Shiro Games open world RPG prides itself on its challenge and free nature.
Today marks the official Early Access launch for Shiro Games open world RPG Wartales, a truly broad and spanning take on a medieval adventure where players have to navigate a savage and brutal world in search of wealth and fame. While the title has previously had an accessible demo, I've been exploring Wartales in its entirety over the course of the last couple of weeks, to see what this game is bringing to the table and what new players can look forward to. So far, my impressions are mixed but mostly positive, but I'll get into the details about that verdict in a moment.
Before I get into my thoughts, what is Wartales about you ask? This title picks up a century after the great Edoran Empire collapsed due to a vicious and deadly plague sweeping through the nation. Following this regression, the land has fallen into uncertainty and turmoil, with the populous now living in a country fraught with danger and chaos. The adventure picks up with the player manning a group of individuals (selected by various traits before a new game begins) with the aim of surviving and finding wealth in a world ridden with bandits, mercenaries, and unfortunate peasants subject to all manners of brutalities.
It's a truly gritty world and tale that never looks to ease the player in, in any sense. This is a challenging RPG, where a knowhow and understanding of complex RPG systems is basically a necessity for surviving longer than 30 minutes. And what I mean by that is even on the easiest difficulty, you will need to treat the world as though everything aims to kill you, and if you don't your party of survivors and adventures probably won't get very far before being slayed by armed bandits, pursuing officers of the law, or even simply wild animals.
To that extent, what Wartales serves up is a crammed and deep set of RPG systems, where players have to manage the statistics of their party members (i.e. health, armour, hunger, how you intend to level their base values, such as dexterity and willpower, and more), as well as keeping tabs on more overarching stats like your wanted level (assuming you've got up to some naughty endeavours). There's a lot going on and Wartales doesn't really do much to help the player figure out the best way to manage everything on their plate. Instead it's more of a trial and error process, where you'll gradually understand the best way to delve into the world after multiple failures. It's brutal, but so is the land of Edoran.
Since this is an RPG through and through, players can also look to treat the open world in quite a free manner. There are typical quests, bounties, explorable locations, lootable resources - all the usual RPG stuff. But, Wartales also prides itself on how non-linear it is. If you want to start an adventure by simply walking into the first homestead you see, killing all the peasants that call it home and taking their belongings as tribute, you can, even if it will invoke the wrath of the law. Likewise, you can take a more typical angle and simply look to work with the underprivileged civilians, protecting them from the horrible miscreants dotted around the world. The choice really is yours, and that's because Wartales doesn't really have a predominant narrative at its core that everything else revolves around. You are simply plopped in the open world, in the middle of nowhere, before being told to crack on with it.
While I have rambled on about the broad nature of this game, it really is its biggest strength. You can specialise members of your party as anglers to fish in lakes and rivers for food for the wider group, or rather you can have a member trained as a tinkerer, so that when you set up a camp to rest and recuperate, you can upgrade and repair armour to make combat scenarios less of a challenge.
Talking about combat, Wartales uses a turn-based system, where players will have to move members of their party and strategically assault opponents based on the strengths and weaknesses of what each individual member brings to the table. As your party is pretty much randomly created at the beginning of the game, this will require a degree of ingenuity as you figure out how to treat combat, as one character could be great as a bruiser type, soaking up hits and dealing out attacks in a wide radius, whereas another could be an archer, who packs a punch at distance, but falls very quickly when under attack. The combat is pretty challenging, especially when the odds are against you, but the real difficulty comes in recovering after a battle, as gathering the resources and gear (or more likely failing to do so) to heal your party and repair armour can be, and often is, a game-ender.
Even though my time with Wartales basically saw one impression stand out: its brutal challenge, it's clear that this is a well-made and deep experience that plays brilliantly and looks fantastic. I wouldn't be surprised if the quite hardcore nature doesn't alienate a few fans of RPGs, but if you can breach the learning curve and find a foothold in this savage medieval land, then Wartales is a very competent and spanning adventure that has a huge array of ways to be able to dive in a tackle the tale.
I will say that over my time, I've encountered a few weird and minor issues that popped up, including text being displayed in French. But for the most part, the experience that Wartales has delivered so far has me excited for the future of this game, and I look forward to seeing how Shiro will expand on this gritty world as the game progresses through the Early Access process.