Warparty is a real-time strategy game with a dinosaur theme. What's not to love? It certainly looked like it had an interesting premise, but the developers Warcave and Crazy Monkey Studios are trying to make a game in a genre firmly dominated by Starcraft II. That's a pretty lofty ambition, to say the least. At the moment, Warparty is in Steam Early Access. The developers have been regularly patching the game as they work towards a full release on March 28th. Unfortunately, the game's campaign is not yet available to play. I decided to instead spend my time playing a few skirmishes and trying out survival mode.
There are three races in the game as it stands today. The Wildlanders are a tribe of humans who tame dinosaurs, the Vitharas are an elf-like race that uses ancient spirits as workers, and the Necromas raise the dead and use tribal humans as minions. The races are largely the same in the broader aspects, but subtle mechanical differences give each of them their own niche. For example, the Necromas can spawn zombies and you can invest in research that allows you to make them more numerous and more powerful. I spent some time with each of the races and found them more or less evenly-balanced, although I'll happily concede that I'm not an expert on real-time strategy games.
Warparty feels like an old school RTS. You have a relatively straightforward tech tree that simplifies things compared to its forebears. Whereas some games require buildings or units to be built before you can upgrade, Warparty simply asks that you upgrade the game's equivalent of a Town Center. Each successive upgrade unlocks new buildings, abilities, and technologies for the player to use.
There are only three core resources in Warparty. Players acquire food through berry bushes, player-built farms, and hunting NPC creeps (mainly dinosaurs) on the map. Crystal is an advanced resource acquired from crystal deposits or setting up trade caravans. Finally, players gain power over time, and they can speed up the process by capturing shrines or building totems. Food and crystal are freely tradable at a building that combines the functions of a market and trade center. Since farms can essentially generate infinite food, this means that completely running out of resources in a game of Warparty is impossible.
One of the ways to measure an RTS game is how the micro and macro works. Simply put, macro is the "big picture" of the game and micro is the "small picture". Keeping your army production, resource income, building construction, and resource income is the macro portion of the game. The micro portion largely consists of moving units around and having them complete actions.
Many of the expected conventions of real-time strategy games are present in Warparty, but there are some glaring omissions that I found quite annoying. As an example, it's entirely possible to queue commands by holding shift. You could group up a bunch of troops and send them on a complex path of movement by marking waypoints with shift. However, this doesn't work for everything. I was unable to order a building constructed and then use shift to queue up the worker to return back to gathering supplies. This is terribly inconvenient as it adds a little more micro to the game for no good reason. There are several minor issues like this, but I imagine that they could be easily corrected in a future patch.
After playing a few AI skirmishes, I decided to try out the other main mode. Survival has you defending a central point against five avenues of approach with enemies coming at you in waves. I played on Normal difficulty, and the inability to queue certain commands really hurt. After a little over 90 minutes of gameplay, I became overwhelmed. What I found interesting was that I was ranked Crystal I on the Survival leaderboard at the 35th position out of 200. That's one rank below G'on Master, the highest possible rank. If I were just a little better, I probably could have hit the top rank without too much effort. That doesn't speak to the challenge of survival mode insomuch as it speaks to the game's low population, and that's not the best sign when it's a real-time strategy that doesn't yet have a campaign.
I noticed some other issues here and there. The AI is largely serviceable, but non-combat units are dumb as a rock. Healers (who have no combat ability whatsoever) will simply stand still and get killed rather than attempt to automatically flee, adding even more work onto the already intense micro burden. The range of towers feels painfully short at times.
Some other expected conventions don't apply either. For example, right clicking on a damaged building with a villager selected sends them there rather than automatically ordering them to repair it. Starcraft figured this one out in 1998 and it's a pretty glaring omission that needs to be rectified. I feel that the inconsistency with queuing commands is one of the most annoying oversights that will need to be fixed before the gameplay feels tight enough.
Graphically, Warparty is aesthetically reminiscent of the big bulky models in Warcraft III. It's a fair bit more colorful than that classic Blizzard RTS. The maps are a little lacking in visual detail, but the game's models are well-made. As for the sound, the sound effects are serviceable and the music is thematically appropriate. I did find the barks for enemy attacks a little bit annoying, especially as they would be fired off every second or two when an off-screen battle is going on.
So, is Warparty worth your time? At the moment, I don't think you'd get much out of it unless you really enjoy fighting against the AI. Or, if you have someone you know to play the game with. The online population is just too small. The full release of the campaign on March 28th will likely give Warparty a nice population bump. That would be the time to dig in. Add the game to your wishlist and keep an eye on it until then.
TechRaptor covered Warparty on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.