Many of us enjoyed a childhood full of gore and fun with old-fashioned shooting games from the 90’s such as Quake, Doom and Hexen, and we have also looked at some of the recent titles that tried to restore the glory of the past like Amid Evil and Ion Fury, but today’s game, Project Warlock is pretty different from any of them.
The beauty of Project Warlock is it doesn’t rely on nostalgia and raw imitation to sell its formula. Impersonating an old identity isn’t enough to guarantee the quality of most games, even if the original inspiration was highly regarded and admired by many gamers.
The classic presentation should not prevent you from seeing what new things this game could offer, like the possibility of upgrading and developing every weapon you own, using magical spells alongside regular guns, or having a wide array of visually distinct and challenging worlds in the palm of your hand.
Project Warlock is now available on PC, PS4 (Tested), Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Project Warlock Review
These days, Indie games with pixelated art styles walk the fine line between creativity and modest development budgets depending on how you see it, but as far as Project Warlock is concerned, creativity is the correct word to describe what he have. There is a great sense of expertise and love for the craft of retro shooters, and how the main concept of the story is explored in each of the five main realms hooked us from the get go.
Beyond Time and Space
If you didn’t know, Classic shooter games don’t feature a detailed story and all you do mostly is throwing punches and smashing heads. That would have been enough if the game didn’t take this experience to another level by offering a noticeable variety between the different levels of the game.
There are more than 60 levels available to try and every number of them takes you to a totally different place and era, from the medieval times, to the Antarctic and then Egypt and the far future. In the final realm the players get a chance to go into Hell itself, which was the classic theme of most DOOM games in the past.
You get to explore these worlds in the form of separate five episode, and each episode contains five stages. One stage includes two or three levels at most, and the fifth and final stage will always include a mega sized boss that you will have to defeat in order to progress to the next world.
If you lose all your lives at any point you will have to go back to the beginning of the episode. There is no manual saving like Ion fury but Project Warlock is very generous with the number of lives and resources handed out to the player, and it doesn’t take a lot of skill to actually finish the entire thing in very few hours (maybe 8-10 hours at most).
The few times we actually lost are because we weren’t careful with our bombs and rocket launchers. It is also worth noting that the number of lives is limited only in the normal and hard difficulties. Easy difficulties contain no specific number and the stages could be repeated any number of times as much as the player needs.
A small bit of Everything
The map itself works similar to Wolfenstein 3D and Blake Stone in a non-linear fashion close to a maze more than a straight pattern. You will need to explore the surrounding complex environments and return to the same places several times after obtaining the appropriate door keys. The levels are very well designed and not once we felt we were lost or that our progress has slowed done.
In each new stage you will find different layouts to go through, new forms of enemies and various accompanying soundtracks as well. Some levels felt like an enhanced version of Catacombs 3D, while others felt like a trip inside memory lane to John Carpenter’s horror movie “The Thing” with snowy monsters and scientists in protection suits.
I was really excited because the inspirations were not only from Old retro games but also the movies that were around at the time, and even the future timeline with its enemy designs and robotic influences felt like it just came out of Japan’s old super robot anime era, particularly the Evangelion series.
The variety is much appreciated, even though the enemy AI remains the same for the most part and almost all of your problems can be resolved by emptying your weapons into their brains until they explode to very small pieces. The common thing between all of these enemies is that shooting at them is very addictive and fun.
This is due to the combination of loud sound designs and lively gunfire rounds, and the exploding animations of every single enemy, which made interacting with them more organic and fresh. Some monsters also have to lose a limb or two before they are finally gone, so the way their looks change gradually upon shooting at them is different for each one and is amazingly scary at times.
The way the enemies work around you is a mix of DOOM and Heretic (More heretic than doom) in the idea that there are tons of colored balls constantly being thrown at you, and not many enemies use lasers and missiles until the future era. Many of them also refrain from closed ranged fighting so its easy to anticipate their movements and find counters for them.
Choose your Pandemonium in Project Warlock
Project Warlock is one of the few games where almost every weapon feels great and fun to use. You start the game with a two handed gun, and the magic wand that enables you to use magic spells by spending your magic energy is given to you from the start, but you can gain a lot more after that (Weapons or spells).
In the game there are also submachine guns, single-barrel and double-barreled guns, and with time the player gets additional weapons such as dynamites, rocket launchers, flames, arrows, laser guns and of course a copy of the BFG rifle as is common in all the games adapted from DOOM.
However, here not only does it shoot a big wrecking ball at enemies, instead the ball can propagate upon contact into small destructive balls everywhere and destroy all your surroundings, which is very useful for area clearance instead of just a focus on enemies with high HP.
Players can also feel a sense of progress as they are allowed to develop nearly everything as they see fit. Strength points, life points, energy points, player skills, the amount of ammo carried, and even how the weapons behave. Upgrading weapons can make them look and sound completely different from how they originally were.
The rifle for example has a slow firing rate, but after converting it to a self propelled rifle the shooting rate goes drastically up and it feels like an entirely new weapon. The delay in the Machine Gun rounds is also removed upon upgrading with an increase in damage and of course a noticeable change in looks as well.
The only drawback here is that you can only chose one of two upgrade paths for each weapon during a single run. We admired the freedom of choice and the incentive to reply the game with different weapons, but at the same time we wished we could utilize every weapon the game could offer at the same time.
A second drawback is that development points involve both Magical spells and gun weapons at the same time. There are a lot of cool spells that affects enemies or even your own bullet behavior, but it was really hard to invest in them considering how energy points are scarce compared to ammo, and in the end we had to invest more in our weapons than magic.
A final draw back that acts in resonance with the earlier ones is that many weapons don’t affect boss monsters as they should unlike magical weapons which made me wonder about the discrepancy in design choices and which weapons should I really upgrade in my journey.
A final touch I liked about project warlock is the huge amount of visual and practical customization options. You can make the game look the way you want it and choose from a multitude of drawings, colors, fonts, and optical filters. You can also modify the shooting angels and your movement speed to the best of your comfort.
The original version of the game on PC was a little dark compared to the console version, and there was no way to know how much time it took to complete a stage or the number of secret rooms in it , but all of this was resolved in the version released on platforms such as PS4 and Xbox One.
Completing the game allows you to return to any stage and collect the secrets remaining in it. The game shows you the amount of available secrets in the settings menu, but unfortunately the weapon development screen cannot be accessed from the outside and you must restart the game from scratch to be able to access it.
- A considerable variety in many gameplay elements
- Lots of inspirations and influences from the 90's
- Many Customization Options and replay value
- Enemy AI does not present many challanges
- The need for a better point distribution system
- Spells are more effective in major battles