Wartile mixes a gorgeous visual presentation with a solid if unspectacular gameplay system. There are some really cool ideas here, and people like me who grew up on board games using physical pieces like this will no doubt be tickled by the aesthetic, but there is not a ton of meat on these bones eithers.
Right off of the bat, Wartile wows with its visuals. There is just something absolutely alluring to its 3D set pieces that eel like they would be right at home on your coffee table surrounded by your friends. Sloped landscapes cut off dramatically, there is a true sense of verticality to the presentation, the board has a very tactile feel to it and it is all touched off with some nice additional effects like snow here and there. I honestly can’t think of anything quite like it visually, and this is all complimented by fantastic audio. The sound effects are varied and engaging and the music here is the type of soundtrack I would listen to on repeat if I was writing one of my fantasy short stories.
This game is absolutely gorgeous.
Where things get somewhat more muddled is in the actual gameplay, which tries very hard to merge turn-based combat with real-time mechanics. The results are decidedly uneven. How does that work? Well, there is a sort of cool-down system churning away in the background, so you can stack things like your movements up on one another, but it takes a bit of time for them to execute. Enemies move about within that structure as well, creating a sort of synchronized system of tactics that generally works well. Thankfully you do have the option to slow down time so you can think somewhat more strategically. This mostly boils down to unit location and whether or not to trigger a special ability (tied to a card in your inventory, giving it a very light collectible card game flavor).
The biggest issue with this however, is that the actual tactics gameplay is somewhat shallow. Positioning is key, and using ability cards is often very important, but in terms of executing the attacks? You mostly just position pieces and let them go at it. One early battle saw my two characters flanking a particularly cantankerous opponent and they had both very recently used their skill cards. This meant that I just sort of sat there, watching the hacking and slashing happen without any real input. Whatever backend dice rolling was happening seemed to be a lot of critical failures, because it seemed like forever until the battle ended. That is not to say there is no strategy involved, but it has more to do with taking advantage of your environment (and in particular chokepoints if you are looking to lure your enemies to their death while being mindful of your combat range) than any actual actions or decisions you make during the actual combat.
One of the areas of strength in Wartile is that continuing boardgame feel, where you can collect new pieces and equip them with gear or skills. These modifications are nice, and I dig the sense of progression that comes with gaining experience and unlocking better options for each character. These RPG elements are fairly light, but they are a relatively effective carrot to dangle throughout the story. Characters tend to fall into one of three archetypes: tank, melee dps and ranged. That is not to say some of the characters do not straddle the lines in between, but there is a significant way in how the sword and board fighter plays when compared to the rangers. This is where spacing is more important than actions, because a common strategy I found myself employing was luring people out to fight against my tankier character while letting the ranged one whittle away at them from a safe distance. It certainly scratches the strategy itch, but never really delved quite as deep as I had hoped.
In terms of the gameplay, what you are looking at here is a campaign broken up into several missions. You then pick your characters and go about trying to meet the objectives. Early on these could be as mundane as picking up a specific item and interacting with a specified region on the board, but later can include more aggressive goals such as complete obliteration of enemy forces. All of this has been done before, but it is undeniably more charming with this particular boardgame style presentation. Each stage is presented in a way that touches on the overarching story, and gives you a sense of purpose, though it would be a bit of a stretch to call it roleplaying as there are really no decisions to be made along the way. Once you complete the stage, your performance is graded and you are bonused accordingly.
Another missed opportunity for Wartile is the lack of scenario creation. I realize making user-friendly tools that can do this sort of thing is no small task, but I can’t help but think that having the opportunity to make and share stages with your friends or a larger community could breathe a lot of life into this game. The campaign is by and large entertaining, but beatable in under a dozen hours and there just really is not a whole lot to do after that. Some sort of editing / creation tools, especially with those who like boardgames, really could have sparked some cool, imaginative stages I think.