Wartile’s world of moving dioramas comes alive today

Wartile

Looking back, it’s a surprise that we’ve not covered Playwood Project’s Wartile a little more actively. Last we mentioned it, the gorgeous-looking pseudo-tabletop strategy RPG had just landed on Steam, albeit as a very unfinished Early Access project. Even back then its tilt-shifted miniature worlds were bafflingly pretty to look at.

Almost a year has passed since then. As of today, Wartile is officially launched, free of the Early Access title and supposedly offering a good chunk more single-player content than earlier iterations.

Set in a mostly-historical world with a generous sprinkling of Norse mythology, you control a Viking warband, looting, levelling, recruiting and upgrading as you tussle with other clans, battle conquering English knights and a variety of creatures of myth and legend in search of fame and glory. Despite the stunning good looks and hex-based tabletop presentation of the game, Wartile plays out in real-time. Thankfully, those looking for a more relaxed pace are catered to here thanks to a variable time-scale, but there’s no pausing the action to issue orders.

Combat in Wartile is cooldown-based, with each unit only being able to move or attack once every few seconds. Each unit also has an attached hand of ability cards, allowing them to do more interesting things on the battlefield, assuming the prerequisites have been met. Melee combat seems a largely automatic affair, with characters taking a swing at their most obvious target within range unless instructed otherwise.

Wartile seems to offer multiplayer in addition to its solo campaign mode, despite the Steam store page listing the game as single-player only. It does seem like the game has flown under everyone’s radar, with very few Steam store reviews and even less coverage of it elsewhere, despite its immediately arresting aesthetic.

Were I not already neck-deep in tactical RPGs already (including a barely-touched copy of XCOM: War Of The Chosen and a few more obscure picks I’ve been promising to spend more time on), I’d have probably dug into this one myself, but failing that, I’m going to ask the audience here: Have any of you lovely lot played around with this earlier in development? How does the release version stack up against what came before? We’ll hopefully have more thoughts on the game soon, once more RPS folks have gotten their grubby mitts on it.

Wartile is out now on Steam for £15/$20, with a respectable 25% discount if you buy it within the next week.

As an interesting aside, studio Zaxis are working on Fimbul, an action-RPG set in the same gritty Viking world as Wartile.

24 Comments

  1. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    It’s the real time element that put me off. It is just tough to fit it into my play schedule as it needs to go in with the real time games I play when I have more free time (such as Dishonored 2) rather than the turn based games I can drop into for short play sessions. Sounds weird, but it is the way it is.

    Looks pretty though. Good luck to them. If it were turn based I would definitely own it. Of course they aren’t making games only for me, which is fine. As a 40+ gamer I know I’m no one’s target audience any more.

    • Someoldguy says:

      There’s a lot of over 40/50/60 gamers these days, so you’d be surprised. I think that’s why so many older style computer games and elaborate board games get funded on kickstarter.

      I find real time difficult too. When the kid is awake I need games that can be parked at a moment’s notice, which makes turn based far more convenient than anything else. There’s already a lot of competition for the 60-90 minutes or so at the end of the day when uninterrupted gaming is more likely. This will need to be a bit special to justify a purchase.

    • Aetylus says:

      You are far from alone. Wartile has had a steady stream of steam discussions with people asking why it is not turn based or at least pausable. The devs have stickied their reasons for doing so, but the lack of at least active pause seems to me to just cut out a big slice of their market… there are a bunch of people who would go for this type of game except they need games that you can walk away from at a moment’s notice.

      • Vilos Cohaagen says:

        Yeah I do know I’m not alone I was probably being over dramatic :) . The devs are free not to have a pause option, but as someone who like you has to get up at a moment’s notice I won’t be getting this. Shame, as it really is pretty.

    • Gothnak says:

      Make it single player, give it a good campaign, make it turn based and i’ll be buying it.

      I think that is pretty much all games for me :).

    • phroggiepuddles says:

      I’m the same – I have no shame anymore in setting most action/adventure/RPG games to easy. Don’t have the time or 14-year-old reaction times. Turn based is a beautiful thing.

    • Danarchist says:

      I find these days, at the crickety age of 45, I simply do not enjoy the added stress of real time anymore. I mean it definitely has it’s place, and tons of people enjoy it, just not me. I think its a focus thing as much as an issue with my degrading “Click per minute” speeds.
      I find myself playing allot of warhammer 2 lately simply because I can take time between actions and, well, look around a bit.
      Yesterday I tried yet again to play FF15 and ended up getting a whopping 30 minutes in before I gave up…again. That I think is the best example of a game series going away from its roots an suffering for it.

    • Menthalion says:

      49 here, not fond of micromanagement RTS’es at all. Also couldn’t keep up with Europa Universalis lack of turns, despite having slow down options there as well.

      I’m playing the game right now, but anyone that’s not clinically dead or severely motorically impaired can keep up with this one.

      Also a dad of a toddler, and Esc is all you need to pause the game, you just can’t issue orders while paused.

      All the reactions here make it seem you’d need SC competition level APM, but a SC player could play 25+ simultaneous warTile matches.

      • phroggiepuddles says:

        I saw very similar comments on steam reviews… only thing holding me back last night was the download time (I’m in Australia – it’s an issue!). Its look and style is great.

    • ninjapirate says:

      I don’t even think it’s an age thing, I never liked hectic RTS games, even when I was in my early 20s. I’ve always been a turn-based strategy game fan, or at the very least games that allow me to hit pause in order to mull things over.

  2. Vinas_Solamnus says:

    What is the campaign like? Can’t find info on that anywhere….Thanks for the update!

    • Someoldguy says:

      I trawled through a lot of steam comments trying to find that out, without success. What was noticeable was just how little playtime almost all the reviewers had. You expect negative reviews to clock in under 2 hours to get their refund, but most of the positive ones were that short too.

      It became clear that part of the approach is making you replay the same map at increasing difficulty tiers to unlock new abilities. Now I’m not completely against this – I did it for years in D&D Online before it became possible to play elite level without having to visit normal and hard first – but it doesn’t indicate a narrative led campaign mode with unique maps for each mission.

  3. milligna says:

    Gawd that IS gorgeous, I’m a complete sucker for this look. Bought.

  4. Raoul Duke says:

    “Each unit also has an attached hand of ability cards, allowing them to do more interesting things on the battlefield, assuming the prerequisites have been met.”

    Oh god. I just went from “very interested” to “not at all interested”.

    What is this obsession with everything having to have modifiers/special powers in games now? Can’t units just be units, with known, predictable characteristics, with the skill in the game being using those known characteristics better than the other side?

    It makes games inherently unintuitive, because you have to memorise a bunch of ‘cards’ instead of just knowing what this or that unit or character can do.

    • Edgewise says:

      From a game design perspective, I like the idea of units having special abilities because it makes them stand out qualitatively instead of just quantitatively. As for such features being unintuitive, I think that it’s really more a matter of familiarity with conventions. I mean, when I think of vintage computer turn-based strategy games, “intuitive” is not usually a word that comes to mind.

      My own issue is that the concept of “cards” in such games usually refers to “rules that we left out of the book.”

      • Archonsod says:

        “I like the idea of units having special abilities because it makes them stand out qualitatively instead of just quantitatively.”

        If only one or two have special abilities. When every unit has them on the other hand the reverse tends to be true.

        Had it on my wishlist for a while, but I think I’ll probably pass. It looks pretty, but it also looks like a fairly generic small scale RTS with a fairly uninspired setting (seriously, is nobody tired of Vikings yet?).

    • Silicor says:

      The implementation doesn’t require any memorization. Each figure has 3 abilities available to them. The abilities are distinct and fixed for each figure. Hakon Goldenmane has shied bash, banner and armor break. Jorim Radningar has taunt, shield wall and shield push. Abilities are unlocked as you gain experience with the characters but it doesn’t seem to take much to unlock them. I have two of Hakon’s abilities unlocked after two missions. During mission setup, you choose what equipment and and 1 ability to take in the mission. So abilities are printed on cards but arn’t random at all. There is also a battle deck which has more general tactical cards like bear trap and healing. They are in a deck and drawn as used. They can be played at any time and use “battle points” to use. Battle points are earned by killing enemies. The drawn cards of the battle deck are always shown on the screen and the abilities are shown when the figure is selected so no memorization is required.

  5. Alberto says:

    The 40+ may sound like a joke, but maybe you can’t concentrate on the game, or don’t have the reflexes or you have some kind of physical disability that makes it impossible to enjoy the game if you can’t do active pause. Or maybe you’re so bad at it (my case).

    I think the approach to this, as to many difficult-related debates is to make it optional. Do a ‘default’ setting, like “this is how we want the game to be”, but allow the player to tick on or off pause, difficulty, etc.

    Darkest Dungeon and its corpse / no corpse / heart attack / no heart attack is the first example coming to my mind, but I’m pretty sure there are dozens more already.

  6. Scandalon says:

    It is a strange mix of design “languages” indeed. If the devs have a clear vision then more power to them but yes, a bit baffling.

    For me the main issue is the trailer shows off how beautifully they’ve re-created the look/feel of miniatures, getting closer and closer in on the detail, then immediately ruins it by showing the animations, which look worse and worse the more you look at it.
    (There’s no easy answer to making the animation look good when you having X number of units interact with each other – other than meticulous planning, animators with decent tools that know their tools well, and a shedload of time to re-adjust things over and over as every little thing affects a bunch of other things in a chain of dependency hell.)

  7. 111uminate says:

    Game is straight up gorgeous. I’m a fan of tactics and strategy games of all types, real-time or not. What puts me off this is the whole Viking thing. I’m getting a little burnt out on it, and it brings me no interest.

    Vikings this, Viking that, Vikings are badass yaaaargh! It’s old and tired at this point. I would have much preferred some type of fantasy setting, with factions and units born from imagination. I can see how that could be tired too though, also.

  8. Daymare says:

    Warface

    there, someone had to do it

  9. Erroll the Elder says:

    Despite my misgivings about the real time this game has turned out to be awesome. You can slow it down with the space bar so much that it might as well be turn based.

    It has great presentation and theme. Well worth the 15 I paid. Any other old gamers on the fence, give it a try. It works surprisingly well.