Title: Project Warlock
Developer: Buckshot Software
Release Date: June 11, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Crunching Koalas
Do you know what’s missing from the vast majority of first-person shooter games? Magic. While it can be super fun to shoot your way through an onslaught of foes as a one-man army, apparently nowadays it’s not “realistic” enough to throw in some fancy magic spells too. Well, they’re just missing out.
Now enter Project Warlock. Initially released in 2018 on PC, this is a retro-inspired shooter that mixes weaponry with witchcraft for a hell of an aesthetically pleasing experience. Now that it’s coming to consoles, new players can experience this magic-filled FPS.
In Project Warlock, you play as the “Warlock,” an unnamed being who cares about one thing, destroying eldritch and supernatural creatures. To do so, you’ll traverse a variety of locations such as castles, deserts, and tundra, amassing an impressive collection of spells and weaponry to sunder every malevolent creature you come across. It’s not exactly much of a story, but really who cares when your only job here is to kill some demons.
Project Warlock is a game about being the man behind the slaughter. Games like Doom and Heretic heavily inspire it, and it’s easy to see why. The pixel art screams its retro aesthetic at you as you explore the 3D environments that look like they were assembled with ray-casting. However, one flick of the analog stick will tell you otherwise, which had me quickly locking the Y-axis.
Luckily, the enemy hitboxes are balanced for the middle hits and not much else. Furthermore, there’s a host of accessibility options to fine-tune your experiences, such as an aiming reticle or various filters that emulate different game console outputs.
All of your available weapons can be accessed via the weapon wheel, with each segment holding two weapons you can swap between on a single button press. It’s also possible to use the d-pad to switch between spells. Each spell consumes MP, the amount of which is indicated in the game’s HUD.
On top of the weapons and spells found when progressing through dungeons, you’ll also find XP items that will let you level up as well as ‘unlock stars’. In between stages, you can make your way to a workshop, where you can redeem stat points gained from level points for specific stat boosts, for every five levels you gain, you’ll also obtain a perk point which can be redeemed for a passive skill.
The unlock stars are used to create spells from the spellbooks you find, as well as upgrade your weapons. Each weapon has two upgrades, and you can only pick one per playthrough. This adds a bit of extra tasty replay value if you decide to do so, picking out different perks and upgrades on future runs. The game encourages this with multiple difficulty modes for hardcore fans of the genre.
Project Warlock only autosaves within the workshop, which may seem arduous, but once you complete a level within a stage, you can jump back to the workshop at any time with your current XP intact. You will have to repeat all the levels within a stage if you do this, but that doesn’t matter because that just means more experience points.
Most importantly, every level has its own unique theme, and they all kick ass. It’s an extraordinary amount of effort I absolutely did not expect, and I appreciate it a ton. It only adds to the incredible experience you get from shooting everything in sight.
The level design seems like it would be mediocre, as the level loop almost continually has you looking for keys so you can unlock doors to find the exit and begin the next level. However, your fast movement speed, coupled with the almost constant barrage of enemies from different angles, makes it feel like a mad dash, volleying through areas as an entity of pure destruction.
It cannot be overstated just how fun I found this combat. The only flaw it really has would be the boss fights, as the bosses themselves feel like they boil down to “shoot them a bit while you run around them in a circle until they die.” It’s a bit clumsy. Thankfully, they’re over fast, and then you can move on to another series of levels to sink your teeth into.
Project Warlock is a gem that borrows influences from the greatest FPS titles of our past and throws in a unique presentation with an added dose of magic. The arsenal of weapons and spells allows you to approach the action how you wish, and it continually feels rewarding. There’s plenty of replay value here for those who’d like another go at the hectic carnage each level provides, so it’s an easy recommendation from me.
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