A struggle for any new franchise is finding a way to make it stand out. Sometimes it’s concept, other times story but in almost every case the experience lives and dies off how well this is done. Warborn attempts to make a turn-based strategy RPG out of mechs, an idea that has worked well for various franchises in the past. With a variety of pilots, various units, and a wide array of situations, is Warborn an experience you need to play, or is it a forgettable RPG?
Warborn tells the story of a war from a variety of different perspectives and angles. As a result, even if most of the dialogue and words exist to explain why this battle matters, later campaigns with previously opposing forces adds further insight into how various groups felt. For some, this will make for a fascinating adventure that is rather insightful, but for most, it will just be a bland story that exists to explain fights. You really don’t need to know why the different colored robots are bad, especially with a convoluted background of the situation and setting, yet that is how most of the campaign is presented.
Unfortunately, where the campaign falls short, so does the actual combat. Despite this being a tactical RPG, it’s oddly linear. There is no denying high-level play will take some genuine effort but most stages come down to a rather linear set of objectives. Move your units to neutral locations, capture enemy bases, and destroy enemy units.
It sounds about as simple as it actually is. Once you figure out the ideal positioning of your unit, there are a small handful of attacks that you can use to overwhelm and defeat your foes. Most attacks are fairly simple and come down to what you’re looking to achieve. Weaker units are simply exchanges before one destroys the other, with larger or more powerful units benefiting from buffs and debuffs.
Depending on how well you control the field, you can summon additional support and ultimately overwhelm enemies. Often times your opponent will attempt the same thing, so a well-placed attack or smart play can make quick use of them. This was certainly my experience when I ended in an endless loop of defeating peons and having my peon sniped. Eventually, I just got my powerhouse unit there, used the advanced sniper, and got both units in a single blow.
If there is really an issue with Warborn, it’s that everything feels so hollow. The best way to understand this is to compare it to the Super Robot Wars series. On paper, both franchises are similar, yet Super Robot Wars has far more personality. Part of this stems from the fact characters are from popular anime/manga series, yet, that isn’t much of an excuse when your moves are bland and boring. The aforementioned snipe was little more than a shot being charged for a moment, followed by a single line hitting both units and then taking a knee. This is a far cry from the amount of excitement literally any attack Domon Kasshu might throw and takes away from the overall experience. I’m not particularly excited to chase after different colored robots, have one point a gun at the other, shoot, and see their health decrease.
This is rather unfortunate, as the base is certainly there. I could see Warborn being a much better experience with more razzle-dazzle, possibly a more engaging story or even better art. However, everything is presented like that homework assignment you have to do but clearly don’t want to. Once you realize it’s little more than moving units, summoning additional forces, performing predetermined tasks, and trading blows, it becomes a tedious slog through this war.
Warborn Review – Verdict
While Warborn is not technically a bad game, it’s fairly unremarkable. The story is bland, combat is more tactics than anything else and there isn’t the charm that made similar franchises work. I don’t have a Laharl to drive the experience forward or Domon Kasshu to deliver a monologue that results in a powerful blast, it’s just a very technical tactical RPG that has solid tactics and little more. For some, that is probably enough but there are better options out there.
[Editor’s Note: Warborn was reviewed on the PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]