Taking Back The Old Kingdom in Warcube

When there’s a world of block people on a planet with a population of several thousand, maybe millions, of six sided cubes, and evil bandit cubes are taking over the lands, who do they turn to? Warcube is the right answer.

Warcube was originally named, Slide Tactics, and was announced online in April 2016 by game developer, Haven Made. They launched the announcement with a fancy GIF of a little blue cube taking down two red cubes in an off-white environment. As the days progressed the updates kept appearing with more GIF’s showing more things being added to the concept gameplay, such as structures, and mass fighting mechanics. Eventually updates began showing landscapes being created, with textures forming, and the concepts slowly began looking like a game. Four months after the game had been announced online, Haven Made were given the thumbs up to attend PAX where, Warcube would be seated in the PAX Rising booth. Now the game is here in Early Access as of the 27th January.

When my Early Access 0.0.1 version of the game was booted up, before you get to get into the story you get introduced to Craigz as a cube, the GIF loving developer of Warcube who insists on talking to you. He tells the player about his old job sitting in a cubicle wanting to make games for a living. He moved 2,000 miles away to Seattle with his wife and two dogs where he began development on Warcube.

The general story is about a famed, worshipped legend, named Warcube who once used to rule The Old Kingdom. One of the finest, and sharp edged cubes in square history. The game begins with the player floating in space. For a while it isn’t clear that this is an interactive part of the game, and so I sat there for over seven minutes wondering why the game wasn’t loading.

I could have pressed ESC but I didn’t want to accidentally skip something. It wasn’t until I clicked the big white block in the centre of the screen that I realised that this was an interactive cutscene. Clicking away you end up hitting a button after rotating a cube, which leads to a flash of white and then a floating bearded blue entity talking to you in a booming voice. There are no subtitles, and as a hard of hearing player this was awkward for me because I couldn’t understand what the entity was babbling on about, although I managed to pick out key words and figured out what was going on.

“Graphically the game takes a rather gentle looking style, a vibrant soft colour theme and doesn’t really aim to impress with realistic textures. It keeps the game comical looking to suit the humour based around the games quirky elements.”

You’re given the option to choose between five cube designs. A ballerina, nude, a knight, a ninja, and a type of bandit looking cube. Then you’re given three choices to choose from to return yourself to The Old Kingdom. Lightning, a pillar of fire, or an asteroid. When you’ve landed you find the world has been overrun with red bandit cubes that have conquered many areas of the map. Some blue cubes recognise you as the Warcube and sing your praises, while others are oblivious to the return of your cubical wonder but still thank you for rescuing them.

You’re found by a farmer of sorts. It turns out your return to the world has left a big imprint, well, a crater and subsequently the death of one cow. Unfortunate. This area acts as a training ground for you, and gets you into the game very quickly.

For a short while the smooth, fluid WASD movements of the character feel a bit unusual, but once you get past the training grounds, you find yourself having adjusted to it. This unusual feeling is possibly due to the slight sliding effect from your movement. After you’ve mastered the art of moving around though, you get introduced to the art of attacking, starting with a puny stick and three scarecrows. Almost instantly, you know this game is going to be about combos and timing. This becomes confirmed when the on screen instructions indicate that you simply tap the left mouse button once to begin attacking, and then click and hold it a second time to slow time down, aim at your next opponent then release to launch your cube into a second attack, and then repeating the press and hold system to string a combo together, resulting in a masterfully looking violent takedown.

This system can be repeated various times until you misjudge the distance of your upcoming attack, or if you miss them completely. You’ll face a slight cooldown before you can begin attacking again, this results in you running around or parrying the enemy to quickly set up your next attack. It’s a fast and vicious system that has been pulled off very nicely and requires minimal effort.

While you may wish to attack with melee weapons, you may find yourself needing a ranged attack, which is where crossbows come in. This system is a simple right click and hold away from feeling like Legolas, the cube version. When you’re holding the right mouse button down you get two blue objects acting as a crosshair in front of you, there is a line connecting the two, the longer the hold the closer the two pull together meaning a more precise aim, despite that though, the aim may not always be precise. Arrows are limited to a certain amount, but can be recollected on the battlefield or looted from ammo chests. You can also fire arrows through a fire pit and turn them into flaming arrows! You can pick up some weapons, but you can’t pick up every weapon you come across, which is rather frustrating as there came a moment I picked up a silly knife and wanted my sword back but couldn’t find one to pick up.

A handy system in place is the zoom function, while I didn’t find myself actively using it, it does give a bigger picture to what lies ahead. Basically, you start off with the standard camera view looking downwards on your Warcube, but you have the option to zoom out a bit and see more of the area surrounding you. Good for those moments where you’re planning a sneaky attack and want to plan ahead rather than go in all cube hands blazing.

When attacking the enemy, you’ve got to be careful. While there are no bosses, or elite enemy cubes yet, the bandit that kills you will evolve. Similar to Shadow of Mordor’s system in which if you are defeated, the winning enemy will rise up in the ranks.

With Warcube’s system, your nemesis will grow in size, health, and strength turning them into a stronger enemy to take down once you respawn. At the moment there doesn’t appear to be a size cap, but after hitting a certain size, I believe it was after four or five deliberate deaths to test, the enemy cube became too big to successfully hit me and just kept pushing its chest into my cubes face. Enemy AI is also fairly simple for this Early Access release, and while they attack well in battle, when it comes to noticing the players presence, sometimes they can be unaware of you despite being right behind one of them.

The game introduces you to a tactical side to the game at the beginning with the levels scattered across the world map. There are locations that can be conquered, and there are locations that are just for exploring. Enemy locations are signified with a red banner, and entering the area and clearing them out while activating all the banners in that level will claim the location as yours. Sometimes this can lead to props being unlocked. There are also props dotted around the world map that can be interacted with and brought with you into the locations, or just generally interacted with. Before or after you enter the location, you’ll get a screen overlay that shows you details of that location. It’ll show you how many chests are within the location, how many banners, and how many enemies you have killed. When the location is completed you get everything falling on top of you, gold forms a pile, chests fall from the sky, banners the same, and then it rains enemy cubes until the amount of cubes you killed have been reached. Hitting T will bring up the tactical view, which is basically a strategic overhead of all the discovered locations. Location hierarchies are also shown in this view. You’ll soon learn that each time you conquer outposts ally units will begin to create ally units that will start to form up siege camps outside the city walls ready for a type of siege that seems to be coming in a later version of the game.

“the bugs I’ve come across so far are related to the terrain getting in the way of some attacks, or with bear traps sending you floating into the sky.”

Graphically the game takes a rather gentle looking style, a vibrant soft colour theme and doesn’t really aim to impress with realistic textures. It keeps the game comical looking to suit the humour based around the games quirky elements. The main issue with the actual locations is trying to distinguish how far you are away from some of the structures. I found myself trying to climb walls but not being able to get the hang of the depth perception. The lighting during the day is fairly flat, although shadows on objects and structures are nice and hard, but when you come across night levels, the shadows become eerie and the lighting in general becomes more fluid.

The cubes colours are easily distinguished amongst themselves, and the subtle particle effects, such as the mist flowing through locations, and smaller cube particles expelling from the enemy or yourself to simulate blood. While enemy deaths aren’t always apparent, after a second of being dead their body shrinks down into a skeleton. Not a fantastic looking death really, I expected their bodies to explode into a bunch of particles or something of the sort once they’ve been dead for a second or so. Something like a slight colour change, or a type of symbol to show that they’re dead wouldn’t be amiss here, as sometimes while chaining combos you end up attacking a rolling corpse, thus ending the combo.

The user interface is rather minimal, and has a nice transparency against the rest of the game. When you’re stringing a combo together the count is displayed in a simple font, centralised to the left, distraction free and easy to keep an eye on. In regards to your health, this pops up in the bottom right as a small cube, with each hit the cube becomes less full until the inevitable death comes for you. Displayed underneath that is the number of arrows you have, however these keep fading away during moments where you haven’t been hit or aren’t aiming your bow. Ideally keeping them in view would allow them to give constant information to the player. I kept wondering how many arrows I had left but had no way of finding out unless I fired one…then I had none.

Oh, something cool, the game is constantly running a GIF capture system and whenever you command it by hitting G, it will save the last four seconds of gameplay. Fancy, and also fitting for a developer that loves his GIFs.

When you finish a location and have basically liberated it, you end up with a stats screen before moving you back to the world map. This screen will show you an indication that you won the battle, how much gold you collected, how many chests you found, how many banners you activated, and the kill count. The kill counts icon looks like a Ghast from Minecraft, kind of irrelevant but I thought it was cool to point out. There is a character screen area that you can visit, this looks minimal, with your Warcube against a light grey background. This shows your inventory, shows you which mouse button to assign your weapons too, and also allows you to check out your stats. At the moment, I don’t believe that you can customise your cube with outfits and props except deciding what weapons to wield and the outfit you choose at the start of the game.

“you may find yourself needing a ranged attack, which is where crossbows come in. This system is a simple right click and hold away from feeling like Legolas, the cube version.”

The audio within Warcube is fairly well done, the battle sounds are nice and crisp, with slashes prominent, drawing of bows creaking, the rush of the arrows ripping through the air, and explosions. The blue entity at the beginning of the game sounded fairly quiet to begin with, but upon getting to the main menu, I found that the audio levels aren’t set to max as standard, they were set just below max. Either way, the music is wonderful, with a score designed to ensure you feel as dramatic as you look. Very heroic.

The game has only just come out for Early Access and it is already an incredibly well made game. It has areas that still need improvements obviously seeing as it’s Early Access, and some of those areas have been mentioned above, so if you skipped ahead and jumped to the end for the conclusion, then naughty naughty! I think an option for cancelling an already drawn arrow would work fantastically for when planning a sneak attack. At the moment the AI doesn’t have their own individual patterns when not in battle, so there’s no real worry about having to formulate a tactic as they’re just going to stand around. There are also a few simple spelling errors dotted around, very rare, but they are there. Most of the bugs I’ve come across so far are related to the terrain getting in the way of some attacks, or with bear traps sending you floating into the sky.

Warcube has a good amount of things that it can still add, such as a nifty cube customisation option, or maybe even bringing special attacks within combos, and while it is still in early days it is incredibly fun to play. The combat system is easy to pick up, the audio is engaging, and the map is simple to understand. It’s a game that you can pick up and play, but die too much and it starts to get harder by bringing more enemies to get in the way of taking out the bigger enemy. I certainly suggest at least giving this game a try.

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