Warlander is an ambitious game. On the Steam page, it describes itself as having qualities of MOBAs, battle royales, and 3rd-person action games like Diablo. Like with the other greats of the genre, two very arbitrary sides exist in the game with assumptions that the blue guys are the hero faction and the orange guys are the so-called villains.
However, no matter the color of your squad, all the soldiers of either faction want to destroy the castle core of the other faction while preserving their own. This may involve capturing some towers along the way to facilitate sending more reinforcements to the front.
In Warlander, you can play as either a Warrior, a Cleric, or a Mage. They are, respectively, melee tanks focusing on single target damage, support melee characters that provide healing and some other utility spells, and glass cannons focusing on range and AoEs. This does not mean that the Warriors and Clerics don’t have ranged weapons in addition to their sword/hammer-and-board. It’s just they’re not very satisfying to use, what with those being low-damage, full-auto crossbows.
Warlander is a somewhat silly game. The warrior is your fantasy-standard soldier in plate armor who still bears a sword and a shield. Clerics are all waifish ladies who don’t step out into the field without their plated high-heel shoes. Your mages are not only dressed in robes and large hats, but their magic arrow is a full-auto spell unleashed by going finger guns akimbo. Like I said a bit silly, but it is different.
It also has a reliance on speed and skill even compared to Chivalry 2. Warriors and Clerics live and die on switching between attack and defense (the shield blocks everything) and, crucially, not letting anyone get behind them. Mages need to know when to best use their powers and how to stay away from the fight because they’ll be way too squishy if they get into melee range.
You need to juggle your two weapon sets, as they also hold half of your available powers each. You also need to know which powers are useful. For example, Powerbomb — the wrestling move where you grab the enemy and crash them down on their head — is by far one of the best moves of the Warrior for neutralizing other Warriors and staggering them for a few hits afterward that you may forget that it almost one-hit kills low-level Clerics and Wizards.
When you go into battle you have 5 in your squad so you can mix and match the 3 types of characters to your play style. There’s a reason to diversify. First of all, any loot items that drop are singular. If you equipped the new ‘Longsword Of Incremental Betterness’ on Warrior 1, you can’t give it to Warrior 2. And, in a real technical sense, you can specialize by giving different gear with varying boosts. Each of them collects their own XP, and as they go up levels they can unlock titles, which are like (very meager) subclasses. More importantly, higher titles allow you to equip more gear. Say a starter Warrior has a capacity of 240 and a Longsword takes up 60. There’s only so much of the (lowest tier, very boring) gear you can pile on him.
Want more capacity? Level up that specific Warrior until he gets to Squire, bestow the title on him, and then he’ll be able to wear less pathetic pauldrons! Except that there’s one issue: you won’t be able to spawn him at the start of the match. To do that, you have to reach the prerequisite amount of Valor points, aka score. You don’t lose score for spawning titled characters, but he’ll have a cooldown for respawn.
Oh, the siege engines. Your castle is surrounded by walls, walls with destructible gates and constructible guns. On the attack, you can build (and rebuild) rams and siege towers… and summon a robot that seats five? Your build efficiency depends on keeping your reticle in the middle of the building circle while your character hammers away. It’s a small change, but it adds some fun and skill into something that, in most games, would be just an exercise in holding a button to fill a bar.
Warlander isn’t a top-of-the-line visually pleasing game. To me this is not a big issue, I love older-looking games, but for someone who wants everything shiny and pretty this may turn them away. I am very pleased with Warlander. It has some interesting ideas to it and I am hoping they expand on them. This is a game for those who want to play games like Chivalry 2 but doesn’t need all the pretty visuals or epic sounds. This is for the people who like the Nintendo 64 with a visual and audio appeal, and still gives you the battle you may be looking for. Warlander is free to play on Steam right now.
This review was written based on a PC review code for Warlander.