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Wartales offers a choice-heavy campaign with surprisingly good co-op

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wartels is an open-world role-playing game set in a medieval world, where I control a band of mercenaries as they take on that grind mentality and make some tough moral choices. That pitch itself sounds great – I’ve rarely found a big fantasy world full of treasure I didn’t want to plunder. but the real draw of wartels It’s excellent co-op play, scratching an itch I haven’t scratched since divinity: Original Sin 2,

In wartels, I choose a humble origin for my party. Perhaps we are a group of farmers trying to find a better life, or some fugitives running from the whip of an abusive captain. Fortunately, we live in a war-torn country filled with refugees, property disputes, nomadic bands of bandits and nests full of plague-ridden rats. Somebody has to take care of all these problems, and I’m happy to do so in exchange for cash, prestige bonuses, and better equipment.

In the single-player game, I control each member of my party. In co-op games, we split the load. In a game with my husband, we split things in half; In another game with three other friends, each of us controls a mercenary to start. it’s easy to start a game of war talesWhich is generous about saving progress and simplifying restarts.

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In Wartales a party of heroes fight some polar bears in the middle of an icy field.  Combat takes place on a grid, and each character is carefully positioning himself for maximum advantage over his opponents.

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Image: Shiro Games / Shiro Unlimited

While things occasionally go awry or the host collapses, it will only take seconds to get the group back together. It’s not exactly a drop-in and drop-out type of game; Before we start we need to assemble the entire crew. But that’s okay. it gives wartels The feel of a regular tabletop campaign without the stress of bothering the DM. We can hit the streets with some new find in hand, ready to kick ass and cook the pig… and we’re all out of salt.

From there, we chat among ourselves, pausing occasionally to make a decision. Should we recruit this new archer from the tavern, or save the gold for a rainy day? Should the landlord who wants to keep his lumber mill okay, or should we knock him out and let some kind-hearted refugees take their place? Should we pay for that valuable ore, or steal it and risk getting caught by the law?

The game expects some level of cooperation and agreement; You are bound to your partners as you travel in the overworld. All they need to do is click when an option prompt comes up, or when players need to leave a menu. A rogue agent can force a party’s hand by clicking and holding it for a few seconds. In the interest of harmony, our group of friends stop to consider every choice. This is where role-playing comes in, as things are usually a bit more nuanced than “punch a villager” or “flee a mean bandit”. Instead, we have to consider whether to respect local folklore, determine the morality of property rights, and in turn decide the fate of each region.

A snowy vista in Wartels, showing some of the towers and civilizations built in the mountainous parts of the map.

Image: Shiro Games / Shiro Unlimited

These varieties of gardens grow, turning from angry serfs and disputes over property rights to more of a challenge for a band of fictional heroes. The first couple of zones are relatively quiet, feeling a bit slow in single-player – but the curve creates a perfect pace for co-op. There are also options to make the game less linear by switching to scaling difficulty based on your exploration; The two runs can feel vastly different depending on your preferences.

In the course of business and negotiation work, sometimes you have to battle it out on the battlefield. Each battle is a top-down battle on a grid; It is important to get each mercenary in the right position. We can edge enemies for bonuses, take the most damage when it’s our turn, and dodge environmental effects like falling rocks or bolts of lightning. If we are not careful, we may lose our mercenaries, who are valuable investments as they gain experience, talent, and expertise.

There are a few annoyances – going to town with a full load of cargo and 10 small tasks can turn into a headache as everyone is trying to get their business done. You’ll need to get everyone in the same lobby to play, so finding an exact group can take a while. If you start a game with friends and another friend later wants to join, you’ll need to start over again to add them. I found that I had to play through the introduction zone three or four times.

But co-op RPGs are a rare treat, so these mild hiccups are nothing compared to the joy I found wartels, The story is a bit thin for a single-player game, but there’s voice acting and just the right amount of text to read while chatting on Discord with friends. I’m excited to see how our adventure develops when we hit the next trail.

war tales Available on Steam for $34.99, and has added a good deal of games during its early access period. It’s worth checking out, especially if you have a hankering for a social game with a trusted group of friends.

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