Warlords is in many ways a good example of how far mobile games have come. A hex-based Strategy game with RPG elements that would once have been small a sprite-based 2D title that in the modern market is a huge, sprawling 3D feast for the eyes.
We’re not ones to be blown away by graphics alone at MBU however, but ‘scope’ and ‘scale’ are the calling cards of Warlords, the virgin title from Black Anvil Games, a small European studio. Booting up the game will immediately give a player access to a large world map, and when he/she realises that they are going to have to conquer and hold every inch of it the grand nature of the games scope begins to dawn on them.
Graphically, Warlords looks amazing. It has a fully rendered 3D world map, character models and environments where multiple layers of height and terrain play into the way you play. Character designs are visually interesting whilst clearly inspired by the traditional western fantasy tropes. Monsters are similar, and you’ll see varieties of Orc and other nasties on-mass. The environments are luscious and well rendered, though you’ll see them repeated a lot in various configurations before breaking into new locals as you cross borders. 2D high resolution art is used on loading screens to paint a picture of the world and set the tone of the campaign, and this has a painted, western feel to it that works wonders for fleshing out visual splendour. 2D tags on the map and art on items is also of a very high quality.
Musically the game employs a score that’s heavily inspired by that of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and it brings a bombastic, epic feel to the game. Tracks are repeated, but never too intrusive, and loop after a good period of time. Sound effects are a solid effort, with things feeling well placed and timed but nothing standing out as amazing or particularly bad, giving them an ability to sink into the background and get a little lost in the music at times. It’s a solid package however and compliments the visual themes as they appear on-screen very well.
Sadly there’s very little plot to speak of in display, though troop types are represented by distinctive characters on-screen that lead those forces and these interact at points throughout the game in short cutscenes and conversations that serve to forward a basic narrative woven around the concept of a world overrun by an Orc hoard. Starting with the basic warrior class and recruiting others as you expand and reclaim their borders, you’re tasked with forming a force that can push back this invasion and decimating their generals. This will take you through the city of mages, icy mountains and fertile plains and even across the ocean. You can unfortunately go for quite some time before hitting a plot point however and the games casual nature begins to show through after 10 hours of play.
Gameplay is traditional Tactical RPG combat on a hex-based grid. Turn based in nature, you take turns with the opposing force to move your individual units, attack or use a special skill (unlocked through levelling the leaders) before ending your turn and letting the opposing side hammer you back. Elevation, terrain and class type have a direct impact on your combat ability, which makes sure-fire battles sometimes fall apart with bad planning, and some additional goals such as defeat a particular character or claim the gold-cart before the fight ends are present to add flavour. Most battles end the second you defeat all of the opposing characters and doing so in a strict turn limit bags the player additional rewards for a ‘Crushing Victory’. Rewards include items to equip, character tokens and gold. Gold is used to buy items and tokens as well as level up said equipment, and character tokens are collected on-mass with enough of any one character triggering a class bonus that comes in addition to traditional levelling and unlocks a special skill each rank in addition to allowing higher quality gear to be equipped. The games world map is split into countries and then broken down into lots of regions that you need to fight across. Regions reclaim themselves over time if a boss isn’t killed in the area, and the boss encounter will reappear to be grinded through every day or so on its own timer, with increased difficulty. A region exists for PVP play where you battle the parties of other players controlled by the AI, and this allows for tournaments with bonus rewards as well as more grinding. A daily pirate cove can also be raided in three stages for additional credit and bonus classes can be won to build the ranks of your party ever-higher. There are daily chests that come in on ships from port for free, and epic chests that are free every 48 hours and contain multiple items. The game is freemium in nature, which explains its use of timers for exploring new continents and levelling gear as well as the way land is reclaimed to keep progress ongoing and present challenges, but never forces you to purchase its in-game currency unless you choose to and doesn’t rely on ads thrown in your face. It’s very fair and the balance is well handled at all times.
Overall, this is a solid game with exceptional production values. If you can forgive the lack of a strong narrative and enjoy it for the combat, which can at times feel repetitive, then you’ll have a blast with this title. We advise you download a free copy immediately.