Warlocks vs Shadows – Preview
Follow Genre: Action, RPG, Brawler
Developer: Frozen District
Publisher: ONE MORE LEVEL
Platform: PC, Mac
Tested on: PC

Warlocks vs Shadows – Preview

Good: Unique character skills encourage teamwork
Bad: Balance problems
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Last month, Frozen District and ONE MORE LEVEL decided to launch the Early Access version of Warlocks vs Shadows. While its title might not be very original, it does give us a perfect sense of what to expect. Make no mistake: this is a balls to the wall adventure, urging players to keep their head in the game at all times. A few mistakes, even those as small as a slip of the finger, might leave you dead in the woods, surrounded by evil shadows.

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Our first forays into the game were filled with bouts of recognition, spiced with only a hint of confusion. Not only is its title incredibly straightforward, but it also thrusts you straight into the thick of it. Each level is a small to medium sized platforming arena in which you must survive an onslaught of shadow monsters. Beat them all and you’ll unlock a mystical portal into the next level, where you can duke it out against larger hordes.

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This might sound repetitive and it would be, were it not for its role playing elements. Fallen shadows drop coins and – if you’re lucky – wearable loot such as armour and weapons. The game can be paused at all times to give you all the time you need to equip new-found items and strengthen your character. MOBA-players will immediately recognise the skill system, as each character has a choice of four powers, although there is no real “ultimate skill”. Every time you level up, one of these can be upgraded. Eventually, it is possible to fully level everything.

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Players are graced with the presence of ten Warlocks to choose from, five of which are readily available. The other half is unlocked as you free them from the clutches of the Shadow world. It didn’t take us long before we found a favourite in Rainer, “the Guardian”, however. Each of the characters has a unique set of skills, and he simply feels as the most powerful Warlock right now, thanks to a combination of damage mitigating shields, strong attacks and an amazing mobility. The contrast with the other characters is quite large, and it’s hard not to fear that our favourite character will always be the most viable one, effectively discouraging gameplay variation.

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This could be a serious problem if left unchecked, as Warlocks vs. Shadows has clearly been built around both teamwork and pure multiplayer carnage. Keera the Shamaness, for example, can heal her allies while poisoning enemies and Borubar the Bugbear Warrior can block any and all projectiles. Raziel the Falling Angel is capable of a massive stun attack, which is especially useful in a teamwork context as his attack speed is too low to really benefit from the stun. Another issue is the fact that new player accounts seem to automatically get thrown into the story of the highest level character, which then pits their newly created character against unbeatable odds. In spite of its current flaws, however, cooperative play is an absolute blast.

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Conclusion

Competitive players can also dive into a Deathmatch and just beat the hell out of each other, both locally and online. While the versus mode started out as a very exiting way to pit the Warlocks against each other, it quickly became a proving grounds where we could test the balance between the characters. In our experience, some characters were clearly more powerful than others and had a much higher win ratio. It should be noted, however, that this is still the Early Access version and Frozen District has explicitly stated that the very reason for this beta is that it is helping them to create a correct balance. There is still some work to do, but it is bound to improve what is already quite the satisfying experience.

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Tom Cornelis
Tom Cornelis


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