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Warlander

Warlander

The developer of Happy Wars is back with a medieval battle game that is fun for a while but feels ultimately shallow.

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Before I dive into Warlander properly, there's probably something worth highlighting. Online, there has been a lot of discussion around the anti-cheat software this game includes, with some stating that it has been taking data. While I cannot confirm the details of this, it is something that is surrounding a good amount of the discourse on Warlander, and a fact worth mentioning for anyone looking to get into the game.

But, with that out of the way, here's Warlander, the latest game from Toylogic, the developer behind 2012's Happy Wars. Warlander is a multiplayer game that revolves around two teams, both trying to defend their castle and core from the enemy side. With three lanes, and each side having towers and a base to overrun, you could compare Warlander to a MOBA in a way.

Warlander

But that wouldn't really be doing Warlander justice. It's got a few MOBA elements, sure, but it also has a sprinkle of medieval combat similar to Chivalry or Mordhau, and a spoonful of tower defence. All that mixes together in a vibrant, fun experience.

Warlander's gameplay boils down to one team running to capture the other's core. Both attackers and defenders can use siege and melee weapons to their advantage. While this sounds incredibly simplistic, there are some ways in which Toylogic has added a bit of variety here. Namely, there's the three main classes: the burly, standard melee fighter of the Warrior, the support class that does okay in combat, the Cleric, and the spell-slinging, siege weapon-destroying Mage. Each of these classes has plenty of equipment that you can customise in a loadout, but a lot of your kit ends up being very similar, especially in the case of the Warrior and Cleric. There are ranged weapons, too, but again besides the Mage's spells, a lot of these are just medieval versions of guns with automatic, single-shot and burst-fire options.

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Beyond just picking a class, when you load into a game of Warlander, your team will be given options about which kind of tactics you'll approach a battle with, and which squads are going to be used to storm the enemy, take towers, and defend the home base. Spending a good amount of time with each of the classes, and the roles, it seems that unfortunately some have been given extra attention when compared to others. The Cleric class, for example, feels underwhelming, and doesn't actually have that much of a battlefield impact. It can fight, but not nearly as well as the Warrior, and it can support its team, but Warlander's combat is often so quick that by the time you're ready to heal a teammate they're already dead. This leaves the Cleric in somewhat of an awkward position, and makes it hard to justify picking it consistently over the Warrior.

In terms of roles, being in Defence at first proves to be a bit boring, as all you're really doing for the first few minutes is setting up ballistae and cannons, but it actually proves to be one of the more fun ways to play, as gunning down dozens of enemies as they try and storm a base proves to be satisfying. Or, it would, if Warlander's siege weapons didn't feel like pea shooters. The cannon especially shoots this impressive glob of fire at enemies, but only does a bit of damage in a tiny AoE.

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The Assault role lets you just get straight into the action, simple and effective. The Special Forces role, on the other hand, doesn't seem to really have a place, as it's meant to be for taking towers and objectives, but Assault teams can do this just as effectively as they're thrown straight in. I get what Toylogic is going for here, I just don't think it works, and it makes me wonder why not just have the two clear roles of assaulting the enemy base, and defending your own?

Another reason why the Defence role may be preferable is it means you won't have to get stuck into Warlander's melee combat. Sadly, despite looking like a more cartoonish Chivalry, Warlander's melee combat has none of the former's polish. Fights often devolve into two players just breaking blocks and mashing attacks until their opponent recovers. This isn't to say that combat is joyless in Warlander though, as the game's battles make up somewhat for their flat melee in extremely chaotic skirmishes that have mages shooting fireballs overhead, other classes using their ranged tools like automatic crossbows, and the meat grinder of melee in the centre of it all.

Warlander's action is undeniably fun. Getting into the chaos of the battles - which are visually striking as well thanks to all the spells and abilities going off at once - proves to be a very engaging gameplay loop, something that kept me coming back throughout my hours with it. However, as I spent more and more time with Warlander, I can't say this initial excitement stuck around, and until Toylogic brings some more maps, game modes, and other content to the game, it risks ruining its shine far too quickly.

Warlander

If you've got a few hours to kill, Warlander is a fun, engaging game with a surprising amount of variety despite only having two game modes at the time of writing. With its classes and different siege equipment to take control of, alongside a giant robot and cataclysm idols that absolutely wreck a battlefield, there's a lot to do once you first step in. But, the appeal does waver over time, and as the newness of Warlander wears off, it doesn't seem to have much sticking power.

The lack of depth makes Warlander a solid but ultimately forgettable experience, and if Toylogic wants this game to be a success in the months and potentially years to come, it's going to need a significant amount of changes, including improvements to its classes to not have one stand clearly above the others, and an overhaul of the melee combat to make it a bit less bland.

Then again, Warlander is a free experience, so there's not much harm in testing it out.

HQ
06 Gamereactor UK
6 / 10
+
Fun combat, solid visuals, and plenty of variety in what you can do.
-
While fun for the first few hours, Warlander tends to drag over long periods of play, and some elements are clearly more fun than others.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Alex Hopley

The developer of Happy Wars is back with a medieval battle game that is fun for a while but feels ultimately shallow.



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