The real-time strategy genre is one that’s synonymous with the PC platform, with a plethora of keys to obey your every command, as opposed to the rather limited console controller. It’s been a while since I’ve truly enjoyed an RTS on any console; probably back when Command & Conquer titles were frequent. Now though, developers Warcave and Crazy Monkey Studios are trying to deliver something a little different to Xbox One with a Stone Age themed RTS in the form of Warparty. Is it going to rock our world and be a fresh take on the genre that we’ve been crying out for? Will Warparty succeed in adapting its controls for the console?
The short answer is: don’t get your hopes up, because you’ll probably need a bucket for the subsequent tears it’ll cause to flood from your eyes through sheer pain and frustration. It’s not all bad though, I promise.
Warparty’s premise is set way back in the Stone Age with the discovery of almighty magical powers, known as Go’n Power, by the Go’n tribe. The tribe itself was torn apart by a desire to use these powers for different purposes and some unspecified amount of years later, other tribes are now after the Go’n artifacts to reign over the land, taking control of the dinosaurs who currently roam free for their own gain. That’s essentially what we’re told by an opening cutscene that uses sketch-like artwork to portray the narrative. It’s interesting enough and makes a nice change of setting.
In terms of single player options, the most crucial of all to begin with is the Tutorial as learning the ropes will only serve you well going forward. The construction of buildings, the delegating of minions, managing limited resources, and the use of your very own powers to wield will be explained here – just imagine having the ability to unleash meteors and tornadoes. Whilst it covers most of the basics, it does leave out a fair few command options that come mightily handy in the main game and doesn’t care to mention that groups can be assigned to a control wheel via pressing both trigger buttons. Nevertheless, from there, the Campaign will await your new-found skills.
Although initially sceptical about it, the Campaign is rather intriguing as it is split up across three factions – Wildanders, Vithara, and Necromas – and you can delve into either one at any point. It provides quite an inter-woven story throughout, with your faction of choice often up against the other two. The prelude to each mission is rarely too exciting, but the purpose of what you’re doing is conveyed well enough.
Each of the factions has its own unique style and units to get used to, with Mika’s Wildlanders breeding the more straightforward warrior types that can build houses and farms, whilst the Vithara’s leader Sage can recruit dinosaurs and turn them into wisps if necessary for building stuff. My personal favourite is Char though, head of the Necromas who spawns zombies upon the killing of an enemy and can train a selection of weird infantry units. The differences between them all are more than enough to ensure the separate campaigns are fresh, even if a little familiar.
The objectives within the Campaign see you tasked with anything from simply taming dinosaurs and capturing Go’n shrines, to surviving a trek through a zombie-filled snow landscape and decimating bases. You’ll be traversing across a desert environment and wandering a jungle themed map at one point too – although there’ll be no raving about the visuals as they are pretty bland. There’s quite an enjoyable mixture of missions to partake in, many of which could last a good half hour or more on occasion. But the problem is, you may not be experiencing too many of them.
You see, if you can finish a mission then that would be a great start because Warparty is relentless in terms of difficulty, and I fear that it’s not necessarily by design. At first I figured that my skills weren’t up to scratch, but even on ‘Very Easy’, progression is more through pure luck than anything else. In a particular mission I spent ages building a glorious base by mining tons of crystals and storing lots of food (both needed as resources), training archers and warriors, taming a couple of dinosaurs and maxing out the population cap of 200. Every single one died upon my approach of the enemy camp and it wasn’t even close. Devastated.
There’s no way the difficulty level is fair or implemented correctly because on another occasion, the enemy kept sending troops en masse to destroy my lovely camp, giving me virtually no time to recover before coming again. Being horrendously tough is quite off-putting, but the major bugs present are even worse; especially when you can’t save mid-mission.
The strangest occurrence saw a complete boot back to the main menu at the deadening of a controller battery – so if you’re in-game and your controller goes off for any reason, it’s game over. Then the leaders of the groups, who must be kept alive at all times, disappear into thin air at random and won’t return, so you’re unable to help them in dangerous moments. The worst issue though is the lack of any on-screen cursor, meaning you can’t select anything, rendering the session pointless. When a game is already a pain in regards how hard it is, the last thing anyone wants is to lose to a bug. These aren’t even one-off problems, it’s happened numerous times.
There are other little qualms you may come across regarding the stupidity of large groups of your own units who can’t organise themselves into a pack or refuse to attack, but that’s bearable in contrast to the prominent issues already outlined. Unfortunately, they even affect the remaining two single player modes yet to be mentioned, A.I. Skirmish and Survival Mode.
Survival Mode sees you defeating wave after wave of enemies, putting your base building and resource management skills to the ultimate test. Meanwhile, A.I. Skirmish allows the setup of a King of the Hill, Regicide and Standard match for you alongside up to five other A.I. controlled opponents and teammates. None of those are enjoyable on the whole, but that’s more to do with the persistent problems. There isn’t even any local or online multiplayer to get stuck into, although it is expected to be added in the near future.
At least there are no massive problems in the audio department, with clear and concise voiceovers doing an acceptable job of storytelling. Even the background music is alright, setting the tone for the environment you’re in and not becoming annoying during its loops. The only things that may grate on you are the noises emanating from the troops when given orders and fighting, but you’ll just have to ignore it.
In conclusion, Warparty has great ideas in the way that it’s created three distinct tribes and ensured that each of them feels unique enough to play as. When you’ve got triceratopses, raptors, zombies, archers, elemental beings and more in the same world, you know there’s decent variety. The Campaign could be great, but it suffers at the hands of an unforgiving difficulty and a wide-range of bugs that can ruin the experience entirely. Control-wise it doesn’t fare much better as it’s hard to get to grips with, given that most of the commands aren’t taught to you, and it can get a little fiddly when trying to select specific units.
Unless it receives a major patch, I’m afraid that Warparty on Xbox One is a party you don’t want an invite to.