Project Warlock 2 has been a pleasant surprise. The first Project Warlock has been a surprise playthrough of mine over the last couple of months. I picked it up for cheap during sales and played through the numerous bite-sized levels it has, instantly loving the retro-shooter. However, the game felt easy even on the hardest difficulty, with levels ending before it began.
The sequel, for the most part, gets the above-mentioned gripes of mine addressed, and boy, does it deliver. Developed by Buckshot Software and published by Retrovibe, the direct sequel brings quite a few interesting systems to the sequel and doubles down on the good part of its predecessor.
A Tale of Three Disciples, Through Labyrinths
Project Warlock 2 put players, not in the boots of the mysterious Warlock from the first game but his three disciples, who he has been training to fight the onslaught of beasts. With Warlock out hunting down more beasts and demons, it is up to the disciples to take care of the enemy culling in his absence.
As previously mentioned, players can play as one of the three disciples: Palmer, Urd, and Kirsten, though currently, only Palmer is playable during the early access. Each of the disciples comes equipped with their arsenal and abilities, allowing for a different playstyle, with Palmer being a jack-of-all-trades character.
The story takes a backseat in the game, which is pretty standard in retro-shooters, with the spotlight on the level playthroughs and gunplay. Speaking of levels, Buckshot Software overhauled them, ditching the bite-size maps in favour of longer, maze-like labyrinths filled with secrets and bestiary to uncover.
Currently, in early access, players can play through the first chapter of the game, which consists of six long levels clocking in an average of an hour or more each, depending on how long one takes to complete them.
While the first game featured small, straightforward DOOMesque stages with zero verticality, Project Warlock 2 ditches it in favour of levels containing various paths with a healthy amount of verticality and lots of enemies to dispatch, with occasional secrets to discover, with a boss to dismember at the end of the level.
Overall, the game already feels a step up from its predecessor if you consider the levels, but oh boy, do we have more good stuff.
Gibs. So Much Gibs
Weapons in a first-person shooter are one of the most important aspects, as fun gunplay can carry the shooter. Project Warlock 2 fortunately, has a fun-to-use arsenal of weapons which packs a punch and helps in dismembering the enemies.
The developers doubled down on the gunplay, letting players gib nearly all the enemies with the 20+ odd weapons. They still feel satisfying to use, and the shotgun is easily one of my favourites in the game by far. Additionally, the game introduces new gameplay systems which give players more incentives to perform well, such as a new damage system, which is location-based, and a combo-meter, which multiplies the score depending on players’ streak. Furthermore, players can use the abilities of the characters, with Palmer getting the ability to replicate the guns he’s holding, triggering the akimbo mode, and more.
The weapon upgrade system is also back. Upgrade systems allow players to permanently change their arsenal of weapons into overpowered, high-damage weapons. My only gripe with this system is the permanent aspect of it. Granted, it adds strategy, where players have to think carefully about what guns they want to upgrade. I would’ve preferred a system where we could reverse and re-upgrade accordingly.
Of course, all these systems are in place to take care of enemies, and tons of them are available for players to shoot. For an additional challenge, players can adjust the difficulty. Currently, there are two difficulty options in early access, both of which are equally balanced for a great experience and for the first time in the series, players can finally manually save their progress mid-fight.
The addition of the new systems and the improvement of the existing ones proves that the future of Project Warlock 2 through its early access is promising.
Graphics and Performance of Project Warlock 2
Even in the graphics department, Project Warlock 2 has received uplifts, with locations gaining more variety and colours. Enemies and monsters are also highly detailed, all of them retaining the pixelated art style introduced in Project Warlock. I tested the game on an RTX 3060 paired with Ryzen 2600 and 16 gigabytes of Ram.
At 1080p, the game did not struggle running below 60fps in any circumstances, even when there were a lot of particle effects and gibs flying around inside the death rooms. Given the art style, the game shouldn’t have any problem running in low to mid-tier systems.
Project Warlock 2 is the definitive Project Warlock experience, where the team of Buckshot took all the feedback from the past title and doubled down on making the game great. Coming packed with bigger maps, fun-to-use weapons, a dedicated save system and more enemies to dismember, this is what a sequel should be.
Of course, there is room for improvements, but that is what early access is for, and if the present experience is any indication, the game is bound to become better over the years.