Reviewed for the Xbox One.
At the end of World War II, Warsaw (the Polish capital that gives its name to this title) was still occupied by the Nazis. On August 1st, 1944, the Polish resistance rose in rebellion against the Nazi forces in order to liberate the city before the arrival of the Red Army (Soviet Union). Roughly 50,000 men and women formed the ranks of the Polish rebellion, more than half of which were civilians. They fought against the powerful German army in a trench warfare. Warsaw helps explain this history to us in a crude but factual way, that is entertaining for the player.
The Rebellion Begins
Warsaw, developed by Pixelated Milk, is a game that draws on two different genres, turn-based strategy and role-playing. The objective is to carry out missions to defend and liberate the six districts of Warsaw. Combat and resource management are two key components of each mission, which transpires over several days. The game begins with the option to start a campaign with a tutorial, which is highly recommended. The game takes us to a district of the city that we see from an overhead point-of-view.
At first glance, the map of Warsaw looks like a war board game. There are action points, what are spent on steps we take to complete the mission tasks. If we don’t complete the requirements of our mission before depleting our action points, the mission is a failure. Indicators around our player marker direct us to nearby points of interest. We won’t know what it’s about until we’re close enough. There are three types of markers: Combat Stages, Random Events, and Supply Crates.
Fight Your Way Through the Streets of Warsaw
Represented by a couple of Nazi soldiers on the board, combat stages are the most common marker on the map. We can find these in two different ways: occupying a position in sight that we can approach whenever we want, or with a vision radius that will pull us directly into combat as soon as they discover our position. Combat takes place inside a 2D-depiction of the world, in which our team is always on the left with our enemies to the right.
The combat mechanics are straightforward and gain depth as the game progresses. Each turn consists of four alternating movements between the enemy and our troops, distributed in a 4 × 2 square grid. Executing character actions consume between one and two action points. And after each turn, we recover one action point for each remaining team member. Each character has unique abilities and attacks that depend on the weapon they are equipped with. In our arsenal we find different types of weapons including pistols, machine guns, rifles, and grenades. Not all attacks can be carried out from any position though. The positioning of our troops is essential to emerge victorious from these confrontations.
Prepare Your Combat Platoon Well!
Before the start of each mission, we can take up to four characters out from our hideout. We recruit characters after completing certain events within the missions. These characters are veterans on the battlefield and gain experience through completed missions, allowing us to improve our stats and learn new skills. Recruiting civilians is important as well to provide rest to our veterans. Managing both the type of ammo we have, as well as the various objects in our inventory, help us survive on the streets of Warsaw. We must also give rest to the combatants who have been injured in previous missions.
The hideout is a kind of lobby where we can see all our fighters and other NPC’s in charge of managing resources. It includes a headquarters to initiate missions, an infirmary to heal our wounded, an arsenal to re-supply ourselves, and a morgue to remember our fallen soldiers. Yes, you read that correctly. If one of our characters dies in combat, we will lose them forever. So make sure to pay attention to those combat wounds.
Random Events and Allied Supplies
Combat and troop management are key, but let’s go back to the other two types of available markers. Although random events and allied supplies are less frequent, they are not less important. Random events give us the choice of acting cautiously, with determination, or to simply doing nothing. Each of these decisions we make reward us with experience or items for the mission. But in some cases, it can also undermine the morale of the city district we are in. This illustrates it is seldom easy to choose the right path in war.
On the other hand, the supply boxes provide items and ammo for our cause. It’s the reward that we’ll receive for exploring every corner of the map. Since they aren’t abundant, it is highly recommended to get as many as possible. If our group has been compromised by the harshness of the fighting, a withdrawal is sometimes better if we have already fulfilled the mission requirements.
Other Details of Warsaw
I want to make a mention of both the artistic design of Warsaw and it’s soundtrack. A hand-drawn cartoon design breathes charisma into characters, both from the allied and enemy perspective. These designs are very recognizable and varied. The design of the combat scenes is not far behind; Warsaw is full of structured avenues, dead ends, large squares, and beautiful monuments that are destroyed as the game progresses. Additionally, the cycle of night and day through missions feels very immersive.
Although the game only has narrations of the events that happened and written dialogue, the accompanying soundtrack fits the game well. It features sweet melodies for calm moments, more epic sounds for moments of tension, and melancholic music when depicting the destruction in the streets of Warsaw. The developers undoubtedly had great taste when it came to telling the narrative of the events that occurred starting on August 1, 1944.
I found Warsaw to be a very good but demanding turn-based strategy game. The difficulty increased the longer I played, and I ended up abusing some mechanics a bit come out victorious. But I will also say that it’s a very re-playable game since you can manage your rebellion in many different ways. During my adventure I lost a character on the way, which hurt my soul deeply. But it has certainly been a very pleasant adventure. Warsaw’s design is intuitive enough to enjoy both combat and strategy equally.