PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox
It was by playing the demo for Project Warlock II that I realised I’d never written about Project Warlock, a first-person Hexen-like that has been in my pile for months and months. Finally, at long last, I’ve given it the time it deserves.
I should begin by saying that Project Warlock II‘s demo is really fantastic. The sort of rapid, brilliant fun where reaching the end of its single, large level was heartbreaking. It was this that made me finally play the first game, released in 2018, properly. Which was, at first, a little jarring. I wonder if they’re not making a mistake calling the follow-up game a direct sequel, rather than emulating its inspiration, picking a Heretic to Project Warlock‘s Hexen.
Project Warlock is very clearly inspired by Hexen, with its mix of magic and melee, albeit with the twist of throwing in a whole arsenal of Doom-like weapons too. This mixture of axes, magic staffs, and shotguns makes for an FPS that really lets you approach it with your favourite combat style, or even switch up tactics in any given situation.
It is, overall a superbly well-executed 2.5D shooter, dozens of maps collected together in five wildly differently decorated chapters. Each new chapter introduces a whole new setting, aesthetic and range of enemies, making for a constantly refreshing game. Between each chapter’s five sections (each themselves a number of maps) is the “Workshop”, where you can spend discovered upgrade points and levels on new spells, upgraded weapons, and improving your own skills like health, firepower and strength.
It is bursting with secrets, to the point where I can play a level as meticulously as possible, discovering a bunch of hidden rooms, blasting weak walls to find corridors of treasure (I’ve not quite worked out why I’m collecting treasure, beyond the satisfaction), and yet on completion learn I only found half the secrets in the map.
I love the mix of weapons, and just how differently the game feels if you attempt to take on a level with an axe or a ricocheting nailgun. Also, without a quicksave, but with a very generous supply of dropped health, it provides those excellent moments of scrambling on 11 health points to survive until the next first aid kit. Levels aren’t so big that dying is a massive setback, however that the game only gives you a certain number of lives prevents nonchalence. Although I should say that having reached the halfway point (the game is enormous), I’ve only died twice on Normal difficulty.
Project Warlock II is very different to all this! It’s a far more sprawling game set in enormous levels, with the significant addition of a quicksave. Also, it’s in something closer to 3D, has a jump, verticality, all that good business. I think, based on the demo, it will be the better game. But it’s also not due out until next year, and you need some gibbing action right now.
Project Warlock is a ton of fun, made with the art and sensibilities of those ’90s super-fast FPS classics, but with enough modern thinking that it doesn’t feel dated. Just that the enemies completely change in each of the five chapters blows me away, let alone that the levels are all so well put together, and so replayable with their wealth of secrets. This is a ton of fun.
Oh, and it’s currently just £3 on the Humble store!