We’re ashamed to say that we made some assumptions about Warrior Boy. Not good ones, either. There’s the title, which is up there with Gems of War as the most offensively vanilla name for an Xbox game. Then there’s the trailer on the Xbox Store which, as it turns out, is also the opening cutscene of the game, and a masterclass in how not to make one. It tells a story that fails to make sense, and pushes all of its audio and visual bugs up front for YouTube and the world to see. TADVGames launched it at £24.99 and then quietly reduced the price to £12.49 after a single day, and it looked, from all the very similar screenshots, that Warrior Boy would have the personality and moment-to-moment variety of a pack of digestive biscuits.
Turns out, you can’t necessarily judge a game by its trailer. Or its title. Or screenshots. That’s not to say that Warrior Boy is brilliant – far from it – but it manages to achieve a state of merely ‘sub-par’ that is far better than the stinker we expected.
You start as a boy who, upon picking up a sword, becomes a warrior boy. Cue intro music. Then, some goblin-things attack and steal the chest of gems that you found/mined/stole. Honestly, we’re not sure: the opening cutscene, as mentioned, is a chocolate teapot for setting the scene. You’re hit by a flaming arrow and faint, but then wake immediately back up again to face the goblins, so we’re not entirely clear about what happened in the intervening period. All we know is that your gems got nabbed.
Then it’s onto the game, and we spent the opening half of Warrior Boy trying to figure out what the bejeezus to do, as the objective isn’t clear at all. Don’t be like us: Warrior Boy wants you to find 80 gems that are scattered around its world. You’ll see a bewildering number as you trundle around, so you should be aware that it’s very specific gems; those with a square cage around them, and a faint glow emanating. This objective is reinforced by the feather in Warrior Boy’s cap: its game map, which is accessible via the Menu button. Again, Warrior Boy doesn’t tell you that this feature exists, but it will be a life-saver, and it’s well-executed. The only elements on display are the gems, and gates that give you access to each area. Basically, the critical pieces on Warrior Boy’s game board.
So, you’re wandering from region to region, looking for the squarish gems that will lead to achievements and a swooshy final cutscene. On your way, you will find other gems that bizarrely tot up to become ‘gold’, but we’ve got zero idea about what you do with them. Even after finishing the game and nailing all 1000 Gamerscore (just over two hours, if you’re interested), we still couldn’t tell you.
There are waves upon waves of enemies, too. You’ll fight a few types of goblin to start with, until a revolving door of fantasy tropes brings in treefolk, golems, giant skeletons and weird eldritch things who only turn up when it’s dark, making it hard to see what they’re meant to be.
Regardless of who you are fighting, combat in Warrior Boy is a curious affair, and we found ourselves moving through three different stages in terms of how we approached it. Stage One was to kill everything. Enemies swarm down on you, and you can wail on them with the sword. But combat is splashy, so you’re missing more than you’re hitting. To make up for it, the enemies take notes from Hollywood action movies and only attack you one at a time, and – even then – they have a tendency to wait until you’ve hit them a few times before retaliating. And when they do retaliate, they do virtually no damage. And when you hit, you do virtually no damage either. And when you actually kill an enemy, they respawn almost immediately.
What you get is a curious stalemate, and combat quickly becomes more trouble than it’s worth. So, we moved onto Stage Two, which was to only attack when we had magic wand or frag grenade power-ups, which drop from enemies or are helpfully scattered about. The magic wand is a beast, slicing health bars in two and making short work of one-on-one battles, but the frag grenades are better: they can one-hit a group of enemies. It soon becomes clear that the enemies won’t leave you alone, and will follow you to the ends of the earth, so you’ll feel like Moses, kiting dozens of followers. Unlike Moses, you then lob a couple of frag grenades at them, and watch as they explode into utterly worthless gems and the occasional magic wand.
Then it’s on to Stage Three, the inevitable apathy. For reasons that only TADVGames could supply, it’s almost impossible to die in Warrior Boy. We played without a care in the world and didn’t see our health drop below halfway. Upon realising this, and how worthless the drops were, we stopped caring about combat entirely. Let them follow us on our merry gem-collecting adventure; maybe they’ll learn the error of their ways. We spent the majority of time with a huge entourage, and we found it quite endearing.
The world of Warrior Boy isn’t huge, and is only mildly varied – a desert area and goblin camp are about as different as it gets from the Fable-like fantasy environments – so you’ll reach the end in a couple of hours. The gems aren’t tucked away anywhere fancy, and there’s no puzzle in finding them either. So what you’re left with is a Sunday afternoon stroll around some moderately well-modelled fantasy environments, picking up gems and occasionally switching to the world map to see where you’re going next (the minimap shows you less than you can see yourself, so it’s a wet flannel covering up the game screen). It’s as interesting as it sounds, and a far cry from the £12.49 that TADVGames want you to spend, let alone the £24.99 that they originally priced it up as.
Not the disaster we predicted from the truly terrible trailer, Warrior Boy on the Xbox is nonetheless a barebones action-adventure, where the combat is weak enough that you’ll ignore it, but sidestepping it leaves you with nothing more than a giant treasure hunt. There’s little value on offer right now, but Warrior Boy has an inevitable future in the sub-£3 bracket, which might be the moment to invest, delivering an easy 1000G Gamerscore and a leisurely ramble around someone’s 3D modelling portfolio.