Monday, November 16, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

WARSAW Box art While originally released on PC about a little over a year ago, WARSAW Console Edition is finally here for, well, console players. While there’s dozens of games set in the World War II era, you mostly like think of your typical Call of Duty or Battlefield shooters, but every so often a different game in the genre comes in, like WARSAW. Instead of your WWII shooter variety, WARSAW instead is a turn based tactical RPG set in the historically accurate streets of Warsaw when it was occupied by German forces. War is brutal, and it’s no different here, so prepare for a hard fought road ahead, not to win the war itself, but to simply survive.

Set in 1944 near the end of the War, the whole backdrop takes place in the ruined city of Warsaw. To fight for your freedom, you’ll need to recruit everyone that you can in the fight against the uprising. Kill your enemies, loot what you can and save all the salvage, as it will help you survive another day. While it’s a historical setting, it’s not too heavy on the history lessons, but instead chooses to focus on its characters with their backstories and minor events that occur doing your missions.

The city is divided into a handful of different districts, each of which needs their morale and supplies to be maintained. If these get too low enemy forces will overtake the district, but you completing missions for the resistance will help keep all of these as high as possible, if you’re successful.

There are essentially three different sections to WARSAW’s gameplay. The first is the map and missions. Here is where you’ll chose a mission in a specific district, each with its own win conditions. You’ll encounter enemies, traps and even historical events that actually took place within the iconic city. The camera is viewed from top down, showing you as a simple round icon navigating the ruined city streets, with arrow icons indicating nearby objectives. As you find supplies or enemies, you can choose to engage or loot, but it all feels very basic, as if you’re playing a board game.

Enemies are indicated by their icons, some of which can be avoided and don’t have an alert radius, and others that have a wide range alert radius that forces you into combat if you step within its boundaries. Supply crates will be littered through the city, but sometimes they are placed by nearby enemy forces, so you’ll need to weigh the risk versus reward for gathering some ammo and supplies. There will also be event icons, which if activated, will usually have some sort of quick narrative and a choice to make. Some of these choices are basic while others will need a skill check to be successful. Some of these are gut wrenching decisions you must make and there’s not always a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ morale option, just a muddy grey area.

You also need to be deliberate with every movement across the map, as you’re only given a certain amount of movement points, and if you don’t succeed in your mission before running out, then it’s a mission fail. While I understand the idea, as you don’t want to be wandering around an enemy occupied city longer than needed, if you get some bad luck and don’t get your objectives randomly placed somewhat nearby or happen to choose the right directions by luck, you might fail.

The second main mechanic of WARSAW is its combat. When you do engage in battle, you’ll be placed in some challenging firefights against the enemy. Not only turn based, you also need to keep tabs on your resource management as well, like ammo, as every move costs something to do; usually your ammo to fire. Every character will have their own weapons and abilities, and being able to make a team of four for each mission means you’ll need to be strategic on whom to take. Do you make a well-rounded team with a medic, heavy bazooka, rifles and machine guns, or do you prefer a more aggressive approach? Be careful though, as death is permanent, and if you lose one of your better characters you’re going to have a much more difficult time going forward.

Viewed in 2D, each side of the screen is broken into a top and bottom lane of four grid spots each. The left side of the screen are your allies, and the right the Nazi’s. You have a certain amount of Action Points that can be used per turn on movement, melee or abilities like firing or buffing. Each turn allows you to use AP for your squad, and interestingly, this means you can choose to use one character multiple times for damage output, but there are downsides to doing so, as this will deplete your stamina, causing you to take more damage and lower your accuracy. Also, most of your attack abilities have specific range requirements, so you’ll have to know where to position yourself to attack the enemy best.

Cover plays a big role as well, as you’ll take decreased damage if standing behind cover, but the enemy will do the same. Some characters will have special abilities to drop cover as well, so it’s a balance of figuring out the best tactics for the battle at hand. There’s a surprising amount of strategy that needs to be figured out, and sadly the game doesn’t teach you much, so your first couple playthroughs are going to end poorly, but once you start to figure out how to best utilize your squad’s abilities it becomes much more enjoyable. Combat is quite difficult, and seemingly randomized for hits and misses, though you can see the exact percentage before committing to an attack.

The last part of WARSAW’s gameplay is within your Hideout. Here’s where your team will hide in secret, able to recruit new members, plan your next move and take a breather for a moment. While you are able to recruit new members, it’s quite costly to do so and they are very generic skill wise, so you best take care of your main characters or you’re almost surely going to lose battles going forward. You can decide what missions to undertake, trying to focus on research gathering or taking down the enemy. There’s a lot of long-term planning you’ll need to assess as well, as to survive the War, you’ll need to be managing multiple different facets of your resistance.

While I had a hard time with WARSAW, what I did enjoy the most was its visual aesthetic with its hand drawn characters and backgrounds. Character design is fitting for the time period, as is the atmosphere and has that brown and grey hue to it that would encapsulate a war torn city in shambles. While the background audio is decent and adds to the atmosphere, there’s not much else of note as it does become a little repetitive.

I always appreciate games with such important historical importance like this and was thankful it wasn’t just a dry history lesson. At the same time, it was quite challenging to keep on top of everything needed to survive, especially when much of my success felt luck based at times. While it has its moments of enjoyment when everything goes according to plan, having to restart numerous times because you lose an important squad member like your medic becomes quite frustrating. There’s a lot of depth and strategy to be had within WARSAW, but surviving will be the priority and fun being a distant second.

Overall: 6.3 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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