[Review] Warborn – Nintendo Switch

Written by Joachim Ziebs
  • Developer: Raredrop Games
  • Publisher: PQube
  • Release Date: 12/06/2020
  • Price: £19.99 / $24.99
  • Review code provided by:
  • Version reviewed: 1.0.3

Introducing: Warborn Switch Review

Advance Wars must have been an influential matter. There can be no doubt about that as at least two spiritual successors are available on Switch by now. The first was Wargroove, which was released a year ago. The second one is the object of this review: Warborn, made by Raredrop Games and published by PQube.

Let’s start at the beginning. Warborn is turn-based-tactics game with mechs. You command your forces on a map consisting of hexagonal tiles and try to best your opponent in what seems to be a struggle between the ruling faction, called The Sanctum or The Aristocracy, and the opposing rebels of Lifeline. At the start of the game, you take control of Luella Augstein and her powerful mech Deity. Luella belongs to NOMAD, a group of mercenaries who sometimes work independently and sometimes take up missions from others. Three more commanders become available throughout the game.

The map is ours!

The game has three modes: Campaign, Multiplayer and Map Editor. The campaign is, not surprisingly, the story of the aforementioned power struggle. You select the mission, review the mission objectives, check victory and defeat conditions and go into battle. This is where the fun starts. Warborn’s strategy system is fine-tuned to the max. You have an array of distinct mechs at your disposal. There are offensive ones carrying two types of weapons as well as defensive ones featuring two support abilities. Each of the mech unit types has a different movement range as well. The ground tiles making up the world offer protection, in case you want hide in the woods for an advantage. But, they can also be captured, like refineries or outposts. Capturing the former will generate strategy points (SP) that you can use to deploy reinforcements to your outposts. This is more-or-less standard fare in strategy games.

Where Warborn excels is the level of detail. Each unit type has three different defense ratings: Kinetic, Energy and Explosive. These are influenced by status effects, e.g. catching a virus, and the terrain the unit is placed on. You can see the ratings by selecting a unit or tile before you move the mech. Needless to say, each weapon has a corresponding damage type, so you have to make sure that you attack your enemy at their weak points. Oh, and of course, your opponent will capture structures and deploy reinforcements, too! Clearing a mission will rate your performance and unlock the next one to advance the story.

Fighting alongside Friends

Concerning multiplayer, you have the choice of playing offline or online. Playing offline will lead to a skirmish where you select a map, then select victory/defeat conditions and head to the battlefield. Your friend needs to have a Switch with a copy of the game, though, as there is neither split-screen nor hand-over-the-controller-it’s-my-turn-now couch co-op. This is a downside and should be remedied in the future.

Should you want to play online, you can go for quick play, where you end up against someone random who also wanted to have a quick go, or you can decide to host a game. There, you select the map and conditions to get a key which you then pass on to a friend to join your game. This is nicely done.

In case you run out of maps to play on, simply fire up the map editor. This is the part where you get full control of the environment. Give your map a name, select the basic kind of map, eg. based on the planet of Cerulia or located in space, choose size and weather conditions and start designing. The tiles are not plentiful, but sufficient to carefully craft a masterpiece of your own. Simply select the tile you want to place and click on the place it should go. You’ll have to repeat this process for the complete map, but that is all there is to it. Save it once you are ready and proceed to play on it in the multiplayer section. Unfortunately, there is no way to create a complete campaign or share your maps online with others.

Style’s not everything!

Warborn features a clear-cut art style with very crisp looking hexagonal tiles. It’s easy on the eyes and doesn’t distract from what the game is about: defeating your enemy. The background music and sound effects fall into the same category. Nice to listen to, but also nothing to get excited about. Both let you concentrate on the important stuff.

I’m happy to report that I didn’t see bugs nor glitches during my play sessions. In fact, it was a delight to play the game both docked and handheld because the UI was clear and the font size was just right to get all the vital information on screen without making things too small to be readable without a magnifying glass. Well done!

The only annoyance was the very long initial loading time. Everything was snappy after that!

Conclusion

I have to admit that Warborn grew on me. At first, the mediocre writing of the story dragged me down. But after I focused on the part that was incredibly done – the strategy gameplay – I began to see the silver lining on the horizon. Where other games force you to go through lengthy dialogues or even coffee talks and character development sessions, Warborn is a step back to the basics. Quick introductions of the map and then it’s your mind against someone else’s (or the AI). Warborn is refreshingly down to earth without any pretensions and accessible to both newcomers and veterans. The combat system is easy to learn but hard to master and a real delight.

PROS

  • Accessible to newcomers and veterans alike
  • Clear UI
  • Great battle system
  • Concentrates on the important part of a strategy game and doesn’t force you to drink tea with other characters

CONS

  • Weak writing
  • Lack of online map exchange
  • No way to create your own campaigns

Verdict
Warborn is your game if you fancy concise, well thought-out strategy titles without any overhead.
4/5

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