As a remake of a beloved 1980’s Atari title, Warlords has a strong legacy to live up to. The original is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential multiplayer titles of all time and it remains remarkably enjoyable to this day. Equal parts brick breaker and real-time strategy title, Warlords is trying to breathe new life into a stale genre. Although this combination is certainly a unique one, the final product struggles to comes together as intended.
This is not the first remake of Warlords to hit Xbox Live, as a neon soaked version of the title originally came out back in 2008. In fact, this iteration of the game was originally released in 2012, but due to some licensing issues, was temporarily removed and is just now getting re-issued to online servers. The game was still released for the PlayStation 3, however, and you can read our original review of it right here.
Set in a vibrant medieval world, Warlords tasks players with destroying their enemies using the power of fireballs dropped by soaring dragons. Each round places 2-4 players in different castles at the corners of a map and using the left analog stick, you must use a large paddle to swat away incoming attacks and deflect them to your opponent’s castles. Players can also latch onto shots and charge them up for a super attack that deals extra damage to your opponent, but also slight damage to your own castle. Once someone’s castle has been blasted too many times, their kingdom is destroyed and this continues on until there is only one player left standing.
Using the right analog stick allows you to take control of your ground troops, or Snoots. Similar in appearance to a tiny knight, the Snoots are used for an assortment of actions and follow around a flag bearing Snoot that you specifically control. Leading your gaggle of Snoots towards an enemy castle will make them start attacking it, while bringing them back towards your castle will allow them to make repairs to your damaged walls. The most essential function of your Snoots though is to collect power-ups by standing in specific circles. By fully charging these panels, players will receive a helpful power-up that can range from anything like iron walls to reversing your opponents controls to a super charged shot that does more damage.
Unfortunately, where Warlords falls apart is the implementation of controlling the Snoots and deflecting fireballs at the same time. There is a lot that players have to be aware of during each round, as they have to watch fireballs (which can go up to 5 at a time), make sure their castle is alright, take note of how and what their Snoots are doing, and much more. It also doesn’t help that a character known as the Black Knight randomly appears throughout each match and deals damage to all parties. All of this visual stimuli is a little too much to take in at times and this problem is only exasperated when facing off against enemy AI.
Surprisingly, there is an actual campaign mode included with Warlords that features a decent enough story, but is hampered by actually having to play through the game. You see, while you may have trouble keeping up with all of the action on screen and making sure your Snoots are following orders (which is helped by using the D-Pad to issue directions), the computer always knows what to do. So while my Snoots are bumbling around and following directions on and off, the computer is swooping in and taking all of the power-ups before I realize what’s going on. I know, this kind of sounds like me whining about a game being too hard, but that’s not the issue here. I don’t mind titles being tough to finish, but there is a fine line between hard and cheap and Warlords falls on the wrong side of it.
The good news for Warlords though is that the multiplayer remains as fun as ever and almost makes up for all of the other problems. While issues with the Snoots and confusion with what’s happening on screen are annoying when facing the computer, playing against other humans allows for all combatants to deal with these issues. The gameplay remains the same as before, but there is something rather cathartic about timing a charged shot perfectly and watching your opponent’s castle crumble. Of course, you may need to find some friends to play locally as I tried several times to find players online but had little luck.
Warlords is far from perfect. The graphics are dull, the brick breaker and real-time strategy genres do not blend as well as Atari thinks and the enemy AI is too cheap to be worth playing against. Get a few friends together for some castle destroying mayhem though and Warlords more than justifies its $4.99 cost.
This review based off a copy of the Xbox 360 version of the title, which we were provided with.
The blending of genres may never really come together and the enemy AI is too cheap for its own good, but Warlords is worth the low price of admission due to sheer multiplayer insanity.