Every Witch Way
Warlocks 2: God Slayers is the result of an attempt to create something unique, but not knowing entirely how to do it. When you look at it closely, there are a lot of things in this game. You’ve got some Metroidvania, a good dose of RPG mechanics, hack-and-slash action, a bit of humor, and a healthy measure of tonal and artistic diversity. That’s a lot of different things to have in one game, especially a short one like Warlocks 2. And, when you have that many things going on at once, it’s easy to get lost in it all. To end up with something that feels more disjointed than it should be — to end up with something like Warlocks 2.
Warlocks 2 is one of the most oddly incomplete-feeling games that I’ve played in quite some time. It tries to do too many things with too little resources, and presents a product that essentially feels estranged from itself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing it because it’s trying to be quirky. Quirky’s good. I like quirky. But using something like quirkiness as your primary driving force, while simultaneously trying to mask your attempt at doing so, isn’t something that I would recommend. And it’s because Warlocks 2 does just that it left me wanting more, or at least something more stable, than what I got.
As much as I don’t want to follow up a less-than-happy intro with even more complaints, I, unfortunately, must do just that; because I don’t really get where this game is going. Technically speaking, there isn’t actually all that much to “get”. The game’s narrative follows the story of one of five spell-slinging heroes, as chosen by the player, as they join the Order of the Warlocks to combat the forces of evil throughout the galaxy. That’s really all there is to it. But why the confusion? Well, that’s simple; almost everything that you’re doing feels like non-sequitur. While the game does explain everything, it always feels like too little. And, on top of that, it doesn’t even feel like the game cares about what it’s talking about half the time, as it’s more dedicated to trying to be funny than actually attempting to craft a story.
This brings me to the second point; the game’s use of “humor”. Adding a dose of naturally occurring humor is almost always a great thing. A well-timed, well-crafted joke is something that a player can take with them for quite some time, and can even be used to help quickly shape the mood of an event. But there isn’t anything natural-feeling about the way in which Warlocks 2. Most of the jokes that it attempts to tell add up to little more than middle-school level bathroom humor, and its bizarre inclusion of adding in joints as “joke” recovery items and, of all things, a halfhearted political jab, create a cheap-feeling narrative dissonance that it could never seem to shake.
Walking Strange Lands, Magic in Hand
If you look up Warlocks 2, you might notice that it describes itself as a hack-and-slash. I, however, would personally mark it as something more along the lines of a “Metroidvania-lite”. Despite taking place in a style similar to that most Metroidvanias, the game is actually segmented into different levels, and even different worlds — each sporting a unique motif. Because of the Metroidvania influence, however, these aren’t exactly linear. Rather than simply requiring the player to start at one side of the level and race to the other, each level has an objective that players must complete in order to progress. Most of the time these boil down to killing enemies or finding items, and the fit the game’s structure nicely. There are even a few added subquests that the player can take on which, while not necessary, provide extra EXP and rewards and extend each world’s longevity.
All’s not well in this Metroidvania-lite paradise, however. While the first world handily emulates how Metroidvania level segmentation can be properly utilized, the second world takes a strange turn into something that feels much less at home. The tall cliffs and winding alleyways are traded into a series of square-shaped, mostly very straightforward buildings, long stretches of land, and a lone sewer segment that belongs less in a platforming heavy RPG like Warlocks 2, and more in some kind of run-and-gun game. In all fairness, I think that they did this to diversify the game as much as possible. With only three worlds (the last one fares better than the second, by the way), for players to go through, there has to be some way to make them feel distinct. While I suppose that it does accomplish this, it isn’t the kind of distinctiveness that I was hoping for. The fact that jump from a land of magically infused runes to one of the robot guards and cybernetic frogmen feels uncomfortable and strange — even if the game’s so-called “Warlocks” are far from traditional themselves. I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, given that the hub world is literally a bar, but I still couldn’t help but be confused by the direction that this game decided to take partway through.
As strange as Warlocks 2‘s choices are involving the direction of its own gameplay, I think that I would be more forgiving if they were well-implemented. But, unfortunately, they aren’t. And I don’t even mean that in a subjective manner. Warlocks 2, while far from unplayable, has a number of bugs and otherwise strange goings-on that makes the overall experience less smooth than it should be. The most egregious of these problems is the fact that a handful of times throughout varying levels, I would simply be unable to interact with anything. Treasure chests, items, NPCs, and more — you name it, I couldn’t interact with this. While I generally played through each level multiple times anyway (gotta love the grind), I didn’t want to do it because of a bug. Nothing’s more annoying than having your progress blocked by something that isn’t supposed to happen. I’ve also run into NPCs spawning in the wrong location, quests not properly completing and, while not technically a glitch, areas that are only reachable if you decide to level up certain skills with certain characters. All-in-all, none of those add up to a good time.
Great Balls of Fire (and Various Other Elements)
Out of everything that Warlocks 2 has to offer, its class system is probably its most appealing feature. While small in number, each of Warlocks 2‘s five different classes varies greatly from one another. The bulk of this variation, of course, comes in with things like skills and specialties — ranging from the charming and magical abilities of the eWitch, to the demon-summoning magic of the Spirit Lord. On top of this, each character also comes with their own unique skill tree, allowing players to customize them even further as they see fit. Unfortunately, this system does have one major drawback — a severe skill point shortage. Warlocks 2 maxes out characters at level 20, meaning that you’ll be fresh out of skill points far before you’re able to max everything out. Or even before you can max out a specific skill tree branch. I understand that the developers might not want players to create an all-powerful character, but giving us more leeway than 20 meager levels would be very nice.
Combat, much like (most) level layouts, also take a page out of the ol’ Metroidvania book. Enemies, even at the beginning of the game, are typically no joke, meaning that taking down the slew of baddies standing in your way will take more than some button-mashing — a fact which I personally like. As much as I love mercilessly carving through enemies, I have just as much fun, if not more, with winning a hard-fought battle. While Warlocks 2‘s enemies are lacking in quantity, they’re more than made up for thanks to their quality. Regardless of how I feel about the worlds themselves, there’s no denying that the enemies living within them are very unique from one another, requiring the player to learn and adapt as they run into new (and terrifying) faces. It’s too bad that this wasn’t fleshed out more, because, between the classes and the enemies, Frozen District really showed that they’re capable of creating something unique.
Running Low on Mana
Warlocks 2: God Slayers is a game that wants to be unique and novel, but instead comes across as just a little too jumbled and imperfect for its own good. While I wouldn’t necessarily warn you to stay away from this game, as it does have its good points, its disjointed appearance and tendency to throw (albeit unwillingly, I’m sure) bugs at the player make this game more confusing and frustrating than it should be. But, hey, there are definitely worse ways to spend $17.99.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC; Publisher: QubicGames; Developer: Frozen District, Fat Dog Games; Players: 1 – 4 ; Released: June 7, 2019; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $17.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Warlocks 2: God Slayers given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.