Few games can win you over with a simple screenshot. For me, Wartile was one of those; the incredible board game-like design and superb graphics when it was first announced on PC instantly grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go.
Coming now to Xbox and PlayStation, and Wartile has obviously had to take a graphical hit, but now it is the gameplay which has won me over with a unique take on traditional, turn-based tabletops.
Wartile arrives on home consoles after originally releasing on PC back in 2017. The version that releases on Xbox One includes the main story and a few extra bonus maps centred around Christmas festivities and Halloween.
On the surface, Wartile looks like a standard board game set-up. You control a small band of warriors and must traverse each board, completing objectives and battling against other figures to complete each level. When approaching your first enemy encounter it becomes immediately obvious though that Wartile isn’t simply a carbon copy of turn-based boardgaming.
Whereas on a physical board game battling is more traditionally turn-based, in Wartile it is fluid and dynamic and represents a big change to how you plan an attack and whether you quickly need to change your strategy on the fly. Action takes place in real-time, with cooldowns on every action you and your enemies take, including movement. Things don’t get too frantic thankfully – a press of the B button or when deciding on figure placement will slow down time, giving you a bit of breathing time.
The presentation of Wartile also sets it apart from other digital board games. Boards are presented in a gorgeous diorama style that initial screenshots had me second guessing whether they were real or not. Naturally the Xbox doesn’t have the graphical fidelity of a high-end PC, but it is only really the character models that aren’t as crisp. The handcrafted boards and accompanying décor still look marvellous on Xbox One.
Wartile is heavily inspired by Norse mythology. In it, you control a small warband of warriors who take on various missions across multiple dioramas. There is an overarching story of sorts to help progress your warband from one level to the next that explores the mythology and in particular the undead side of things, but it is paper thin and easily passes you by. Far more interesting is the use of Norse mythology.
Terms like Yggdrasil, Niflheim, Tyr and Jotunheim initially spark memories of playing 2018’s God of War reboot, but this subverted Norse mythology creates its own story. Here in Wartile it feels far more grounded; as grounded as mythology can be at least. Even the campaign map itself is based on the real-world map showing Scandinavia and Great Britain as the warband travels across these areas, to and from to capture territories and return home.
Also included are the maps that were given to the PC community as post-release content. These act as nothing more than side-content but are based around Halloween and Christmas. They do however contain unique pieces of equipment you can use in the main campaign.
There is an extensive collection of weapons and armour for your warband to equip and use. These can be earned as loot for completing levels or bought from the merchant. Not every character can equip everything though: each character has a preferred weapon and whilst this is never implied when selecting them, their stats and even figurine stance makes it pretty obvious what their proficiency is in.
Additional characters can also be purchased from the tavern after completing certain milestones. If you are short of money then levels can be replayed, and at higher difficulties. These harder variants also yield better loot.
Customisation also goes beyond weapons and armor, as you can choose which abilities to take on each mission. Each character has three unique abilities to choose from that have cooldown timers associated with them, but the overall group has up to five pool abilities that can be chosen from the Deck Manager. These actions don’t work on a cooldown though; you need to spend Battle Points that you earn during missions. Thankfully the amount you can earn far outweighs the cost required for each of them, and they should be used liberally in later missions.
Wartile has 20 achievements that are all worth 50G each for a round 1000G in total. Many of these are unlocked when completing a battleboard but a couple are for completing specific actions in later missions. These aren’t too taxing though, and with the ability to replay levels they shouldn’t cause any alarm. The remaining few are for levelling up figurines and spending your coins.
With its handcrafted aesthetic and unique combat offering a new spin on traditional tabletop battles, Wartile on Xbox One offers up something quite refreshing. Despite the maps not being the biggest there is a lot crammed into them and exploring offers plenty of rewards. Once combat gets going you really start to understand the rhythm behind it – it isn’t the most difficult, but you do still need to give it your full attention. With Wartile you will be drawn in by the gorgeous dioramas, but it will be the gameplay that keeps you hooked.