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Wartales PC Review – Engaging and Rich Turn-Based RPG

Wartales is a medieval open-world tactical RPG developed by Shiro Games and released out of early access on PC in April 2023. Shiro Games has produced some awesome games in the form of Northgard and Dune: Spice Wars, and Wartales ranks up there as one of my favourites this year. The game recently launched on Xbox Game Pass and a new Pirates of Belerion DLC has just been announced, so it was the perfect time for me to jump in and play. The game plays similarly to Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord’s overworld movement, switching to turn-based for combat scenarios, with elements of The Witcher 3 in it’s dark and rich story and engaging atmosphere.

A century has passed since the fall of the Edoran Empire at the hands of an unprecedented plague that swept the nation. Now, the land is rife with mercenary work, banditry and thievery, with honor having become an almost entirely forgotten virtue. We are tasked with leading a group across the lands as we aim to survive and help villagers who are in need, take out bandit patrols and move to new areas when we’re ready to explore further. We can purchase horses to our cause to help carry loads or loot, or armour them up to aid in battle, and recruit other mercenaries we meet along the way. You can really play your own way as you try to keep your party alive for as long as possible.

Wartales is quite punishing at first if you try to rush through without thinking strategically. In fact, I wiped within the first 20 minutes and had to start again as I didn’t pay attention to the turn order in combat and didn’t think about which units I placed on the front line to attack the enemy first. I would suggest not getting too attached to your starting companions as you are likely to lose some whilst you learn, but it is very rewarding once everything clicks into place, and you start to gain levels and unlocking new skills for your group. I loved the weather effects of rain and snow, and the game’s sounds are spot on with the chink of sword against armour. The music too helps to set the mood and tone and the game well.

After exploring some of the Tiltren Country map and fighting a few battles, your troop will run out of stamina and need to rest. This places you into the camp screen which is barebones initially with just a campfire to cook food for your troops. As your companions gain professions, you’ll be able to craft things like a workbench to craft lockpicks, fishing hooks and similar items, to later making your own armour and weapons. There’s also a strategy table, thief chest, and other class-specific things you can craft and assign companions to enhance your group for the next day. You’ll need to make sure you collect enough food and alcohol to be able to keep your troop at full strength, otherwise you risk further injuries or death, or they may disband from your group. You can get meat from bears and wolves, collect mushrooms and also use a fishing minigame if one of your companions is an angler.

It took me a while to learn some good strategies for combat in Wartales, and I found it most important to pay attention to the attack order at the bottom of the screen. The enemy unit that will attack next is indicated with an icon above their head, so you can anticipate their moves. You can mouse-over any of the enemy units to see where they are placed and who they could possibly attack on your side. When you’re engaged with an enemy unit, you may need to move away and this could mean the enemy will hit you with an opportunity attack, but the hit could be worth it to better position yourself for the next attack, especially once you start coming across tougher enemy units.

At a certain point I came across a border crossing where I was asked to pay 200 gold to pass through, however I am a completionist gamer, so I went back to explore the rest of this first zone and completed quests I had in my quest log. This also allowed me to level up my companions and recruit more so that when I was eventually ready to move to the next area, I had a formidable party of 10 in the group, all specialised with unique skills to help the group and decked out in decent armour and weapons. Exploring the regions allows you to gain knowledge which is used to unlock perks like faster movement, increased carry weight and better relations. You are also working towards completing path objectives within the four main pillars of combat, trade, crime/thievery and wisdom, so there are a heap of things for you to focus on during your playthrough than just exploration and combat.

The storyline and side quests are very engaging, really suiting the grim and dark premise around them. There are choices you can make that may help or hinder you late, such as gaining or losing reputation with townsfolk nearby. There was one small village who has someone taken away and they were to be hanged the next day. I headed over and threatened their neighbours to get the man back to safety, but in doing so upset a village down the road. Once I got there, the reception was icy cold and I was turned away, where in another playthrough they had items I could buy from them. It’s great to have some narrative choices as it gives you proper ownership of how you play and how others react to those actions.

Overall, Wartales is a fantastic turn-based RPG with deep gameplay systems, a rich story and challenging combat. The game has a steady learning curve but is punishing if you rush and make mistakes. I had a lot of fun growing my group of companions and outfitting them with skills and items to help the group. Exploration is excellent and at your own pace. If you like a game that is a blend of Witcher 3 with Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlords, this will a game for you.

This review utilised a Steam key provided by Stride PR and Wartales is available to play now on Steam, GOG, Nintendo Switch and Xbox. I am also very much looking forward to the Pirates of Belerion DLC which launches for PC only at this stage on December 14, 2023. A free base game update will launch alongside the DLC featuring a new class, weapon type, customisation options, bug fixes, and quality-of-life enhancements.


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