Warlander Hands-On

Warlander Hands-On Preview – Medieval Warfare

A 4-way genre hybrid!

While the battle royale genre has been positively flushed with entries of all kinds of the last few years, most of them don’t venture far out of the comforts of 1st/3rd person shooting. It’s easy to see why, with the likes of Fortnite, Apex Legends and Warzone being the juggernauts, breaking into the space with something new and interesting is a daunting endeavor. Warlander is one such title that’s seeking to break the mold and typical expectations we associate with BR, and while it’s a bit rough around the edges, there’s a lot of potential with the idea Toylogic Inc. has come up with here.

Described as a 3rd-person hack n’ slash battle royale with a touch of 4X strategy, Warlander sees players working in teams to assault and surmount enemy castles. In the 2-Army Battle mode, each team is made up of five groups of four players, with a total of 20 players to each castle. These sub-teams have their own goals, from protecting your own ground to leading the charge into enemy territory. As you push up you’ll capture zones that function as respawn points, engage in melee and ranged combat, and eventually siege the enemy castle to destroy their core.

Warlander Hands On

2-Army Battle is a relatively short but sweet experience the sells the overall scale of the warfare you partake in here. There’s a constant back-and-forth, a push and pull between the 2 teams that incentivize changing up strategies on the fly and responding to unexpected situations. This is where the 4X element comes in, placing importance on the notion of listening to army commanders and understanding where you fit within the broader scope of your team.

5-Army Battle is where things really come into their own, though. The core idea is the same as 2-Army Battle, with the key difference of pitting five castles against one another. As each castle falls, the respective team is knocked out of the game, with the last one standing reigning as the victor. This mode is much more strategic in nature, having to juggle defense and offense against four other armies with up to 100 players on the battlefield at once. It’s more of a long-form game mode in comparison to 2-Army battle, but one that undoubtedly showcases all of the best elements of Warlander in one place.

Warlander Hands-On

When you deploy, you’ll pick one of three classes that fill unique rolls within your team. You’ve got your typical warriors, mages, and healers, all of which fit into archetypes you’d expect, bringing along skills to fit their particular class. Each one has two weapons to bring along, in some cases, the warrior for example, has a sword and shield melee combo alongside a ranged weapon.

Combat feels serviceable enough but the non-warrior classes die far too quickly, and it often felt like I was throwing myself into battle before I could make any real difference for my team. The game also does a poor job of explaining what each individual skill does, and while there’s a practice arena for you to get familiar with your skills, some sort of simple tutorial would go a long way here.

Warlander Hands-On

It isn’t all just combat and defense in battle, though, there are also Siege Weapons that will randomly spawn in on the map for any castle to capture. These weapons are piloted by multiple players, and smart use of them can change the tide of battle entirely. There’s a clear shift in focus when one of these pops up on the map, and it adds a nice sense of pace to the overall structure of any given match.

As you play and complete challenges as these classes, you’ll unlock new skills, weapons, and gear to equip on them. Each class has a set amount of CP, a point limit that you have to build out your characters within before you take them into battle. The stronger the gear, the higher the CP requirement. While your CP cap initially starts low, you can unlock titles via challenges that raise the total you CP you have to play with.

Warlander Hands On

This system creates an interesting meta-game of progression and build-crafting. In the 3 games I played, I felt my character getting stronger with each one, and while this will no doubt plateau at some stage, it’s an addictive core loop to start with. You have six decks of five characters, so you can have multiple decks for different game modes and situations. It also helps that these classes are cosmetically customizable, so you can really make them your own.

Presentation is probably where Warlander is the most rough around the edges. The UI is often lost in the chaos and far too hard to read as a result, and the game itself isn’t all that pleasing to the eyes. While it definitely has a unique art style, a lot of the landscapes and environments blend in with each other and it becomes hard to spot far-off enemy players. Performance also wasn’t the best when there was a lot going on, though a lot of this is likely subject to change as the game moves towards release.

While early-access doesn’t reveal much in the way of monetization, and the in-built store page, Toylogic Inc. did reveal that the game will have a season pass that features cosmetic items when the game comes out of playtesting.

Warlander Hands On

My time with Warlander has left me with one thing that stands out above all else – it has a lot of potential. There’s definitely work to be done between now and launch, but there’s a genuinely fresh and original idea here that can be expanded out even further with new game modes, classes, build crafting and more. For now, Warlander is a good bit of fun with some friends, but keep an eye out for the full version when it launches in December.