While card games and board games continue to dominate Nintendo’s platform, it’s not often we see recreations or inspirations of the table top gaming world also injected into the genre. Wartile does just that by having us push our Viking pawns into Norse mythology all wrapped up in a fully realized table top setup. Can this title help usher in more from this genre of real-life games, or will it just collect dust after a while?
In Wartile you’ll take control of a small war band of Viking raiders out to accomplish a variety of quests. Early on some of these objectives include sacrificial offerings to the gods, setting bear traps, or even cleaving pumpkins for a Halloween inspired event at the time of this review. While the game does attempt to do its best with contextual tutorials as you’re onboarded, you’ll likely find yourself a bit confused as to what type of game this is. Since your character units are typically static until moved or engaged in combat, it feels like it would be a turn-based-strategy game, but in fact it is not. Instead, it’s more of an active battle system with units having rapid cool-down timers, which slightly impacts strategy. Ultimately what I found in my beginning minutes of the game is that I had to overcome the visual static barrier, and play it more like an RTS, swapping between my war band of three ragtag warriors, and actively moving them to different tactical spaces on the hexagonal tiled levels.
Once you’ve completed a bit of the introductory quests, the remainder of the game’s features really start to open up. Your main menu is quite visually cool in that it represents your table, and atop this table is the map with some water effects rippling through it. Along the sides are cases of your ability cards and a rack with your miniatures perched. As you progress you’ll unlock up to a total of seven Viking miniatures, but only three of your choice can ever enter a quest, as far as I could tell. Every area you enter is a micro board and diorama that is highly artistic in terms of the sculpting and texture use. Seeing the trunk of Yggdrasil with a surrounding cliffside was quite jaw-dropping, but I did wish some of the stages were a bit larger to offer more path choice for my war band. Instead, although there are some split paths seen, you’ll progress through each of these dioramas fairly linearly to complete your quests. At least I never felt lost in any quest, which is always a welcomed attribute.
In terms of strategy and deployment, there are a few main factors that come into play with Wartile. The first is that as you meet objectives and finish quests, you’ll unlock more ability cards that can be used by your Vikings. You’re allowed to select five to be used, and there’s a heft locked deck that helps expand on your strategies later on. My biggest complaint with this ability card system is that I felt I didn’t have a clear understanding of several of the cards real uses early on, and in fact some of them felt a bit useless to me given how my quests were playing out and the groupings of enemies I would encounter. Nonetheless, I’m sure others will find more uses than I did.
Each Viking can also be equipped either by finding gear in chests during a quest, or by purchasing gear from the local merchant on the main menu. The merchant feature feels a bit incomplete, as gear is just staggered visually on a split board, and the contextual pop ups aren’t super helpful. The same goes for the actual Viking customization screen as well, in that comparing equipped and inventory items comes across a bit more lackluster and almost unfinished than I would have expected, thus making it slightly more confusing than I think it needs to be.
Selecting a quest is another confusing aspect. On the Campaign map, you’ll have highlighted places you can travel to, and suggested level recommendations, however your characters don’t actually have any XP or level up. Instead, it appeared to me that gaining ‘levels’ was simply accomplished by finishing a new quest. This mechanic further confused me in that while I was gaining new gear and potentially making my Viking crew partially stronger, it felt a bit arbitrary to me in knowing that I was any better off to head into the next campaign quest.
The quest progression is another slight letdown for me, in that there are limited boards you’ll travel to, and you’re also forced to repeat the same quest up to three times, just with higher difficulties. I really had no desire to play Tears of Eir, an introductory quest, over and over again. Further frustrating is that unfortunately even playing in TV mode, I encountered multiple game freezes, that regrettably happened after I had successfully completed a mission and was sitting on the results screen. I rage quit once after having meticulously planned, and barely survived a rather challenging mission on the 3rd difficulty that took 20 minutes of my time, only to have the game freeze up on the results screen and my progress be lost, forcing me to replay it yet again.
Still, general gameplay is fairly decent. There’s some light puzzle solving now and again, but mainly you’ll be engaging in tactical active combat against skeletons, cult leaders, and other warriors. Animations are decent, and it’s really easy to see health statuses, but not always clear how much damage anyone is dealing, so you’ll find yourself gambling with your own characters’ lives in hoping that they’ll let off that final blow before you take one in return. Since the game is more of an active battle system that can lead to combat frustration, there’s also a slow time button that does offer some reprieve to allow you to think through your on-the-fly strategies a bit more which I greatly appreciated.
Wartile brings a nifty experience to the platform, and there’s a lot of underlying cool mechanics and presentation elements that do work for the game. If anything the game felt a bit unfinished and more like a polished beta. I wanted more out of the merchant, and a stronger sense of connection with the Viking war band. The objectives weren’t always clear either, and it felt like more guidance was needed. I can’t speak to how the Switch port compares to the PC counterpart, which came out on Steam back in 2018, but there’s more to this game I’d love to see come to fruition.
- Graphics - 7.5/107.5/10
- Sound - 6.5/106.5/10
- Gameplay - 6/106/10
- Lasting Appeal - 5.5/105.5/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Wartile brings diorama-based table top gaming to the Nintendo Switch with a Vikings and Norse mythology fictional theme. While the game excels at making a highly creative and unique artistic presentation, many of the game’s features felt somewhat incomplete, marred further by a lack of clear game progression and a missed opportunity for stronger miniature character leveling up. Still, gameplay is fairly fluid once you get used to it, and the thematic settings are great. If you’re craving a digital table top micro-experience, Wartile might be something you’ll want to check out despite its shortcomings.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.