Developer: Buckshot Software
Genre: Retro First Person Shooter
MSRB (At time of publishing): $12
Game Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/893680/Project_Warlock/
If i had a dollar for every time someone compared Project Warlock to Wolfenstein 3D I’d have enough to help John Carmack fund whatever new VR headset he’s pouring his psychic Carmack magic into. I completely understand why the comparison is made though. From the chunky textures, to rather rudimentary gameplay, the game is a blast form the past, but has enough packed beneath the hood to make it a fantastic game in its own right.
Project Warlock’s biggest strength is it’s gameplay, like any good throwback FPS. You’re thrown into a map, where you hunt for key cards, secrets, ammunition and health, all while cutting through hordes of enemies. However, the gameplay is quite streamlined in its approach, with zero jumping, and not so much as elevated platforms to get an overview of a map. Instead, the game feels 2D in nature, with your only form of evasion comes from corner peeking, dodging out of the way, and circle strafing (specifically in larger boss arenas). If you know how to maneuver, the game can get pretty easy, especially once you know which weapons work for your playstyle.
The weapons aren’t exactly revolutionary, with standard shotgun, smgs, crossbows and other basic genre tropes filling out your arsenal. But the game makes up for it by making each one impactful, and fun to use. From the fast firing SMG, to the hard hitting shotgun, each gun is useful in its own way, at least when you purchase an upgrade for it.
Oh yes, PW has put in a progression system, which I love especially in a retro shooter. You can upgrade each gun into a different version, with two options each. For example, the double barreled shotgun, you get the chance to turn it into an incendiary flak cannon, or a quad barrel shotgun. But you can only choose one, and if you happen to hate it, sucks to be you, no backsies.
Theres also a levelling system, with basic health, ammo capacity etc. But on every five level ups, you can pick up a perk, ranging from useless trash like being able to walk through enemies, to the incredibly broken, like getting an additional stat point every time you level up.
Finally, there comes the namesake of Project Warlock: spells. I won’t lie, i don’t use spells much, except for the magic grenade spell. They’re the most basic magic spells one can imagine, electricity, magic shield, freeze, etc. They’re rather boring, and the guns themselves are worth investing in above most of them.
With all these options for combat, the enemies you’ll be using them against are actually well designed, and unique. the game has five different settings, ranging from castles and woods to bombed out cities. Each type of enemy feels distinct, and rarely ever frustrating, a testament to the games solid art design, which is super chunky, with a lot of color and definition. The levels themselves though, are often hit or miss. The game struggles with being easy to navigate, varying on each map. The third map, an Egyptian themed area, based off The Mummy and early Serious Sam, is the absolute worst. The environment blends together and is frustrating to navigate, especially when you walk back and forth in the same area keyhunting.
The somewhat bad level design also acts as a crutch for the games difficulty. Despite the game being pretty easy, even acting on the outdated lives system on medium difficulty, the game has a tendency to rely on cheap shots, like positioning monsters right outside a door, so they get an unavoidable free hit on you.
This is but one instance of the game bringing back decrepit ideas from the backlogs of 90s games. You’ll notice i haven’t talked about the story, because there is none, aside from a paragraph at the end of each level. You could replace the text with a paragraph from Quake, change some names, and it would make sense.
On the whole, i do love Project Warlock. There’s very few games that could take outdated gameplay like Wolfenstein 3D’s, take some pretty generic weapons and progression systems, mix them together and still give you a pretty great game. It has its pitfalls, surely, but the scope that it’s trying to succeed, a fun retro shooter, hits all the nails and leaves you coming away satisfied.