As soon as you shoot a glance at Warborn, it will almost certainly conjure images of the numerous mecha animes that have been released over the years. That is, providing you are an anime fan of course. For those unsure of what I’m going on about, this style of the Japanese animation is centred around large, pilotable suits of armour which often do battle with each other. Warborn is a turn-based strategy game very much grounded in this style, and is also reminiscent of Nintendo’s strategy masterpiece, Advance Wars.
The action plays out across three fronts. There’s the fairly meaty single player campaign, multiplayer and map editor modes. The gameplay takes place in an environment made up of hexagonal tiles, of which you can move across. You control each unit individually, and have a range of options at your disposal such as moving, attacking, capturing or simply waiting. You can take multiple actions with each unit, all in the same turn.
Different units have varying levels of defense depending on which attack they are hit by. Also, again like Advance Wars, when you’re engaged in combat the action will zoom in to a 1 on 1 perspective, showing off animations related to whichever attack is being performed. Your enemies cannot return fire defensively, and the same rules apply to your units.
The environment offers different types of terrain to take cover in, of which most carry certain defensive advantages. Depending on the attack, you may also inflict status changes on your enemy, such as “armour down”. Combining and being aware of all these elements is the key to victory.
In some missions, there will be the opportunity for capturing outposts and refineries. You can call in reinforcements at your outposts, but only when you have enough resources from your refineries (which will also need capturing). Once they are under your control, after each turn you will collect resources from each refinery until you have enough to spend it at your outposts.
If it’s all going a bit slowly for you, and it can at times in Warborn, the action can be sped up by holding down the “B” button. Of course, once you’ve used all your moves or you to choose to, your turn will end.
When you do finish your mission, as well as receiving a rank, you’ll get shown how many moves it took you to reach completion, along with a few other figures for the statistics fans out there. The first few chapters act as a tutorial, and to begin with this means things start off pretty slow and steady. The maps are small and skirmishes only last minutes at a time; things take a while to gather some pace.
There is plenty of character interaction, to put some context behind the battling. However, it’s all fairly generic stuff that you’ll most likely be skipping through by the time you are a few missions in. The commanding officers make up most of the character roster, most of which you will be able to play as at some stage. There are four to unlock, with plenty of missions to play through as each, with over 40 in total.
The first “variable armour pilot” commander you play as is Luella, and you’ll notice straight away her unit is different from the usual grunts on the battlefield. She is very much the general, if you like, and that rank comes with more powerful attacks and abilities. Each commander has their own unique unit that only they can pilot.
You will also unlock new traits as you play – these are essentially character perks such as an increased chance of a critical hit – and have access to your commander power (which, once again, is very reminiscent of Advance Wars, right down to the animation which is uncanny). Luella’s power awards her skills a greater range, as well as a greater chance of a critical hit. It’s not only handy but can prove to be a turning point when used during battle.
As I touched on earlier, the action starts off pretty straightforward, but becomes more tactical as you develop your commander and come up against more advanced enemies. Once you get to know each unit it’s lots of fun, if a little simple on the strategy side. It does, however, lack challenge. There are around 10 or so unit types that can be deployed, but it won’t take long for you to learn each of their traits. In fact, nearly all of what the game has to offer is revealed in the first few missions. It’s a game that, although entertaining, is designed to be accessible by everyone, regardless of skill level. This will suit some, but not others.
The multiplayer mode can be used as a practice against the AI if you wish to get some training in. However, the main attraction of this mode is to engage in head to head battles across Xbox’s online service.
The map editor is also a nice addition, and you can do battle online on any maps you have created. Although welcome, the options here are limited due to the simplicity of the main game. As there are so many missions to play through, and with the restricted creative scope, it’s a mode that will most likely get a quick look in and then neglected.
I must say, I really enjoyed my time with Warborn. The combination of its style, straightforward but tactical gameplay and, above all else, charm make it a suitable entry level strategy game for inexperienced or younger players. However, for those seasoned gamers it may prove not to have enough on offer. At £19.99 it isn’t the cheapest game out there either, so those players looking for a tough, strategy-based challenge may be better to give Warborn a miss.
Warborn on Xbox One is stylish, easy to get to grips with and provides plenty of gameplay hours. However, this is a game aimed for all ages, and for that reason it may lack depth and challenge for the strategy nuts out there.