For those unaware of our classic gaming history Warlords is a mixture of Breakout and Pong. Each player has a wall of defense and a small shield to protect this wall from the wild dangers of the magical white orbs of death that seem to be constantly destroying the country side. Warlords on the PSN (I think) is supposed to be the exact same thing, but in a bizarre medieval quirky fantasy setting with dragons that wish to destroy the castles (because dragons), a group of knights all fighting for control, and some of the worst camera positioning I have ever seen in a videogame.
Look guys, I tried hard, I tried really hard to give this game a fair play through, a full 20 hours of play through before writing this review because I felt Atari deserved a chance, but I’m only 4 hours into my goal and Warlords is a bloody mess. I cannot go 20 minutes without getting a headache from slow frame rates and poor scaling issues. The controls, which for any game in these two particular genres should be quick and elegant, have a time delay that looks like a lot like latency( my editor wants everyone to know that latency is the measure of time delay within a system) . While the game itself when running correctly (only one ball in play kept the frame rate “playable”) I’m seeing a lot of elements that don’t really make much sense. We have indication messages showing up on every game start that really only need to appear once, loading screen messages with very serious information that fly by after 2 seconds, a tutorial filled with cut scenes that are meant to make us think the characters in this game have some deep breadth and meaning when they don’t, and all sorts of other game and UI elements floating around that failed to show a defined purpose. I know they are somehow important, but I don’t feel like they are being used properly.
The single player campaign is basically a trial by fire version of the tutorial for those that weren’t patient enough to sit through the painfully slow quirky cut scenes, and even after watching the cut scenes I still don’t know half of what’s going on inside the game. For those looking for a story make sure you’re prepared for poorly crafted small text fields with rotating text about how you’ve graduated from something and are now getting ready to fight with the big boys. In all honesty I don’t know why they even bothered to give this a story. Why couldn’t Warlords have just updated the game’s visuals while staying true to games of the previous generation? There are plenty of games like Plasma Pong out in the world that have found excellent success without having to blow their budgets on animated fireballs or quirky minion-like characters inside the tutorial area. It’s like Atari just wrote up this long painful list of what they think is supposed to be in a good videogame and then made sure this little remake had hit a little on everything in the list. Do we have sound? Check. Do we have a quirky, relatable mascot? Check. Do we have weird camera angles that you only see from a Resident Evil game? Double check. When you load up a match, you’re greeted with this angle of someone floating just over the castle’s highest point. It makes it incredibly difficult to see exactly where each fireball is going to hit, and if you so dare to change back to the classic overhead view, your screen turns black for a few moments while the game prepares to show you the new hard-core action, All while the ball is still in play, minions are attacking things (at least I think they were) and you hear a random voice constantly talking about how player 2 has activated a various power up. Let me reiterate that I was in story mode, a story mode where all the characters had an identity, and above all else they (including the character you were playing as) all had freaking names. Not using those names means that you have no idea who is in the lead, who just used a power up, and who exactly deserves my divine retribution.
The power-ups themselves looked like something that belonged in a different game. We have a mysterious all powerful Black Knight that is trying to damage your walls unless you stop him with your shield (the shield occasionally doesn’t register a block with the knight), the classic “Controls Switched” power up where you suddenly find everything has entered opposite control land, and the “Slow Shield” power up which makes the game run even slower than it does already. These power ups have done nothing to the game except make it even more difficult for me to play, and anything that inhibits the player or confuses the player to me is bad game design. I’m sure in a different game, a game running up to speed, these game mechanics would be considered a challenge and if you were playing with friends it might be even considered a great way to settle some old scores, but since the multiplayer has not been working correctly for me (and lacked any form of a proper tutorial as well) I have not been able to properly test this point or see if the game actually exploded afterwards. All I know is that a window which I’m guessing is supposed to show active matches is empty, and any attempts to start a new match online have only ended with me staring at controllers while the game tried to set up a match.
After all of this happened I still tried to give this game a fair chance. I went for a single player match against the enemy AI. While the slowness was not as bad as in the single player mode, and I eventually was able to get past that controller delay enough to protect my walls until the 5th ball was dropped I found myself having a brief moment where I was actually playing an arcade game. I came, I saw, I blew up some castles with magical fireballs, and saw my purple quirky character do a ballerina move across the game field for absolutely no reason. I was then greeted by a screen that was tallying the score and saving my progress (I have no idea as to why). The game then crashed…just like my childhood.