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Project Warlock 2

Project Warlock 2

As a critic and as a retro FPS enthusiast, I am a big fan of Project Warlock, the 90’s fps throwback developed by a sole developer born in 1999. 4 years after its release, the game remains my comfort food. While not in the same league as the big boy retro throwbacks like DUSK, AMID EVIL or Ion Fury, it held its own space as a mix between DOOM, Wolfenstein and Hexen while adding certain modern touches to its gameplay. I called it “one of the best FPS of 2018” in my review and that still stands, at least on a personal level. So I was obviously very hyped for Project Warlock 2. I quickly got my hands on a review copy as soon as the game launched in Early Access and I’ve been spending some quality time with it. With a broader scope and a bigger budget, Project Warlock 2 is already rated “very positive” on Steam. But regardless, here are my two cents on the game.

Project Warlock 2 is a retro-inspired first-person shooter developed by Buckshot Software and published by Retrovibe. The game was released on Steam as an Early Access product on June 10, 2022.

Bigger and Bolder

Project Warlock 2 is a direct sequel to the 2018 game and puts you into the shoes of three disciples of the Warlock. Supposedly, each hero has their own chapter and they come with their own set of weapons, spells, and playstyles. In the Early Access period, you can only play as Palmer, the first disciple who is sort of a jack of all trades type of character. The current version features the first chapter consisting of 6 huge 3D levels and features dozens of 2D enemy sprites for you to gloriously dispatch. The weapon count has been ramped up to 20 and the awesome weapon upgrade system returns. Heck, there’s even a location-based damage system. Overall, Project Warlock 2 is aiming to be a bigger and better version of the original and seems to take fan feedback from the original and put it into action.

Gore Maze

The biggest change made in Project Warlock 2 over its predecessor is the level design. The first game tried to replicate the level design of early pseudo-3D FPS by featuring 2.5D maze-like levels with very little verticality.  The levels in the sequel are huge by comparison with multiple paths, a whole lot of verticality and secrets that are not just about spooning every wall you see. The six levels present in the current build are not consistent in their quality and polish as the last two levels definitely need some work. But that is what Early Access is for. The rest of the levels are absolutely awesome and each can even take you upwards of 40-60 minutes to 100%. The first level, for example, is a huge fortress maze with multiple pathways, well-hidden secrets, highly detailed with varied texturework and choke-full of over 500 enemies. The first chapter alone succeeds in representing the strides made by the developer in 4 years and gives a taste of good things to come. I did run into a few bugs such as getting stuck in the terrain and a secret not triggering. I also found the automap a bit confusing to navigate. Some of the sections in the levels can also get quite confusing due to their complex architecture and the pace of the game. I’m also not a fan of monsters spawning behind you constantly as it can get jarring quite fast (remember DOOM 3 anyone?). Other than these gripes, the first chapter (at least the first four levels) is a marked improvement in terms of level design and sheer variety.

Power Fantasy

The gunplay is one of the major highlights of Project Warlock. The developer has doubled down on the combat this time around, giving the player more opportunities to cause some bombastic action. The gunplay is still beefy and chonky, with the player able to gib lesser demons to towering giants with a fantastic arsenal of weapons. The addition of a location-based damage system, a combo meter, new enemy types, redesigned spells and new weapons of mayhem enrich the gory combat further. The weapon upgrade system is back and is awesome as usual, giving the player the ability to turn their rifles, shotguns or cannons to overpowered tools of destruction that look and function differently from their base models and each other. If I had a suggestion for this system, it’d be to let the player respec their weapon upgrades to allow for more experimentation rather than starting a new playthrough. The decision to redesign the spells is also a good move as the spells in the first game felt very underpowered compared to the guns. The inclusion of boss fights at the end of each level is also a nice touch.

There are only two difficulty modes in the current build, with more planning to be released as future updates. The first game was a bit too easy even in the hardest difficulty mode and I’m happy to report that the sequel offers more challenge in the second difficulty setting. But don’t fret- the difficulty is not unfair and is mostly a balanced affair. The presence of both autosaves and quicksaves also take the place of the awkward lives system from the first game. These are welcome additions that the fans have been asking for. Of course, balancing is an issue with some weapon upgrades and boss attacks and the dev is actively taking notes on the forum for such things.

Gibs, Gore and Bulletstorm

Project Warlock 2 is also a step-up in the visual department while maintaining the same pixellated art style as before. Maps are more varied and colorful, and weapons and monsters are highly detailed. There’s also a shitload of new particle effects and gib animations. But sometimes there’s just too much going on on the screen at the same time that it’s hard to make out what’s happening. This is an issue in monster closets especially as the screen will be covered in chonky gibs, gore and other visual effects. In these moments, mindless spray n pray seem to be your only option.

I’m also not a big fan of the new soundtrack. The main theme of the first game was my ringtone for a long time. The rest of the music fit the tone of the game as well. However, in the sequel, the advertised “heavy-metal music” is just not that exciting or varied, especially when compared to other hard-hitting boomer shooters. But as with the rest of the game, this too can change in the final release.

Real Talk

Project Warlock 2, even in its current Early Access build is what a sequel should be – it’s got bigger maps and more refined gunplay all the while retaining the fun factor present in its predecessor. While there are lots of improvements to be made during the Early Access period, Project Warlock 2 is shaping up to be one fine sequel.


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