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Warlander Review

Nick Shively Updated: Posted:
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As the somewhat spiritual successor to the Xbox hit Happy Wars, Toylogic attempts to recreate that feeling of light-hearted castle warfare with Warlander. Unfortunately, Toylogic missed the mark this time around and delivered a mostly generic title that seems more focused on monetization than interesting gameplay.

Unhappy Wars

While Warlander starts off with a fun base design, it quickly flounders in any of the other core aspects that would make it stand out. First off, let’s take a look at the visuals. While the graphics themselves are not bad by any means, the art style simply doesn’t stand out. There’s a lot of detail in some of the armor and weapons, but for the most part Warlander has a standard medieval cartoon vibe. 

Outside of the premium cosmetics, only available with real money, most of Warlander looks like it could have been built with premade assets I’ve seen dozens of times before. Warlander simply feels bland and generic compared with Happy War’s goofy, cel-shaded art.

The generic art style could be forgiven if the gameplay was really good. However, it’s just okay. Massive 20v20 armies smashing into each other across three lanes MOBA-style is honestly a pretty good time. Teams are divided into squads tasked with offense, defense, and special operations, but players are free to go anywhere they want. 

There are multiple key objectives on the map that need to be captured, such as towers that let you respawn closer to the enemy and catapults to lay siege. There are no NPCs and the towers don’t shoot back, but controlling these objectives provides an important strategic advantage, so all of the actual combat is PvP (no creep farming here). 

The end goal is not about racking up kills but instead destroying your enemy’s core. In order to do this, you’ll need siege weapons, or the occasional giant robot, to bust down the enemy keep and knock its core out. If neither core is damaged, the team with the most towers at the end wins.

The biggest downside is that the skill ceiling is fairly low, which makes the core gameplay loop quickly become stale. At the moment, there are only three classes: Warrior, Mage and Cleric. Each class can equip 2 weapons that each have 2 skills. The Warrior and Cleric will always have a sword/hammer and shield combo along with a ranged weapon while the Mage’s ‘weapons’ are simply generic type spells like Fireball or Magic Arrow. Additionally, each character can equip a Team Skill with a relatively long cooldown that either does a significant amount of damage or buffs nearby allies.

Most of the standard weapon skills have a standard cooldown of 10-30 seconds while the Team skill is typically 60 seconds or more (possibly shorter with higher level and grade abilities). This means that in a long fight, you’ll spend most of your time using standard attacks, which is fairly mindless. 

Things are a little better for the Mage because you can consistently rotate between both of your weapons and skillsets, but the Warrior and Cleric don’t necessarily want to switch to a ranged weapon in the middle of a brawl. Furthermore, the time to kill in Warlander is relatively short and often you’ll use both of your skills and then instantly die because you won’t have a defensive ability available and the enemy will have all of their offensive ones.

The way progression works in Warlander is that you earn experience and item drops after each match. If you receive a duplicate skill it will upgrade the current skill, and after hitting certain milestones, you’ll unlock new titles you can apply to your characters. These titles are incredibly important as they’ll increase the base stats and their CP, which dictates how many and the level of weapons, armor, and abilities they can have equipped. Basic characters start at 0 stars with 5 stars being the max.

However, there is a drawback to using higher-star characters. During a battle, players must hit a certain valor level before higher star characters become unlocked. This can be achieved by obtaining points in any manner, such as killing enemies or destroying battlements. Once a higher star character is unlocked, they can be spawned in battle, but they also have a cooldown timer until they can be used again. Finally, characters cannot share equipment.

Unholy Grind

This is where the terrible grind and monetization system for Warlander comes in. Items cannot be shared between characters. Items and Star level provide a significant bonus to stats. Therefore, having more, higher quality items will objectively make your characters stronger in the game. 

For example, my base level Warrior has 300hp while my decently equipped 2 star Knight has 470hp. If I move that equipment to my Warrior he now has 430hp, but he still won’t have enough CP for the upgraded weapons. Not every upgrade simply increases stats but other titles will provide a percentage-based increase to damage or defense.

This is an annoying system that promotes heavy grinding, but there is also a pay-to-win aspect. Potions can be purchased with premium currency that provide increased experience, additional item drops, and improved item drop rarity. Additionally, more character slots and decks can be purchased with premium currency, which allows more flexibility. 

Finally, there are two tiers of paid season passes that grant additional items and leveling bonuses. It should be noted that the experience and item drop potions can also be bought with in-game currency. However, that currency is earned slowly and the potions are relatively expensive, and in-game silver can also be used to buy new items. Essentially, a free players would never be able to keep up with a paying player who has a season pass and/or constantly buys potions.

Equipment can either be obtained randomly at the end of each battle or purchased for in-game currency at a relatively high price. The item shop also rotates items every 24 hours, so if you miss an item type you need you’ll have to wait for it to pop back up. This slow means of progression will create a massive disparity between free and paying players in nearly every interaction. 

For a while, free players will only have enough items to properly equip a single character. If they choose to build up their base character then they’ll be at an equal playing field at the start of the game, which is important, but once paying players have access to their even better geared, higher star characters it becomes a slaughter. Unfortunately, if the free player chooses to gear up their high star characters, they’ll fall behind at the beginning of the match and might not even unlock those other characters during the battle. The whole system rubs me the wrong way.

The final major issue with Warlander is that it runs a shady anti-cheat software called Sentry Anti-Cheat. According to posts on the Warlander Steam page and on Reddit, the program will continue to run after the game is closed and startup with Windows. After uninstalling the game, I personally found that the anti-cheat folder and files still persisted in my program folder and computer registry. 

Overall, Warlander just doesn’t do enough to make it feel special or justify its predatory monetization scheme. The first few matches are fun, but once you run into enemies who are objectively more powerful again and again, the fun begins to fade and there isn’t enough variety to keep things fresh.

4.5 Poor
  • Fun, Medieval castle warfare on the surface
  • Lots of character customization
  • Generic, repetitive design
  • Pay-to-win
  • Malware anti-cheat system stays in registry even after uninstall


Nick Shively