The first-person shooter market is extremely saturated. It's hard to find a new shooter that does something different than its predecessors. More shooters are going back to the basics with titles such as Dusk and Amid Evil. In a similar vein, Project Warlock is an FPS taking inspiration from classic titles such as Shadow Warrior, Blood, DOOM, and more. It's hard to live up to such legendary titles as those. Thankfully, Project Warlock provides enough new ideas and action-packed gameplay to stand among its legendary peers.
Project Warlock came from the mind of Jakub Cislo, who was 18 years old and still in high school at the time of release. Considering how young he is, it's a daunting task to capture the old-school charm of 90s FPS games - yet he succeeded. In Project Warlock, you'll take the role of a gun-toting, spell-slinging protagonist on a mission to eliminate evil. You'll fight in castles, an Arctic environment, and even Egypt.
Project Warlock's greatest achievement is capturing the sound and feel of using a weapon. One of the most important aspects of any FPS is to have guns feel beefy, and the ability to see the carnage unleashed from these weapons. Project Warlock features some of the most satisfying gunplay in any FPS in recent memory. The shotgun feels incredibly impactful with its loud blast and the visual effects of enemies blowing up from your gunfire. Little details like the shotgun shells hitting the floor are icing on the auditory cake.
Weapons in Project Warlock feature a great amount of variety. You have two melee weapons that are actually useful in most situations. Charging your magical staff blasts through enemies like a railgun. The TnT feels like Blood's satisfying dynamite bundle, so it's always fun to use. The SMG is a clear homage to Shadow Warrior's, which is upgradeable, allowing you to wield them akimbo.
You can upgrade each and every weapon, changing how the gun (or melee weapon) works at a fundamental level. Players gain points to upgrade weapons throughout the campaign. You can turn your ordinary pistol into an incredibly powerful magnum. Upgrading your crossbow to shoot out gigantic bolts allows the ammunition to pierce through enemies. There's a lot to choose from in Project Warlock, so player choice is a focus of the gameplay.
Guns aren't the only thing you have in your arsenal. True to the name, Project Warlock allows you to wield spells as well. Players can obtain the ability to forcefully fling dynamite at enemies with their magical powers. Another spell allows you to freeze enemies, but my favorite is the ability to conjure up a lightning bolt, zapping enemies to dust.
Lastly, players also have the ability to upgrade stats and obtain perks. Stats are simple, allowing you to expand your health or mana pool, or carry more ammo and deal more melee damage. On the other hand, perks are available for purchase every five level-ups. Perks are a bit more complex. The "Ghost" perk allows your character to run through enemies. The "Melee Master" perk, on the other hand, makes your melee attacks that much more effective.
Because of Project Warlock's wide assortment of upgrades, one might say it has roguelike elements. There is a clear sense of progression because you will gradually become more and more powerful and effective at clearing levels. I thoroughly enjoy the variety of options provided in Project Warlock, and I appreciate that every upgrade feels different.
Unfortunately, some aspects of Project Warlock are not as great as its gunplay and upgrades. The first issue is in the difficulty. Project Warlock is not a hard game, but it is extremely punishing. On any difficulty past the easiest Casual mode, players have lives. Once your lives diminish, players must restart the entire game from scratch. As far as I could tell, enemies are no less difficult in Casual than Normal, so if you don't want to lose your progress, it's best to go with the easiest option.
If you do decide to go the more difficult route, players can find lives hidden throughout levels. Still, lives are very much a finite resource. A few mistakes could mean the end of your game. If you lose too many times on the final boss, it's back to the beginning with no upgrades or level-ups.
Another issue is the level design. So far, many of the levels in the first three episodes of Project Warlock feel far too cramped and confined. Most take place within enclosed, maze-like environments. I prefer larger indoor spaces or big outdoor arenas, and sometimes I feel like levels are too repetitive.
Despite this, the enemy designs and sprite work are both exceptional. The first episode's medieval-like creatures remind me of Heretic and Hexen. Meanwhile, the second episode's Arctic laboratory environment had some truly unsettling monsters. One reminds me of the Wampa from Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. That's always a plus in my book.
I can get over the shortcomings of Project Warlock because of the exceptional gunplay and progression. Weapons are all quite unique and the meta-progression keeps me hooked even when the level design is lacking. Jakub Cislo's next foray into the genre is sure to turn heads. Until then, Project Warlock is an FPS that shooter fans need to add to their arsenal.
TechRaptor covered Project Warlock on PC via a copy purchased from GoG.