Project Warlock 2 aims to take players back to the shooters of yesteryear. With its blend of retro shooter gameplay and a few clever twists, developers Buckshot Software aim to capture the same blood, bullets and badassery from the classic like Doom and Quake. After spending roughly 5 hours with a preview build, it seems to me they are on the right track.
I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes to shooters. I enjoy simple, minimal stories, open levels, secrets, and having multiple ways to blast my enemies into chunks of meat; Project Warlock 2 managed to tick all those boxes. The most I got for the story was a simple paragraph of text during the character select screen. I could only play one character in this build, Palmer, a young man who hopes to follow in his master’s footsteps and fight evil. That’s about as deep as the story got, and it made it pretty clear that this isn’t where the developers put their time and effort. It was simple, non-intrusive, and to the point just like the classics, so they nailed that element pretty well.
What caught my attention was the level design, which was easily the standout from my time playing. The six levels I played were all non-linear sandboxes, with each having huge amounts to find and discover like secrets hidden throughout each level, including collectables and additional ammo. They also took a while to complete, as the levels were massive, taking me 30-45 minutes on average to beat and one tougher level took around an hour. Thankfully they didn’t drag or feel too empty, with a good flow of enemies to fight and plenty of items and areas tucked away to find. Levels also had a nice mixture of open areas and tight corridors, keys to find, switches to unlock areas, the full monty of retro shooter level design, and it made it fun to traverse. It’s a bonus that the levels looked great too, having a mix of 3D and 2D graphics that made for a visually impressive world that captured the retro vibe well.
With these great levels came great gameplay. Even with the limited arsenal I had in this preview, what I had was more than enough to keep me satisfied with blasting demons into pulp. Each of the five weapons I had access to felt fun and great to use, and swapping between them to handle different enemies and situations grew to feel very natural the more I played. The inclusion of some more varied weapons was a nice surprise such as the staff, a low ammo but high damage magic weapon that was great against bosses and large swarms of demons. All the weapons have a few upgrades too, adding alternate fire modes and changing how they play, like making machine guns to laser rifles or adding extra barrels to the retro shooter staple, the shotgun.
Given the game has Warlock in its title, it makes sense that there’s some magic at your disposal too. As well as weapons, you have three spells to use that add more tools to our demon-mincing toolkit. Again, I only got to see Palmer’s spells, but these were still a ton of fun to use and felt like a natural inclusion to the gameplay. You can’t go wrong freezing enemies and watching them explode with dual-wielding shotguns, can you? The gunplay was best during boss fights, having me using all my abilities and weapons whilst making use of the level space to handle the boss and enemies. I needed to use cover, pick up the right amount, time my magic spells, all that jazz, and it played and felt awesome.
Although, for all its positives, there were a few downsides I experienced. The most notable being those same great boss fights, which on multiple occasions saw my game slowly deteriorate with sound glitches, have hits not register, and have the framerate dropping so slow the game became unplayable without a full reset. Along with that, the enemies felt quite unbalanced, especially at later stages, with certain enemies damaging or outright killing me with only a few hits, even on the easier difficulty. It made the latter half of the game drag at times and having to restart the whole game multiple times certainly put a dampener on my enjoyment.
All that said, I come away from Project Warlock 2 having enjoyed most of my time with it. The balancing issues and game-breaking bugs were a major issue at times, but when the game was working it felt fun, punchy, and solid even with the limited amount I saw. With a few patches and tweaks to fix its current issues, I can see this game being a real gem, and with the rest of the content like characters, more levels, weapons, and spells to look forward to, it’s worth keeping this on your radar if you fancy some old school fun.
Project Warlock 2 is currently in Early Access on Steam and Epic Games Store. Check out the game’s Twitter for more details.