LadiesGamers Project Warlock

Project Warlock Review (Nintendo Switch)

Game: Project Warlock
Genre: Action, FPS
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PC, Xbox One, and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Buckshot Software | Crunching Koalas
Age Rating: EU 16+ | US Mature
Price: UK £12.99 | EU € 14.99 | AUD $22.50 | CAD $19.94 | USD $14.99
Release Date: 11th June 2020

Review code used, with many thanks to Crunching Koalas!

The Doom Days

The original Doom and Spear of Destiny (a spin-off of Wolfenstein 3D) have a nostalgic spot in my heart. When my dad used to take me to his place of work I played the shareware versions to death on his old PC. I had no sound but that didn’t matter. For every first person shooter (FPS) game my dad saw after Doom, he would always say, “It looks like Doom.” It’s a special memory to me, and it plays a big part in why Doom was a game I jumped on for GameBoy Advance at launch despite its notable graphical downgrade from the original.

But I’m not really attracted to modern FPS games these days; they just seem to lack that something special from the era of the original Doom. So when games like Project Warlock come along, they do pique my interest. But is Project Warlock just another Doom clone or something more?

LadiesGamers Project Warlock
Like DOOM, right?

Back to basics

Project Warlock, as my dad would wisely say, “looks like Doom.” Here, you play a Warlock who looks like a bearded John Romero (who worked on the original Doom) on a mission to eradicate all evil. No long cutscenes, no nonsense, just straight-to-the-point FPS action.

You start off with some basic weapons: an axe, a mechanical wand that can shoot small or charged shots, and a kunai (a ninja’s throwing melee weapon). As you progress through the game you start gaining a variety of weapons like the pistol, crossbow, good old shotgun, flamethrower . . . there are too many to count. These are gradually given to you, giving you some time to try them out and see if they suit your play style.

What I liked is that no weapon felt useless or throwaway. Even the melee weapons were really useful and fun to use. The kunai can be charged up and thrown at enemies at a distance, as well as used at close range for a quick attack.

LadiesGamers Project Warlock
Is that you, John?

You can also use magic spells at a press of the left trigger. These vary from a simple light to illuminate areas to freeze abilities, although you can only unlock new spells by finding special books hidden in the levels.

To select weapons you use a weapon wheel by holding one of the shoulder buttons. This slows down the action but doesn’t pause it. On the Switch I found this finicky and hard to use, not ideal when enemies were coming to eat me. Fortunately you can change this to button presses.

You can also change a variety of gameplay settings in the options menu, which was most welcome. For example, you can lock the y-axis so that the game plays more like old games such as Wolfenstein 3D and of course Doom. You can tailor the game to play the way you want, which is great.

As a stage prepares, the game remarks “Get Psyched,” a reference to Wolfenstein 3D and Spear of Destiny, which really took me back.

LadiesGamers Project Warlock
The wand can also be charged up to fire a devastating blast.

An episodic project

The game is separated into five episodes, each with several levels and a boss fight at the end. Most levels are small corridor designs, though every now and then you find an open area. This small claustrophobic feel works really well on the Switch, especially in handheld mode. The game ran really well in both handheld and docked modes.

The level designs are pretty simple: find the keys to unlock doors and find the exit—just like the old days. Except this time, the exit actually attacks you! It’s a helpful indication that you have reached the end, but it’s also a sneaky last challenge.

LadiesGamers Project Warlock
A moment of calm to upgrade at the Workshop.

While corridors sound boring, I was really invested in this design. Unlike the old days, I rarely got lost in the corridors of Project Warlock. The game does give you a handy map in the top left of the screen. Each level also has a variety of secrets which I enjoyed searching for, usually discovered by shooting a wall or opening a suspicious-looking wall. But just like the old days they weren’t always easy to find.

At the end of each of the five episodes is a massive boss fight. The bosses are overpowered and the fights feel highly unfair, but at the same time they are incredibly satisfying to take down.

LadiesGamers Project Warlock
Gonna need a bigger gun.

Time to upgrade

After a few levels, you return to the Workshop, which acts as the game’s hub area (an area that connects many other areas together). Here, you can upgrade your guns or magic spells with star points you find hidden in the levels. You can also spend skill points to improve your character’s stats and skills. To gain these points you collect gold or jewels littered around the levels.

Usually in older games this adds to the player’s score but this experience mechanic felt much more useful. The ability to upgrade was most welcome, and you’re really spoilt for choice on what to sink your points into, making the multiple playthroughs desirable to try different character builds.

LadiesGamers Project Warlock
Plenty to upgrade in the game. Usual in a old-school shooter but most welcome.

Don’t hurt me

I was surprised by how hard the game was in the early stages. The game offers multiple difficulty settings, and on my first playthrough I actually had to tone it down to the easiest setting as I kept dying in the first few levels. Even then, I was had a rough time.

Fortunately, the game’s retro-inspired soundtrack kept me coming back for more until I memorized some of the early stage maps. Once I got into the flow of the game I was able to return to harder settings with more success. But the steep difficulty to begin with may deter some gamers.

LadiesGamers Project Warlock
Explosions do harm enemies and yourself if you get too close.

Customize your retro look

The graphics are delightfully retro. There’s a plentiful amount of retro violence and pixel blood.  Considering the game is built with the Unity Engine, it has an impressive downgrade feeling to its design that takes you way back to the old days of PC gaming, pulling on the nostalgia strings hard.

There are many levels across a variety of environments filled with baddies possibly inspired by films and games. There’s an ice station area with tentacle enemies that reminded me a lot of the fantastic horror film The Thing. Then there is the desert area that gave off serious Serious Sam vibes.

There are a phenomenal amount of options for you to tweak in the graphical settings. Something almost never seen on console, let alone the Switch. There are so many sliders you can adjust to make the game look just the way you want. I particularly loved the retro filters that are inspired by old micro computers like the ZX Spectrum, as well as several others.

LadiesGamers Project Warlock
The options available to tweak graphics is incredible.

The project as a whole

Project Warlock is an old but refreshing old-school FPS game that feels right at home on the Switch. If you’re not a fan of this genre, then this game is unlikely to change your mind. But fun gameplay with a welcome progression system make this an FPS not to be missed by fans of old-school shooters. The references to the past are great, but Project Warlock stands alone as its own game too. It’s a great little game to enjoy in handheld mode or blown up on the TV. Nostalgia guaranteed in all the right ways.

Final Verdict: I Liked It A Lot!

Project Warlock took me back to simpler times in gaming and reminded me of fond memories with my dear old dad. With that in mind, I would like to dedicate this review to him. Father’s Day is coming up in the UK and the entire time I wrote this review I kept thinking my dad would say “this looks like Doom” and it made me smile. So thanks, old man.

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