Warbanners (PC) Review

By Eric 18.10.2017

Review for Warbanners on PC

Back in the 90s and early 00s there was a large contingent of "number heavy" RPGs/strategies on the PC. Titles like Heroes of Might and Magic or Icewind Dale had mediocre graphics, but deep RPG/strategy components. Warbanners is a successor of sorts to these types of games, where certain requirements are needed out of the player, with the biggest being a capacity to deal with bad graphics. Playing out like a cross between a 'choose your own adventure' and a board game, players build up a small group into an elite fighting force, battling it out on hex boards.

Warbanners presents an interesting journey to experience, because, on one hand it looks horrendous, and that alone will put off many a player, but the game itself is surprisingly capable and addictive. The battle system is deep without being complicated, and it is fairly fun if only slightly longer than it needs to be.

The aforementioned 'chose your own adventure' narrative sees you choosing options between battles. Once this gets past the first mission, it begins with a quest demonstrating how the rest of it all plays out. Tasked with saving some kids, do you take the poor peasants with you for meat shields (and get a minus reputation along with it), wait until morning, or rush out now at night (but stay weaker as a result)? Later this turns into different missions to undertake, all with the same general flow of the narrative modifying the battles.

Screenshot for Warbanners on PC

Forming the core of the game is a hex, turn-based, tactical strategy. Each side takes a turn moving units, and if within range and possessing remaining action points, can attack one time each. There is a lot at play, but at its basic level, units can take a fair amount of hits, and it is mostly in positioning of units that prevails.

Some of the complexities first start with units forming a 'zone of control' around themselves, which serves to lock enemies mostly into place and can be used to maintain formations, protecting ranged units in the back. This works both ways, as enemy ranged units are likewise hidden behind meat shields. Further complications are that each unit has a lot going on stat-wise, as beyond the typical health, armour and damage there are other stats, such as morale and fatigue. As these go down, negative buffs start to accumulate, making even good units begin to falter.

Screenshot for Warbanners on PC

One thing that is actually done well is what could be called 'environmental' tactics. These range from lighting fires, cutting down trees, swimming, building bridges, and so on. The fire/lighting is the most interesting, as it actually feels compelling, instead of merely tacked on. Almost all monsters get a bonus in the dark and your characters during the day, so naturally many fights are at night. These are severe, usually around 20% or more of a swing, and can truly turn the tide. The major way to combat this is with special flame potions that will light a few squares on fire. It gives a great feeling of desperation when throwing the potion and lighting the ground, having a temporary boost, all the while only having one more potion in reserve.

After battle, the units get experience, sometimes items, and maybe level up. Upon reaching a level, the player has to pick from a randomized set of three stats to boost. This is not the same even for the same class of unit. Strictly based on the picks, a simple soldier can become anything from a defensive tank, a big damage dealer, or perhaps have strong anti-magic capabilities. Here, the player also buys things like
potions, new units, or 'assistants,' which essentially act like passive buffs.

Screenshot for Warbanners on PC

The largest problem in here is the graphics. Games like this are usually never very high on the graphical scale, but when it starts to impact the ability to play, it becomes something of an issue. The units themselves do not move, and many times especially in low light, it is difficult to even tell who is an enemy. There were multiple times with some creatures - for example, the ghouls - where they looked more like a rock, other than the fact it was sliding ever closer.

Simply based on how this looks, it might be easy to dismiss Warbanners. The problem with that is that the game under it is actually competent. The story may not be engaging and never truly finds its legs, the graphics may be bad, but there is something oddly addictive in building up your little squad. Making sure you have enough flame potions, making sure your frontline guys are strong enough, trying to kill the zombies while the fires are still lighting the way, and coming out in the end with a narrow victory is fun, which was the entire purpose of playing in the first place.

Screenshot for Warbanners on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

For the genre, Warbanners hits many of the right notes. There are a few issues with controls for selecting units or performing the right action, but largely it's a decent tactical RPG. The graphics are horrendous, which goes beyond a simple aesthetic and becomes difficult to tell what is happening at times. Barring this negative, the game was made with heart, and those looking for a fantasy tactics game will like what this presents if they can get past the visuals.

Developer

Crasleen Games

Publisher

Crasleen Games

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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