpoint to get the look I needed. In handheld mode, the screen is too busy to have a satisfying experience.
I was excited to find that the game is voice acted, and on top of that, it’s performed really well. Each mission summary has a spoken track along with the text, which gives the game a more polished feel. On top of that, the sound effects and background music sound nice and fit the setting of the title. I wouldn’t say that anything really jumped out at me about the music, but there were no glaring issues that I encountered.
Wartile was reviewed on Nintendo Switch. A key was provided by Deck13 Interactive.