It’s time to go back to the year 1981, when Atari was the king of all things gaming. Of course, gaming technology was vastly underdeveloped back then, but it didn’t stop Warlords from being a classic, memorable time sink. It was similar to Breakout, another Atari classic, but with the ability to support up to four players. And as we all know, everything is more fun with friends to screw over and laugh at. Now, it’s 2012, and Atari has given Warlords a graphical rehaul and gameplay tweaks. Was the time and money spent on the remake all in vain, however? Let’s find out.
If you’re expecting an epic tale, where you start out as a mere peon, and eventually become ruler of the world, you might be sorely disappointed. The whole story can be summed up in about ten words. You defeat different warlords, and become the greatest warlord in the world. Plus, it’ll only take about an hour or two to plow through it. Certainly, the main bulk of where your playtime will go is in the quick match for single player and multiplayer.
While there actually is an online mode, finding three other players seems to be extremely difficult (at least, for me it was). In fact, I couldn’t find a single lobby at all during my week or so with Warlords. Thus, I wouldn’t be able to describe how the online performs. Basically, if you don’t have some friends to play with, you might want to reconsider picking up the game. After all, one can only thrash the AI so many times.
Speaking of AI, the bots’ difficulty ranges from being complete pushovers to godlike beings with laser precision and split second reaction times. Matches with the harder bots tend to be extremely boring, and end up with you most likely being the first to be defeated. Simply put, there’s no real balance in difficulty, and it’s the reason why you absolutely need friends (hopefully, with far less skill than the bots) to play Warlords with.
So, once you enter your first war, you might be surprised (if you played the original Warlords) to see that you now have minions (called Snoots). The Snoots add a small real-time strategy element to the remake. You have one main Snoot holding a flag, and that’s the only one you’ll be able to control (all of the other Snoots follow the flag carrier). By moving around the flag carrying Snoot, you can perform a variety of actions, such as repairing your castle and capturing points on the map (which give power-ups). For those who don’t want to deal with the stress of managing Snoots, the directional inputs can put them on autopilot (they’ll go repair your castle or capture points, depending on which direction you press).
While the Snoots are an interesting and wonderful addition to this new version of Warlords, there exists problems that outweigh the inclusion of the tiny skull creatures. If you’re playing a two-vs-two match, you’ll quickly notice that you and your teammate both have the same exact color. This makes manually controlling your Snoots extremely awkward. And if that wasn’t enough, the frame rate tends to have difficulty in keeping up with all of the mayhem occurring. Having five fireballs, tons of Snoots, and a Black Knight (that randomly appears and attacks any castle it wants) on the field is almost certain to cause the game to enter slow motion.
Besides two-vs-two matches, one-on-one and a four person free-for-all are also available. Lastly, if you enjoyed the fast-paced action in the original Warlords, then you might want to look somewhere else for your fix. Classic mode (which is essentially the 1981 game in 3D) also suffers from frame rate drops and overall slowness. It simply felt pointless to play it, because all of the new gameplay elements, which are the main reason to even try this remake, disappeared.
The graphics aren’t much to write home about, considering that the game looks like it belongs on the PS2 or Xbox. Keep in mind, however, that Warlords most likely had a tight budget to work with. In addition, the game is relatively cheap, coming in at $10. You can at least clearly tell what’s going on, most of the time. The damage that castles sustain during battle is easy enough to see, which is great, because you’ll be able to decide when to heal up or not.
The sound is much like the graphics, in that they both feel rather lackluster, and only exist to meet minimum requirements. All of the tracks sound generic, but they do fit the medieval motif that Warlords has. They also lack any real beat or rhythm to get you pumped up for some combat. Again, however, you get what you pay for. At the very least, they won’t cause any damage to your ears.
Warlords may not have the same adrenaline rush that the original version had, but it makes up for it with other features. If you want simplicity and faster action, then the remake won’t be your cup of tea. But, if you want tons more to do than just deflect fireballs floating around on a screen, then you’ll fall in love with it.
Warlords is available now on the PS3 (via the PlayStation Store) for $9.99. It’ll also make an appearance on the Xbox 360 (via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace) for 800 Microsoft Points, and you can expect that on November 14, 2012. Check out its official site here.