Frozen District’s 2D platformer-RPG Warlocks 2: God Slayers is a bit of an oddity among its indie brethren. It’s not a reoguelike, a rogue-lite, or a Metroidvania and I must say, that feels so refreshing! For once, you get to adventure through hand-crafted levels with scripted enemy positions, story and quests, and the death of player character isn’t severely punished. Playable either solo or in local and online co-op, Warlocks 2 is like a condensed RPG. Many of its features cover a common ground in the genre but come off very basic and streamlined. Despite the game’s seeming simplicity – or because of it – it’s damn fun to play.
The game takes five warlock wannabes through a galaxy-trotting adventure to dethrone vile Gods hellbent on controlling the known existence. The world is a fun mash-up of fantasy, modern age, sci-fi and post-apocalypse and shamelessly borrows elements from Star Wars to Cthulhu mythos, all coated in a warped sense of humor. The game doesn’t take things too seriously at all which is reflected in the playable characters, too. While an undead necromancer and a shamaness seem like ordinary RPG tropes, a pyromaniac kid and a goat warrior who rides on a dwarf are of a more peculiar kind. I chose Willow the eWitch as my main, though judging by her get-up and set of skills, she’s not a witch at all but more like a stage performer.
Whichever character you pick up, they are the last hope of Order of Warlocks to overcome evil in the world. Following a linear series of quests (and some sub-quests), you will be jumping around 2D-levels and fighting their numerous enemies. Downed foes drop money and items, like food for healing up and different equipment to wear, color-coded in the most typical RPG-fashion from grey trash to orange legendary gear. The game isn’t as loot-dependent as something like Diablo, though, and the worn apparel won’t change the character’s looks, either.
The game is divided into three planets, each having six to seven areas unlocked through questing. There’s a handy fast travel between planets and their places through a magical fireplace in an Intergalactic tavern acting as your home base. You can return to it from anywhere in the world in an instant. Each level is open to roam free back and forth in order to complete all the quest objectives. There are no quest markers or an automap to help things out and that’s perfectly fine. It’s just like in the good old days when the developers didn’t think that players are so stupid that they need guiding by hand. To be fair, though, each area is relatively small so it doesn’t become a bore to romp them through.
Twin-stick controls, with the left thumbstick controlling the character and the right stick aiming the spells, might appear strange at first but soon it becomes a second nature. The control setup allows more freedom to move and position yourself than the straight controls could. Even so, the difficulty may seem steep at the early stages of the game when even basic enemies can overcome you pretty easily. However, leveling up and upgrading the spell arsenal pave the way and before long you will notice that the difficulty is very acceptable, even for solo players. To keep up with the game’s challenge, you really don’t have to grind, either. You will gain anything you need by the natural progress as you will be circling around levels anyway and each time you return to them, the enemies are respawned which equals extra experience points from slaying them again.
The game doesn’t exactly tout its all-important upgrading system, that’s something left on you to discover. I certainly didn’t find about it for some time and already hurried to curse an assumed disadvantage as the main attack spell appeared only to scratch enemies. However, I came to realize that leveling up the character awarded spell books that can be spent not only to unlock more spells and upgrade them but also to enhance them with several additional perks. For example, Willow’s main attack spell, a throwable rose, can be enhanced to consist of up to four roses that also drop to the ground to hurt enemies who trod on them. Willow’s other spells, among others, include a Selfie to stun enemies (she really takes out a smart phone for that!) and a Quick cig to boost attack power and speed at the expense of health. Other characters will have their own uncanny takes on traditional RPG spells, too, so the game caters to all kinds of players. Different characters also add replay value once the story is finished.
It should be noted that while Warlocks 2 isn’t a Metroidvania, later in the game, when you arrive at the planet Mensa-II, you won’t make any further story progress without an air dash skill to boost the basic jump. This is something the game doesn’t hint about at all, even though the ability will be so vital towards the end. Each character has their own version of the air dash, for example, Willow’s ability is called Process: Duplicate and the tooltip for it in the skill tree really doesn’t help in describing its real purpose. When I had hit a dead end, I just took my chances and unlocked the said spell, and it worked! Now, I was able to complete the planet’s quest line and face the final boss of the game. It took about 10 hours of keen playing to reach that point.
Boss fights are often the highlight of any RPG and Warlocks 2 is no exception. Defeating insolent sub-bosses along the way, the quest line of each planet will lead to an inevitable confrontation with their main enemy. The bosses can be a loudmouthed sort but through some clever play and positioning, they come to realize your fearsome powers (the quest descriptions notice your growing powers in a fun way, too). Overall, the boss fights follow the pattern of classic video gaming, allowing even some legal cheating. There can be more or less deliberate blind spots to hurl attacks from relatively safely, at least for a ranger. The game is also generous with dropped healing items so it’s not too embarrassing to digest them whenever their cooldown allows so.
The game’s pixel art is a little rough but delightfully unstudied, full of character and all kind of wacky details. Enemies are amusingly defined and painstakingly animated. The only downside to the graphics is that everything is so diminutive that you really have to focus your eyes to make out all meticulous features. The soundscape is bit of a hit or miss, though. Some tracks that accompany the areas are really swinging but others can be a bore to listen to in their repetitiveness. When there’s a lot of happening on the screen, the music can get garbled among dozens of sound effects.
Warlocks 2: God Slayers is a good and fair retro game experience. If it was presented in a more typical top-down or third-person view, it could be a bit generic but as a 2D-platformer, it manages to feel fresh. The game does its thing with a twinkle in the eye but doesn’t take you for a fool. Some features should perhaps have been better laid out but finding about finer details by yourself used to be a basic experience in games before tutorials and on-screen helpers came to make everything too self-explanatory. Warlocks 2 is a quirky time warp back to the day when games were played for fun and leisure but its mischievous nature is totally today.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.