A blood-drenched meeting of the roguelike and hack & slash genres
We’ve all been there, longing for a Star Wars game with combat to rival Jedi Academy and gore that matches some of the hack & slash genres best efforts. So many conversations have focused on the what if scenario of the cancelled Maul title, and if would’ve seamlessly blended the graphic violence of i and Dante’s Inferno with the much more child-friendly galaxy far, far away. You no longer need to wonder, or mull over hypotheticals, as Clock Drive Games’ Warlander does exactly that, without being a Star Wars game at all.
Set for release on February 26th, Warlander has been in development for around three and a half years in the hands of Clock Drive Games. Operating with a team of 30, this will be the studio’s debut release, yet that doesn’t mean the Serbian studio don’t have some experienced people making Warlander a reality. Some highlights of their previous works include RTS Genesis Rising: The Universal Crusade, as well as the cancelled original Xbox sci-fi shooter,i.
The game is presented as a Dark Souls meets Slay the Spire roguelike adventure, and the studio have gone on record with comparisons to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, among others. The Souls comparison is a strong one, as the sheer difficulty and unforgiving nature of Warlander will make even the most diehard Soulsborne fan feel right at home. On a personal note, I have never really been interested in the Souls series, and have said many times that I can’t see the appeal of such aggravating difficulty. I struggle my way through most easy modes, and I can’t really remember the last time I opted for a harder difficulty outside of trying to unlock the entire TimeSplitters character roster. The difficulty in Warlander did not leave me feeling bitter and broken though, and the more I failed, the more excited I got to press on – we’ll disregard the pained screams in-between.
Warlander doesn’t rely too heavily on story, and although lore is slowly exposed to the players, it doesn’t overwhelm them with huge chunks of exposition. You play as Bruce, a warrior who has been resurrected by the forest, and must fight back the forces of Technos with his trusty sword, the sentient Ferguson. The storytelling could be considered one of the weaker aspects of Warlander, but as a player who is not overly fond of heavy storytelling within video games, I welcome this approach with open arms. After all, aren’t games supposed to be fun over everything.
Fun is where Warlander exceeds. There’s something that makes me smile about slicing heads, arms and legs off with a bright green blade. The game features a really interesting mechanic where the sword will slice wherever you aim (Cue Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance), so you can slightly scalp an opponent, or cut them through the middle. Some undead enemies will keep coming at you once decapitated, so you’ll need to work extra hard to cut these guys down. You can also chop the legs or feet off of your foes, and then hit them with a brutal finishing move whilst they crawl along the ground. It’s barbaric, yet beautiful. Other enemies will have armour plating, and you will need to strike these individual armour pieces a number of times before being able to break them and damage their wearer. There’s a lot of depth to the combat, and that’s just with the sword.
You’re also able to extend a vine from your arm to throw opponents into things, and shoot stakes too. Shooting a stake into a weak beam can crush your enemies under rubble, and you can also use it to blast armour pieces into smithereens from afar. The further you progress, the more combos and moves you’ll be able to unlock, and the better you’ll become for it. Warlander presents you with a lot of options in regards to unlocks, and it really shines for it.
Don’t get too attached to your abilities and upgrades though, as Warlander can rip them from your mittens within seconds. All you have to do is die once, and you’ll be kicked back to the main menu, to begin all over again, with next to none of your previous abilities. It’s real tough love, as it hurts – but you’ll want to get much better because of it. You’ll need to learn quickly about which is the best path to take in order to stay alive. The paths are all procedurally generated, but are broken into recognisable types. The paths are broken into standard battles, boss battles, stages to earn health, upgrades and abilities and also mystery stages. These can be any of the aforementioned, and usually end in me getting my ass kicked by some heavily armoured units.
The game’s combat is near-perfect. It’s very rare that I will enjoy a combat system so much that I struggle to play other titles in the genre, and Warlander has had that effect on me. It’s definitely a title I can recommend and absolutely one I will be playing a lot of once it releases. Do youself a favour and pick this up if you like violence.
Warlander is available for purchase on February 26th, be sure to pick up a copy on Steam.
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