Wartales Steam Early Access Report (Launch)
Disclosure: A copy of Wartales was provided for free.
Wartales, developed by Shiro Games, is an open world RPG set in a medieval times where you control a group of mercenaries and fight in turn-based tactics battles. I’ve played a bunch of games pre-launch to Steam Early Access, but this is the first time I’ve played a game where the game got updated to be better during the course of my playthrough. As of this writing I’ve played around 30 hours of Wartales, but a good chunk of the beginning was me battling technical issues. Eventually it turned into a better experience and I was able to advance farther and quicker into the story.
Given that this game is in Steam Early Access, imperfection and gameplay mistakes are forgivable until it releases out of Steam Early Access to version 1.0. All that being said, the game has a very enjoyable and addicting foundation of a game that is extremely unique. You start your experience by selecting your starting group of four mercenaries that you’ll be controlling across the world map and in tactics battles. You’re given a bunch of set groups of different combinations of four classes to choose from among the warrior, brute, swordsman, ranger, spearman. and archer classes. Each choice has a destiny background that will be accompanied with stat changes that affect your interactions and decisions as you travel the world map. You also get to pick an advantage and disadvantage for your mercenaries that will affect your experience. I picked one that I felt would hurt me the least since this was my first playthrough.
The world map of Wartales is incredibly beautiful. As you control your mercenaries exploring the map you reveal new parts of the map and gain discovery points that add up to eventually receiving a knowledge point that can either be spent to give your mercenaries passive bonuses or learn new crafting recipes for a profession. The game doesn’t really have a tutorial, so a lot of my time was spent trying to learn every system in the game on my own. There is a resource management aspect in Wartales that is probably going to make or break your enjoyment of the game. Every mercenary has a wage, plus there’s a game clock that is constantly running that I feel is a bit too fast. Your mercenaries also have a stamina meter that determines when they need to rest. If you’re in a town you can pay money at an inn to rest, but most likely you’ll find yourself stranded in the world somewhere when that meter runs out. Luckily, you have a camp that can be deployed whenever and upgraded as you play the game. The basics of the camp is that you feed your mercenaries and pay them. If you don’t pay them it affects their happiness meter and they can leave you! You can also be attacked while resting in dangerous areas.
What peaks my enjoyment of Wartales so far is the customization. Although you have a starting set of mercenaries you begin with, you can hire other mercenaries from different classes as you meet them using the money currency (knowns) and influence points gained by completing quest contracts or giving a resource to a wandering trader. Just remember that everyone you hire needs to be fed and paid. There are no ‘random battles’ except when resting in dangerous areas, so if you see a group of suspicious people or wild wolves/boars you can move away from them to avoid the encounter. The turn-based battles are done very well. From a visual perspective, the battle areas generally always fit where the battle is taking place. If you’re in snow, the battle takes place in a snowy battlefield. Attention to detail like this takes this game to a higher level of quality. Before each battle you can move your mercenaries to the positions you want them in, like protecting your archers and putting your warriors closer to the enemies. What I really like is that there is no set order to use your mercenaries, but you have to use all of them once before you can use them again. The bottom left of the screen shows turn order and specific enemy turns, so that is pretty much what you’ll use as your guide to manage your turns for victory. Every mercenary has special ability based on their weapon that can be used by spending Valour points that are replenished through resting. Plus, as you level up your mercenaries into specific subclasses you choose an ability that can gain a temporary Valour point in battle that disappears after battle. At level 3 you get to choose a subclass from a choice of three that comes with another ability.
After clocking 30 hours I was only scratching the surface of the second area. A lot of those hours were spent wasting time trying to learn the game and overcoming game crashes. Now that I know the game flow I expect to do better when I start fresh again. The game also has minigames when using certain professions and a ‘Steal’ mechanic when in NPC houses or markets. I definitely got vibes of an isometric version of Elder Scrolls with the ability to steal NPC items, in addition to all of the dialogue you encounter in the game. Your choices will matter in the story, but sometimes I felt backed into a corner because a lot of the choices required certain items that I didn’t have at the time. Rather than stall my playthrough, I just went with whatever choice I could do at that moment. Once you complete the starting ‘scenario’ of story quests you’ll be allowed to travel further into the map,
Wartales has a great foundation of a game. I’m not too thrilled about enemy level scaling and some of the game balance with certain abilities and skills, but all of these issues are expected. I also found myself saving and reloading because once a mercenary dies they are gone for good! The game does feel punishing in the very beginning. With the right changes in version 1.0, this will easily be included in my Game Hype Rankings for 2022 down the road.
Wartales just launched into Steam Early Access and estimates to take roughly 12 months to reach version 1.0.
My Version 1.0 Wishlist:
- Add a save hotkey
- Remove enemy level scaling
- Slow the game clock