The Nintendo Switch finally gets a full on RTS experience with Warparty, but is the prehistoric war game worth picking up? Come inside for my full review to find out!
My love of real-time strategy games has been well documented on the site, as has been my dismay at the lack of them on consoles. Granted, full RTS titles haven’t always had the best track record on consoles (the controls can be a mess and something almost always feels lost in the translation), but I’m always hopeful. My computers throughout the years haven’t always been able to keep up with the latest RTS games, leaving me woefully behind on some of my favorites.
Thankfully, however, it seems like these strategy games are getting new life on consoles and the latest has come to the Switch! This is doubly exciting to me as I’ve long felt the portable console an ideal place for the RTS genre. With the ability to pick up and play at your leisure, you’re not confined to staring at the computer screen while you contemplate your next move or restructure your attack.
While the Switch got a really fun strategy title with Crush Your Enemies, it still wasn’t the traditional RTS experience. That changes with Warparty, which brings the old-school style of resource gathering/base building gameplay to Nintendo’s console. It’s been available on STEAM for a bit as an early access title, but now it’s in full release. You can also snag it on PS4 and Xbox One, but since my entire experience with the game was on the Switch, that’s the perspective this review is going to take.
The basics of the game are fairly simple. You choose one of three factions to choose from as you battle it out in prehistoric style. The Wildlanders is the human race who hunt/gather and tame dinosaurs to ride into battle. The Vithara are almost like elves in how they work with the land/dinosaurs for all they need, while the Necromas are the villainous race seeking to conquer everything with zombies and what not.
Each of these factions have their own campaigns/stories to follow along with. For the most part, however, the differences are mostly cosmetic (sometimes units are just straight palette swaps). Many of the units are the same/serve similar functions to one another, with only the specific hero characters having their own unique abilities, which I’ll get into in a little bit.
Though the aesthetic is ‘pre-historic’ with simple tools/weapons and dinosaurs, the story has more of a science fiction/fantasy slant to it. It actually takes place in a time after the downfall of a highly advanced species (the Go’n), and the heroes of each faction have found artifacts that allow them to tap into that power. As such, they each seek out more Go’n powers in order to fulfill their own goals while stopping the world from ending.
Most of the story is told via hand drawn slides (almost like cave paintings) with voiceover in between missions and some in game cutscenes once you start playing. It’s not the most in depth story around, but it has enough interesting elements to keep you playing through it’s--very brief--story. Each campaign only has about six missions, which seems super short, but some of the levels can take quite a while to get through. With that in mind, it doesn’t feel as short, but it does lack the epic feel they’re going for.
By and large, the story mostly serves the purpose of establishing why you’e building armies of dinosaurs. Let’s be honest here, I don’t need any sort of setup to play a dinosaur based RTS game; I was sold at dinosaur armies.
Warparty is a very straightforward RTS game follows the most basic gameplay patterns. If you’ve played Warcraft, Age of Empires, or just about any other old-school RTS, you’ll be instantly familiar. Don’t take that as a bad thing, however, as the mechanics feel sleek and polished, rather than old and clunky.
You’ll have two resources to harvest as you build up your base and armies: food and crystals. Balancing the two of these will be integral to your success, though I can tell you right now, food is the main priority. As is always the case, these resources aren’t infinite and as you send oodles of drones/workers to gather them. Where Warparty makes itself feel distinct is how the resources are spread throughout the map.
Between the resources and wild dinosaurs who have nests scattered around the map, the game constantly encourages you to explore and be constantly on the move around the map. The more traditional strategy of building up your base and holding tight as you amass a large army isn’t a sound strategy. Hell, when I tried this in just the SECOND mission, I was getting my ass handed to me.
It took a little bit to adjust myself to this new strategy, but I liked how it forced me to do something different, even though the setup is similar. Sure, other games encourage you to expand your base outward, but even in those, it’s common to have a “main base” to fall back to if necessary. I found this wasn’t the case in Warparty where shifting about the map, uprooting and travelling where the resources were (or even to get away from overwhelming enemies) made more sense. Considering the setting, this nomadic strategy seems more than fitting.
As I mentioned, pretty much all the units are similar/comparable between the different factions. The big change, is the heroes and their abilities. Each has their own set of powers you can use (if you’ve built up enough Go’n power, that is) in either offensive or defensive ways. Figuring out the best time and place to use these is a big part of the game’s strategy and even though I’ve been playing for several weeks now, I feel like I’m still learning how to maximize their potential.
The Console/Switch Effect
I never had the chance to play the game on the PC, but I can say, the console controls feel pretty great for this RTS. It’s surprisingly intuitive and easy to get the hang of. Selecting units is simple and for the most part, when they arrive at their location, will group/form up according to their unit type. This makes it easy to select only the units you want, for more micro-managing strategy moments.
Building new units and structures is handled via menu wheels that pop up from the shoulder buttons and it’s super easy to place them. Even if you’ve never played an RTS game before, this one won’t take you long to get a handle on the basics. To be honest, the little tutorial that’s included doesn’t even feel necessary to get a feel for the controls.
The problem many console RTS game ports have had are the controls. They’re either too complicated or overly simplified to the point of not working. Thus, you’re struggling to even PLAY the game, rather than focusing on the strategy and gameplay itself. Warparty doesn’t have this issue, and plays wonderfully on consoles. It’s graphics and overall design are simple enough to work on the console, without looking cheap either.
I was more than thrilled about this on the Switch which I played entirely in handheld mode. I didn’t notice any issues playing it this way, and still felt like I was getting the full RTS experience no matter where I took it. Between the streamlined control scheme and HUD layout, it was easy to get sucked into just like any other RTS game I’ve played.
Overall, I think Warparty is a pretty solid RTS game, but there are some definitely issues that hold it back. As I mentioned, the campaign mode is very short and feels like it ends just as things pick up. Considering it was the last thing added to the game (it had been in early access for a while before that), I suppose it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that it feels less than fully fleshed out. It’s not bad, but aside from the stout multiplayer options, there’s not nearly as much replay value.
Perhaps my biggest issue, and most annoying to deal with, comes from the game’s saving options in the story mode. Perhaps I should say, lack of saving options. Warparty doesn’t really give you many options to save your progress as you go through the story. I don’t know if it was an error or not, but about midway through the human campaign, I jumped over to the Vithara, just to check out the differences. When I came back, I was suddenly back at the first human mission and unable to pick up where I left off.
So I had to play through it from the start. What’s worse, is that there’s absolutely no way to save your game mid-mission. You can play for a couple hours on a mission, nearly to the end, and if you die, you have to start over. It was incredibly frustrating and discourages any kind of trial and error playing.
For example, there was a mission where I kept getting swarmed by the enemy early on and couldn’t quite reach the point where I can keep them at bay; let alone mount an offensive. I got to the point where I’d figured out a solid strategy to protect my base, but moving forward was another problem. And yet, I couldn’t save and come back to the point where I was able to contemplate my next strategy.
Instead, if I messed up and wound up dead, I had to go ALL the way to the beginning, working through the exact same strategy to get back to the point I could do something new. On the Switch, I could mitigate this problem slightly, by being able to quickly put it in rest mode but that still doesn’t resolve the overall problem. It was super frustrating and at least a couple times caused me to just give up for a little bit before coming back to it. It feels like a pretty big oversight, which could be patched out via updates down the road, but considering this was part of their “official release” coming from Early Access, it’s an odd choice.
On the whole, I can say that I enjoyed Warparty. I love the classic RTS experience and it’s polished gameplay. The streamlined approach to it’s controls makes it super easy and fun to play on consoles, giving me hope for more great RTS games making the jump.
It’s unfortunate, however, that it’s mired by minor problems that add up to serious frustrations. The obviousness of the problems makes it all the more annoying. Even so, I enjoyed my time with the game and if you’re looking for a full RTS experience on the Switch, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this dinosaur battling adventure.