August 19, 2015 12:00 PM | John Bridgman
Good things happen when you take simple premises and add a fantastic soundtrack to it. Case in point is One More Level and Frozen District's newly released from Early Access game, Warlocks vs. Shadows, which is a 2D sprite based arena swarm game, with remarkable music accentuating the gameplay.
Immediately you get to hear some quaint medieval sounding tunes on the menu screen, which compliments the aesthetic nicely, but then the beat kicks in. I was surprised and hooked immediately at the energetic tune with good bass that still kept the pipes and strings it started with. I don't know if there's a name for this genre of music, but I'm nicknaming it "bardcore".
When you reach the warlock selection screen, you realize the game is a bit more playful than you might have expected. A variety of classes are available to choose, some magic, some melee, which is standard procedure, but you catch a few details. A pseudo Jedi character. A kid with a kitty hat (maybe a bunny hat but I think it was a kitty). A dubstep wizard.
Yes. A dubstep wizard.
Selecting your warlock sends you to a quick tutorial segment with training dummies to learn your movement and moveset, then it's off to the first arena level. Here you'll fight off waves of the titular shadows, with a variety of different attacks and movement styles of their own.
The controls are tight and familiar, so it's unlikely to take long to get used to how to fight off the enemies. This lets you focus primarily on learning enemy attacks and patterns, as well as managing your positioning and ability cooldowns to help you survive. All the while the excellent music keeps you engaged and excited to keep playing.
You'll earn experience as you defeat shadows, allowing you to quickly improve your abilities on the fly. Unfortunately the game doesn't give you much indication of what the upgrades do, so you need to feel for yourself how best to build up your skills. Without information, sadly, it feels a bit arbitrary, though it doesn't seem like a deal-breaker to me.
In addition, you will randomly find loot drops such as equipment to improve your overall capabilities, and items like potions to consume for the usual sort of benefits. In particular the health potions are a blessing, because you'll likely take a fair bit of punishment as you learn the game, and even as you get better, healing is always welcome.
The game has multiplayer, and I think it is well suited to it. I haven't gotten a chance to try the co-op yet, however the base gameplay itself definitely feels like it would be great with friends. Especially since the various classes play so differently, allowing for you and your friends to find comfortable roles both to play at your best, but also to support one another.
This game is a great time sink thanks to its variety of classes and engaging combat, yet you can also just sit down and play a little to blow off steam after a hectic day. If you're looking to fend off waves of baddies while challenging your skills and execution, give Warlocks vs. Shadows a look. Fans of cooldown based 2D action should definitely check it out as well, since it executes the formula quite well indeed.