Warlocks vs Shadows PS4 Review with Stream
Creative pixel art
Many playable characters
Experience and loot connects through all gameplay modes
Super repetitive – gameplay, visuals, music
Basically requires multiplayer to have any sort of fun
With a visual presentation sort of reminiscent of Another World and horde mode-style gameplay that mixes Gauntlet with a hint of TowerFall, Warlocks vs Shadows is a grind-heavy spammers dream. While this 2D brawler has a decent foundation, the repetitive combat and soundtrack is a slog and a lesson in boredom.
After releasing many low cost games on the 3DS eShop, Teyon has started to explore the new gen console territory. Warlocks vs Shadows is one of their first published games on a new gen system. Although different from anything they released on Nintendo’s handheld, Warlocks vs Shadows is one of Teyon’s higher quality games despite having obvious flaws.
Don’t take my word for it. Watch my stream and see this game for yourself:
The player is free to select a number of warlocks to combat an army of shadow monsters. Each warlock has a unique set of abilities although there is a connecting theme with attacks. For example, the “X” button has the shortest cool down and is each character’s main attack whereas the “O” button is dedicated as the dash attack but requires a longer a wait time so it cannot be used rapid fire. Each character has a unique play style like some being better for close melee combat whereas other are better suited for ranged or team-based play. The design encourages experimentation with all the warlocks as experience points, levels, and even equipment never reset no matter which mode is played or restarted. This continuation is encouraging as the player can only get stronger.
Warlocks vs Shadows, unfortunately, suffers from repetition within pretty much every element of gameplay. Once the player has some time to learn the strengths and weaknesses of a specific warlock, the best moves will be spammed over and over through each and every wave of enemies. Further, the same enemies repeat constantly, only being introduced to a new baddie here or there once advancing to the next world. The soundtrack is the worst culprit of the glaring repetition as the same short track loops continuously. Luckily, there is an option to turn down the music in the main menu.
What makes this horde-mode beat’em up also strange is the control scheme. Sure, each face button is assigned a certain attack. That is fine; I get that. But jumping, leveling up, and the inventory interface is clunky at best. Jumping is assigned to the Up button on the dpad or the player can use R2. Since swarms of enemies can fill the screen, jumping and agility is important so assigning this critical skill to the Up button is awkward and can result in unintentional hits. In time, the player will eventually level-up but instead of assigning points from a menu screen, the player increases one of the four face-button attacks in real time by hitting L2 then the corresponding spell. I am sure this real-time level up was design was meant to not interrupt multiplayer gameplay but is still tedious to pull off especially in a heated battle.
Enemies will sometimes drop loot as well. The game usually equips the best loot upon pick-up but the menu interface is accessed by clicking the touchpad and then navigated with the analog stick. Originally, I through something might have been wrong with the game as I could not navigate the menu screen at all. Because this is a 2D side-scroller, using the dpad just feels more responsive than the analog stick. But since the menu is only accessible through use of the analog stick, it makes the whole UI clumsy. Trying to read the menu or merchant selling screen is also difficult thanks to the small font size and it seems like the left size of the screen is cut off by a few pixels.
There are two main modes to choose from but each mode is basically the same thing. The campaign is divided into segments with each segment composed of multiple waves of enemies. At the end of each segment, or world, there will be a boss fight. Once defeated, the boss will unlock a new warlock to control. The problem with the campaign is that each world is just too long. Spending an hour mindlessly grinding through the same repetitive waves of enemies gets tedious quick and the other Horde mode is not much better. Stolen directly from Gears of War, Horde mode just pits the player against an endless lot of enemies until you eventually get overwhelmed and die. Instead of grinding for hours in the campaign, the player will probably only last a few minutes in Horde mode.
It is also worth pointing out that the difficulty is not reliant on the number of players available. If you can get three other friends to join the campaign, then yes, you will probably be able to breeze through the story. However, a single player will have a much more difficult time. While I was able to get through World 1 with only a minor amount of grinding but a high amount of spamming the same attack over and over, I immediately got smoked as I entered World 2. Playing with friends is far and away the best way to go. Shame this title is local multiplayer only.
Personally, I am a sucker for high quality pixel art and Warlocks vs Shadows is a good looking game even though there isn’t much to see as enemies and backgrounds repeat; even the camera awkwardly moves back and forth during the few cutscenes but sprites are animated well. The biggest problem I have with the visuals are assets found in the foreground. Often, foreground elements get in the way of the action and becomes an unfair detriment to gameplay. In fact, the first unlockable treasure chest the player will encounter is almost complete hidden behind foreground foliage; if the camera didn’t pan to this spot on the map the player would never know it is there. However, the soundtrack is far and away the thing that grows to be the most annoying thing you have heard in ages.
Warlocks vs Shadows is sort of like a birthday cake without frosting, sprinkles, candles and a party. It is an interesting first step but lacks the flair to make it something special. While being one of Teyon’s better games, it really can only be recommended to spend the $13.99 admission price if you can collaborate with a few friends for a couple hours. Single player players beware.
Also Try: Duck Game (Ouya)
Play It Instead: Dungeon Explorer (Turbo Grafx-16)
Wait For It: Warlocks 2: God Slayers (Q1 2018)