Preview: Project Warlock 2

2022-12-20 by Callum Andrews

Get what you pay for

You know, how occasionally you can see a trailer of a movie or a game and the trailer is showing all these awesome moments that get you really stoked on either watching the movie or playing a certain game. When you eventually do watch the movie or play that game you end up being disappointed because you got suckered into believing that the movie or game you watched the trailer for wasn't nearly as awesome. Sadly this is not an uncommon occurrence as the trailer is used as a selling tool to get more people interested in that specific medium. Well, I can gladly say that this is in no way the case with Project Warlock 2. This game hits the petal to the metal straight away and it doesn't let up an inch until the game's first episode ends. It surely is non-stop mayhem from start to finish.

Project Warlock 2 is the sequel to the indie boomer-shooter Project Warlock and is developed by Buckshot Software. You take on the role of Palmer who is on a quest to find his mentor, the warlock from the first game after he has gone missing. That's the entire plot right now and whether it gets fleshed out or not is still up in the air. Considering what type of game this is it wouldn't be any surprise that, that's all it will be. These types of games are rarely story heavy and the people who play them play them mainly for the shooting gameplay and not the story. This has never been more apparent than in the cutscene of Doom 2016 when the Doomslayer smashes the intercom from which the player is getting fed exposition. This game follows in the same vein as Doom 2016 and all the games that came before it. As a matter of fact, this game takes heavy inspiration from many of the shooters that came before it.

Going its own way

The first game played something like a roguelike. Where you would start from a base area. Pick the next area you would go through, play through those levels, and get back to the base area. Reequip and start over in a new area. You also had lives, which meant that if you lost all of them you would need to restart the series of levels you had completed up to that point. This is not the case in the sequel though. Here the game plays just like the games it's been inspired by. The 90's shooters from old. You go from one level to the next by completing the levels in sequential order. The level design is somewhat varied as some levels are very open-ended and you can take several routes to reach the level exit while others are more linear. Even though the game borrows heavily from its inspirations, it also makes quite big strides in level design. One thing many of the older shooters were notorious for was the amount of backtracking players had to do. This would lead to sequences where a player might have cleared an entire level of enemies just to be running around an empty level searching for the exit or key that's been put in some obscure place. Project Warlock 2 however manages to do away with this entirely, thanks to clever level design.

One thing that everyone needs to be aware of when getting a game in early access is that playing those games is a journey. It's a journey together with the development team still developing the game and fixing it and still trying things out. It's something I believe players need to be very aware of since if you get in early in a game's early-access process it might be off-putting to continue playing a certain game if it's too buggy or lacks any sort of polish. Considering this, I sure had an interesting journey with this one since I did get in pretty early in this game's EA process and also did come across several game-breaking issues. One of these issues was the save system. It happened a couple of times that all of my saves got corrupted at some point. Or the auto-save would save at a point where I had been killed (this is for the record still an issue). There were several freezes, especially when trying to use the console among other things. Still, I reminded myself that this game was still in development and deserved a chance. That the developers were still working on improving it. So I put it down for a couple of months and got back to it recently and boy am I glad that I did.

One of the biggest changes that I noticed when I restarted the game again was that the levels had gotten a lot smaller. The big levels from before, which could take up about an hour to complete had been halved in size. Some of them being straight splits from a single level into several. I didn't have an issue with the big levels initially but the redesign sure did feel a lot better. Instead of the first episode being six levels it has now been changed to twelve levels instead. Speaking of level design, the game sure does feel very much like a '90s shooter. More specifically the game I thought the most about while playing this one was Quake. Reason being that the levels like in Quake felt somewhat disjointed. In one level you could find yourself in a castle-like structure while the next would be in some kind of cavelike area Not only that but even several of the enemies reminded me of Quake and this one sure has got a lot of enemies in it.

The size of the enemy variation in this game is on such a level that it's enough to rival that of an entire game and this is just only the first episode. You've got pigmen, cyborg pigmen, succubuses, skeletons with shotguns, zombies, of course spiders and others. It did feel like most of them got introduced in the first 3-4 levels but there were a few new introductions along the way. Especially in the later stages. They have various forms of attacks with melee and projectile-based range attacks being the main forms of attack, the only variation being in what kind of weapons they used. I wouldn't consider the A.I. to be groundbreaking in any sense of the word, it's instead the sheer number of enemies that show on-screen that provide the challenge. Now when it comes to the challenge you have the choice of picking the difficulty level that you want before starting the game. Seeing as this is still in the early-access stage there are just two choices to make (two more difficulty levels are being added as we speak). Being true to its influences the game doesn't spell out which one is the hard choice and which one is the easy choice instead it just has something along the lines of "Hurt me plenty" or "I suck" to give you a notion of what difficulty you might be playing. Being a lifelong gamer I have learned a couple of patterns that certain games use in their design. For example, certain games won't allow you to play it on its hard difficulty before you complete the normal difficulty. This is a pattern I have seen several times over and which I believed was applied here too. So believing that the choices I was presented with were "easy and "normal. Turned out to be "normal and "hard". I won't say that I had a hard time with this game because I consider myself a "competent" fps player. Not good but "competent", there were occasions however where I wished that the difficulty choices that were presented would have been more clear. Especially considering that I ended up choosing hard as I normaly play most game on normal. Speaking of difficulty and known patterns, one thing that this game relies on way too much is its combat triggers. More often time than not, when flipping a switch or picking up a key enemies would spawn into the area straight away. This also became a pattern on which I knew that if I picked something up in a certain area enemies would spawn in, in which case I would do a quick save before engaging. Not to say that this is lazy design but after getting attacked for the 10th time after flipping a switch it started to get tiresome. What became tiresome even more was the number of times enemies would spawn in behind me. Which I felt was just the game taking cheap shots.

More than enough

Being a shooter, you obviously get to use guns, and you certainly will have the opportunity to do that. You get 5 different weapons and one of them is a sword. I've never been a fan of melee weapons in shooters and for the most part, developers rarely get them right. The only game that managed to pull it off was Half-Life with the crowbar. At least in the early game, it came in handy. However, the sword here is pretty much useless and pray that you won't have to use it too many times. It's not that it doesn't kill enemies quickly it's just that the sheer amount of enemies at the same time makes it unviable as a weapon to get in close and personal. When it comes to the other weapon selections they are all viable in their own right. Considering how good they all handle and together with the upgrades, they would be more than enough to continue with the rest of the game.You get your standard fps arsenal which includes an automatic rifle, shotgun, rocket/grenade launcher and a warlock staff. If we consider the game's influences one wouldn't be very far off believing that the game will get even more guns as development progresses. Every weapon has several upgrades but only two upgrade paths. Which one you end up choosing decides what kind of weapon you will be playing with the rest of the game. A change feature to the weapon upgrade system would be welcome so that players could play around with the various choices and see which one suits them best or is the most fun. I ended up going with the laser rifle, automatic shotgun (I did try the 4-shot upgrade also, during another playthrough), rocket launcher upgrade and the fireball upgrade for the staff. The weapons are very well designed and all have their uses. One staple that I consider when considering whether a shooter is good or not is if it's designed in such a way that you need to switch between weapons or not. In my early days of playing shooters, I would play them lazily which meant that I would try to switch weapons as rarely as possible. Which made the games harder than they should have been. Here though you quickly realize that, that path is far from viable and you will be running around and switching between your weapons without even thinking about it. And they are sure fun to use, the shotgun being my absolute favorite. Without exaggerating this game probably has one of the best shotguns out there. Mowing through enemies and just running through them with the mouse button held down is a blast (pun intended). I caught myself on more than one occasion with a grin on my face blasting away at enemies with this glorious weapon.

Considering that you are also a warlock it's not just guns you get to play around with but you also get access to some spells. You get three spells to use which, once used have a cooldown time you have to wait out until you can use the same spell again. I'm sad to say that I didn't feel the spells were of much use in the sense that I rather used the guns. There was however one that was more useful when it came to clearing rooms full of enemies and that was the akimbo spell. You can dual-wield any weapon you have equipped to clear out an area of enemies and giving you the effect of double firepower. The other two spells were a fire spell, where you would shoot fire from your hands and a freeze spell that would freeze enemies. The reason I didn't find any of the beforementioned useful was that it required me to get in close and personal with the enemies for the spells to have any effect. Once I did get in the range of enemies where these spells would be viable, the shotgun was always more useful. The only time I felt the need to use them was when I would start running out of bullets.

To me, this feels almost like a complete game. With some polish in regards to the freezes and save system I wouldn't fault the developers if they released it with just the content it has right now. Once I beat the final boss, it sure felt like a boss fight worthy of a final battle. I have no idea how the developers will manage to top the first episode but I believe the next coming episodes will be even crazier than the first one. Lets just hope the next episode comes really soon.