War Theatre – Review
War. War never changes. But how war is fought in a different world is another story. When war comes to Kasalli, the world is scorched in fire and rubble. Only the strongest and smartest will survive and bring hope to a devasted land. From Arcade Distillery and creative designer Lucas Bernard comes War Theatre, a new tactical turn-based strategy game with incredible creative talent and sharp combat mechanics.
War Theatre takes place in the same universe as the studio’s previous games, such as Plague Road. While the game is not directly connected, War Theatre takes place in the same universe, and the artistic illustrations for the characters and lands are similar as well. War Theatre adopts a Tim Burton-like visual presentation, with thick, rounded, and filling characters, creating a fascinating but nightmarish dream world, filled with devastation and mayhem. The music accompanied also highlights the terror and desperation of war in an apocalyptic landscape. War Theatre certainly leaves a sharp and distinct impression upon those that play it. Even for someone that has come across the studio’s other titles, War Theatre never becomes a game that can be passed off as looking like the other games. Through its a depiction of war, it is a unique visual experience.
Visuals can only take a game so far, and that’s where the gameplay comes in. War Theatre blasts players with intense turn-based combat gameplay, albeit slightly flawed. From the very beginning, there is neither an explanation as to why everyone is fighting nor a tutorial explaining what needs to be done. The player is left to figure out the game on their own, meaning the first hour or so of the game may be confusing for new players, as well as players unfamiliar with the mechanics and intricacies of turn-based combat.
For someone like myself, having played a variety of RPG’s, such as Fire Emblem, played War Theatre in the first few hours wasn’t discouraging, but even I was puzzled as to why there was no cohesion or tutorial. I was uninformed of which weapons were most effective against what units, and I was left to figure out these mechanics on my own. Initially, I was frustrated, but over time, I began to learn and grow with the game, finding fulfillment and reward along the way.
The core of the gameplay of War Theatre is spread across several stories, with five missions each. The objective of each mission is to defeat the main generals of several armies. Tarnished and changed by war, the generals are grotesque, changed by the violence of their environment and within themselves. From hulking robots having lost their former humanity to winged mechanical angels to stealthy anthropomorphized rats, there is no shortage of variety and imagination. In each mission, players are tasked with seizing factories, territory, and directly engaging with the enemy, all the while keeping their general alive. Seizing factories and deploying units is essential, but knowing the weapon chain and enemy weakness is a must for victory. From soldiers to armored vehicles, to aerial blimps, there is a large abundance of units to deploy.
When in combat, players will be able to select who to attack. Where they attack and what they attack is important. Fortunately, War Theatre does a good job displaying the necessary information to determine if you are making a sound tactical decision. Your general character can make special attacks, which are unique, depending on which chapter you are playing. Though, a good word of caution is to avoid bringing these characters to the front lines as their death means game over. Being able to engage multiple units and see them fall in spectacular fashion is exciting, but some enemies can be much more difficult to take down. this is where the Quest and Perk system comes into view.
Players can take on quests. these quests involve tasks such as eliminate a specific number and type of enemy units or securing enough factories. Accomplishing these quests yields gold and the gold can attain perks. The perks can be applied for each mission, and give players an advantage in combat. The perks include more health, more damage, more range, and so on. It is highly suggested that players selected and max out their quest selection before embarking on their first mission, as they can build enough coin to purchase a perk. Acquiring these perks, and applying them, are essential, especially for the more difficult missions.
War Theatre features fantastic turn-based combat. When players become familiar with the controls and combat mechanics, the game feels fast, action-packed, and distinctly different from other tactical titles out there. Each victory felt like a small, but hard-fought reward and the interesting characters were interesting to observe as they fought against enemy forces. Some of the battles are more difficult than others but it was all the more satisfying when that last-ditch effort of an attack works to win the battle. Overall, strategy fans will enjoy what War Theatre has to offer.
War Theatre is a satisfying experience, but the setback is the lack of a tutorial and world-building. Having to figure things out my own wasn’t a terrible inconvenience but it would have greatly enhanced my playing experience. I was stuck on one of the boss levels for over an hour until I realized I had to complete a quest, acquire a perk, then apply it to have any degree of success. Additionally, the environments and music repeat, though, players will be too wrapped up in the combat to really notice. Some cutscenes would have been beneficial to explain why all of this fighting is occurring, and how the game fits into other Arcade Distillery titles.
War Theatre has its flaws but is an immensely interesting tactical combat experience that would be best played for those looking for a different experience. The world depicted is fascinating and the tactical gameplay is tight and exciting. Arcade Distillery has been crafting a wonderful universe of games and War Theatre certainly is quite the show to see. War Theatre is currently available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Steam.
This copy of War Theatre was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 systems, thanks to a key supplied by Arcade Distillery through Keymailer.com