The WarTorn Land of WarTales
WarTales is a strategy-based open-world RPG from Shiro Games, creators of Northgard and Evoland, set in a medieval world in which you command a band of mercenaries on their way across war-torn lands.
In a gritty way, WarTales refuses the general fantasy icons of European medieval worlds for more human-based stories around the themes of war, its aftermath, and mercenary work. The game is based around regions, like the County of Arthes, which your own band of mercenaries, each with their own class and specialties, will explore, earning experience points as they discover more of a grand world map. You can spend these towards building party skills and learning new item crafting recipes.
Each region has its work for hire available from the town Inn, as well as quests you can uncover by exploring and visiting locations, and a specific main questline divided between two powers, which you can earn points towards completing by helping either side. The usual mercenary work is mostly divided between taking down targets and reclaiming locations from bandits, while the more high-stakes questlines involve intrigue and influence. Your actions, and who you choose to help will have an effect of course on the outcome for the region and for the rest of the game, it's just up to you how much importance you put on morals and money. This isn't all so down to earth though and is elevated by the appearance of a cannibal plague, mythical hunt animals, and legendary, super strength champion targets to take down.
Most of the quests you take on involve some sort of combat, as well as the world simply being a dangerous place full of hungry beasts and bandits, which means a fight is never far away, though sometimes you'd rather be resting your party. The battles take place on isometric battlefields appropriate to the terrain and weather of an encounter, which lends an interesting addition to the battle style. Since the attacks are proximity-based, there is plenty of moving around the battlefield for each character in the fights in order to engage in combat. The turn order for your party is open, which means who to use and when is a strategic choice each time. Special moves are based on a collection of points shared between the party which you regain steadily with each rest or can temporarily earn for certain actions during battle as your members grow in level. The battles can be brutal and death for a party member means they exit your team permanently and that sometimes, running away will be the best choice.
This is just one part of the several levels of immersion in managing your party. From top-down travel across the world to the customizable camp where you must rest, feed, and pay everyone, stores where you must have the right profession in your team to craft new items, to the first person conversations with NPCs, WarTales asks you to engage in multiple systems. In there are also ancient ruins, nests full of plague rats, collapsed mines, and more. This is to the point where it's advisable that, if you want a world map already full of regions, distinct assets for each new inn, cave, or farmstead you discover, or the game to be completely translated from the original French all of the time, the very earliest Early Access launch is not going to be for you.
In WarTales Shiro Games are creating a brutal, intriguing, and often rewarding medieval world, which while low on fantasy, is full of things intent on killing you. This fits with the way it engages the themes of war, displacement, and sickness with a mature lens. It's a game working both as a dense strategy RPG and management sim at the same time and, with the number of quests available in each region, is a richly ambitious, if currently spread thin approach to game design.
TechRaptor previewed WarTales on PC using a copy provided by the publisher.