Warlocks vs Shadows Early Access Preview

Early access, as at some point I’ve mentioned before, is a fickle mistress. Kickstarter, additionally, is almost exactly the same. Both have their fair share of successes, but both also harbor a hell of a lot more horror stories. Luckily Warlocks vs. Shadows, an action RPG/brawler by indie developer ONE MORE LEVEL and my first attempt at testing the Kickstarter waters, was pleasantly surprising.

The game is not fully developed as its Kickstarter campaign ended only recently and it is sitting high on Steam Early Access, so for this reason I’m writing a preview rather than a full review. That being said, this fast-paced little game has some really promising potential.

Right from the get-go, the game pretty much says “to hell with exposition,” spits out some nonsense about shadows, slaps you on the butt and sends you on your way to beat the living daylights out of waves of shadowy abominations in increasingly cool 8-bit environments.

Slides like this one are all that stands for Warlocks vs Shadows in terms of plot.

Slides like this one are all that stands for Warlocks vs Shadows in terms of plot.

I found it hard to put my finger on what Warlocks reminds me of, but it mixes a lot of interesting aspects from some notable titles. For instance, similar to Castle Crashers, you have a choice of playing alone (if you’re lame like me) or with 3 other friends, and you choose from a wide range of interesting characters with different abilities and play styles (If you pick the Rainman, then you should expect the credits to roll because you’ve officially won). Characters in hand, you get to face a nonsensical amount of ability effects and fast-paced slaughter that provides some truly chaotic fun.

Stemming from that, the environments feel very Super Smash Brothers as the arenas vary in size, complexity and style. There are 5 “worlds” that are strung together with a few text slides that are easily passable, but the worlds that are currently available in early access offer enough variation to keep things fresh and interesting.

The first boss left me speechless after one of the best "deal with it" entrances I've seen in gaming.

The first boss left me speechless after one of the best “deal with it” entrances I’ve seen in gaming.

The gameplay itself consists of fighting wave after wave of monsters in each world until you finally reach a boss stage. This formula at a glance can seem pretty dry, and truth is: it can be. Despite all of my excitement surrounding this title, it’s probably best enjoyed in short doses. If you sit down like I did on my first run and try to beat it all solo it becomes a chore. I mean, new characters are fun and the bosses are really freaking cool but this is the kind of game you want to put on when either you and your friends are drunk or are bored and have a half-hour to kill. As a friend of mine said: “As long as they keep making new heroes, it’ll keep being fun, but as soon as there is a lull, it’ll get boring quickly.”

At this point you can’t really beat Warlocks vs. Shadows, but since it’s an early access title that’s sure to change. ONE MORE LEVEL has put together some decent game design here with tight controls, basic but functional RPG elements and intuitive/easy to access menus. As time passes I’m sure this game will grow to be more than an excuse to kill an hour or two.

So, if you’re looking for a long story and fascinating exposition, you’ve come to the wrong place. If, however, you’re here to beat the crap out of stuff with a few friends across cool levels and a maelstrom of particle effects then Warlocks vs Shadows will likely be a great fit for you. Additionally, I recommend that early adopters keep an eye out for updates, because it does look like a very promising game.