Project Warlock: Wizards and Weaponry

Last year there was a sale on Steam, and being a poor college student working a dishwashing job, I decided to reward myself with a few new games. One of them was Maximum Action, a cheesy, FPS that pays homage to old action movies, and Project Warlock, a game which I played for about ten minutes, got frustrated at the first level and logged off, debating whether to return it.

My god, I’m glad I didn’t. Project Warlock has quickly become one of, if not the best retro 90’s shooters vie ever played. Its usage of the old school, chunky graphics, combined with fantastic sound and lighting effects, gives it a feel completely unique even among games like Dusk, Amid Evil, and Doom Eternal.

Pro: Graphics and Atmosphere

One of my favorite parts about this game is the retro graphics and designs. The voxel-based art style gives it a unique feel. The pixels appear in different sizes and shapes and do a good job of helping the sharp, jagged character designs stick out from the background, even far away you can clearly see them.

There’s also the different movie/gaming themes running through each level, you start off with ruined castles, before progressing into an arctic station, reminiscent of The Thing, (The good one, not the Hays Law riddled 50’s one.) after that there’s an Egyptian level, with things like the Mummy, Serious Sam, and Stargate influences. My personal favorite, is the terminator themed level, with massive drones and robots wandering around a ruined city. The design influences also lend to the weapons you’ll use. The pistol you acquire can be switched with a flare gun, similar to Caleb’s flare gun in Blood, the red laser rifle in the Terminator levels can be switched to Terminator 1’s fast firing purple laser cannon, and I hardly need to say anything about the double-barreled shotgun. The only slight criticism I have is towards the way that sometimes doors can’t be distinguished between the ones requiring a key, vs unlocked ones. Besides that, the game is a true graphical marvel, and wears its gaming influences proudly on its Terminator-Esque leather jacket.

Con: Level Design

While the look of the game is fantastic, the level design can be downright frustrating for a number of reasons. For starters, you have a minimap, but you can’t fully open it. You just have it in that tiny windowed mode, which leads to confusion and wandering. Second, the levels sometimes become too complicated and messy. This is due to the levels looping around themselves in a big sprawling maze, similar to games of old. Great in theory, but suffers the same issues as Doom. The navigation problems causing you to backtrack, looking everywhere for one tiny door or second corridor you never saw and completely killing the pace of the game as you wander around aimlessly for twenty minutes.

Project Warlock also relies heavily on switch activation, often making you find up to eight of these tiny white buttons to open exactly one door.

The key system is well implemented and gives you a “HELL YEAH” feeling when you finally find it, and go to open up the rest of the level.

Though the game has a fetish for putting a key in the middle of a room, and spawning half a dozen monsters in a very tiny space.

One upside though: the levels are short, as in I beat levels in about three to five minutes.

it’s easy to say, ‘just one more level before class,’ for the third time, not realizing it’s nearly eight at night, and your class was at three P.M.

Pro: Guns/ upgrade system overall

The gunplay in this is phenomenal and can easily suck you in for hours on end. You don’t need me to tell you that, I wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t. its fluid, fast, and oh so satisfying.

What really drives it home though are the guns themselves. Project Warlock attempts to take the Quake storytelling/ character building, by which I mean a paragraph of text after you’ve shot the required number of monsters for the day. There’s no story, no character you can get attached to, not even a main villain. So the next best thing we have are the guns, and boy do they have personality. As mentioned before the weapons take cues from classic video games and movies (I.E flare gun Double barreled shotgun etc.). But what gives the game more variety are the numerous upgrade paths for each weapon. For example, the standard pump shotgun can be upgraded to shoot either solid slugs, or turn it into a semi-automatic shotgun. Every weapon has this in game, and the different types are too many to list in this one review. Some of the guns do suck though due to their overall ineffectiveness or weak sound.

The sound design especially is very hit or miss, some weapons have fantastic sounds, while others literally sound like a nerf gun firing.

For weapon upgrades hers my top tip: don’t use flame-based weapons the damage falloff just isn’t worth it. Nine times out of ten, it would have just been faster to fire an extra bullet and kill the enemy that way. I was surprised though, to find out the melee weapon was actually pretty good. A rarity in fps’ these days

Speaking of stats, Warlock has a full-on leveling system. It’s pretty simple, but still fun, as you pump xp into ammo capacity, health, mana, and melee strength. Additionally, every five levels you get a perk , ranging from faster running to more ammo, to the exceptionally broken “bonus random stat point per level” .

Overall, the guns are a thrill to use, with some ironing out in a potential sequel it could be even better.

Con: Magic

The term Warlock, implies magic use, so it’s no surprise that Project Warlock has a magic system to it. Though a Warlock tends to get their powers from eldritch gods in exchange for soul contracts , the main character (who I will be calling Jimmy) is a special snowflake.

Jimmy doesn’t have God, Jimmy has capitalism.

  Its pretty simple, you have a mana pool, and governs what spells to use.

The problem with it arises when you learn that the upgrade points used to unlock the different weapon upgrades are the same as the points used to unlock spells.

There’s not too many upgrade points overall, so you have to choose either spells or guns, which means guns mostly. They are useful, I found, just not exciting, and I’d rather just have a better gun. If the spells had their own separate points it’d be worth it. The two I found useful were the magic lantern spell, and the bomber man spell, aka throw grenade.

Bit of a wasted opportunity but again, can easily be ironed out in the sequel.

Mixed Opinions: Difficulty

One of the biggest complaints I have with the game is difficulty, by which I mean the game tends to be too easy at times. I feel the biggest challenge is the dev not knowing how to ramp the difficulty up besides hordes of monsters. One annoying thing I found was when a monster would hide right behind an unopened door, and smack you for a free hit . The levels get hard sometimes, but that’s due to massive amounts being on screen at a time.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, one of my favorite levels was the command center on the future apocalypse episode. That’s when I really felt the power fantasy of decimating all the enemies in your wake. it’s not bad per se, but at the same time it tended to make levels a bit boring, especially if I did even a little grinding.

Tips:

  1. If you want to replay levels/ bosses to level up you have to do it from the main menu, select Single Stage, and whatever xp/ points you gain from that goes into your main game
  2. Get the Student perk ASAP, which gives you a random extra stat each time you level up
  3. Grenades are a bit wonky, and they might bounce back on you if thrown in a narrow corridor due to their large hitbox
  4. Nailgun bullets can damage you when they bounce back.

Overall:

Project Warlock is a fantastic time, with a unique graphical styling, and an array of fun weapons. The game needs more love, and I can’t wait for the developer, Buckshot Software to release some more quality games.

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