Warlords Awakening Review
Remember Elite Lords of Alliance? If your answer is “no”, I wouldn’t blame you. But it’s back again, this time under a new publisher (PLAYWITH), and known as Warlords Awakening. The MMO ARPG has had a long and storied run, despite virtually no exposure in the West. It’s an inexpensive ARPG to get into, but does it really do anything to make it stand out from the throng of other ARPGs? For every part of the game that I find to be interesting or fun, I find another two or three that are just dreadful or disappointing. This game failed twice already, so it’s a bizarre thing to see it back once more, and as a buy-to-play. Visually I enjoy it though, and the combat has been a lot of fun. The goal is for the player to become an Elite Lord, and the character classes even have “Elite Lord” forms, which is a not-so-subtle nod to the original MMO. I’ve also included my livestream where I played the game for the first time, so you can get a good look at how the game plays.
The previous two iterations of the MMO were incredibly pay-to-win, but they were also free-to-play. Now with the game being buy-to-play plus having a cash shop, it still feels like it’s an attempt to make some money off the intellectual property that was acquired. The actual story is murky and hard to follow, made more frustrating by the irritating dub. From little boys that sound like they are in their mid-30s, old women that screech every time a dialogue option comes up, or the goblins. I spent roughly an hour on a map that featured tiny, annoying goblins. While it’s great when games like this have a fast respawn rate, I’d kill a pack of these goblins, and just a few seconds later, their yowling and baying would echo across my headphones again. This made that particular part of the game completely unstreamable, even with the audio turned as low as it possibly could be. The long and short is that there is an evil force at work, and we, as the would-be Elite Lords must go forth, do battle, and save the world.
Warlord’s Awakening features five classes, and four races, each class only offered to certain races. Each of the classes has three Battle Stances, a difficulty rating, and their own role in the game. Your Tank class is the Blood Knight (Guard, Sword, Destruction Stances), and your Healer class is the Psychic (Holy Spirit, Sorcery, Halidom Stances). Then there’s Mage, which I played in Early Access (Ignition, Ice, Nemesis), Hunter (Cannon, Rifle, Bow), and Assassin (Claw, Dagger, Scythe). The Races are the Kartu (Human-esque), Liru (Short Elves), Sapiens (Tall Dark Elves?) and Naru (Tall Regular Elves, female only). The Naru are female only, and. . . can only be Assassins. I get having race/class combinations, but why are the “Guardians of the Masdella” only Assassins?
For the most part, the beginner’s experience has been solid. Most of the important game features were explained, like equipping pets, completing quests, the monster journal, and achievements. They also explain putting gems in your equipment, which is pretty handy to know. It does not, however, explain what the Key Parts are for. Occasionally, you’ll come across red items that are “used in the forging of a Dungeon Entrance Key”. But there’s no explanation of which parts you need, where you create them at, and how many of each item you need. The game “does” say where they drop at though! I had to go to their wiki to find out where the key parts drop and for where/what those dungeons are. I do wish it were more clear in the game though. A buy-to-play where you have to farm keys for dungeons? That’s another choice that makes absolutely no sense. Warlord’s Awakening explains that you have an Elite Lord form whenever you build the meter (between your HP/MP pools), but it does not really go into detail that you have multiple stances, and can switch between them almost at will. I primarily played with a controller, and the controller button labeling disappeared the first time I used my mouse for anything.
I needed to use the keyboard for the map, and managing menus is much faster with the keyboard/mouse, but the actual combat felt so smooth and so enjoyable with a controller. The controller setup is pretty limited though, so if you want more of your skills to be usable, I recommend using a keyboard. You’ll get more out of the game that way. When I used the keyboard and mouse I could have extra bars to set hotkeys on, and I didn’t have to guess or experiment to find out what button procced what ability. I primarily played an Assassin, which has three weapon types: Scythe, Dagger, and Claws. Each form has its own skills and abilities, and as long as you’re not delivering a melee attack, you can switch to another form, and each set of skills has its own cooldowns. This made farming incredibly easy. I’d mount, run around and grab everything I could, use my cooldowns, swap, use my cooldowns, and by then everything was dead. The stance changing feature could be made a little more clear though.
On the subject of combat, let’s talk about your movement abilities. There’s a dodge roll ability that has a cooldown, sort of like you’d see in Guild Wars 2. It doesn’t move terribly far, and has a delay before it activates. When you press the button, after a short pause they roll, so it feels like you have to know “when” the enemy is going to hammer you with a knock-back or stun. In most cases, it didn’t matter anyway, because the larger enemies have so much reach that I would still get knocked back, even if I started to roll out of the way. That sort of hit detection definitely needs work. The actual, non-dodging combat is fun though. Being able to switch between weapon styles and create combos was satisfying, and instead of having tons upon tons of skills, it uses a skill upgrading system. When you level up, you receive a skill point, which can be used to modify your skills across the three stances, or a series of generic buffs (HP, MP, et cetera). There are also Special Skills that can be learned, and an Elite Lord skill that can be picked up. Each of the skill traits has four tiers, and those have their own levels that increase the effectiveness of that particular talent. The fourth skill options appear as you level, so you have that to look forward to. I’ve also noticed that there are pieces of rare gear that increase these talents beyond their normal capabilities, even if you haven’t unlocked it yet. However, while this is an interesting system, it also costs Silver to improve your skills. At the start of the game, you’re gaining maybe 1-3 copper per enemy kill, and it costs at least 1 silver to improve a skill. What’s the solution?
Enemies drop tons upon tons of random item chests. They almost always drop items that are for your class (I think I’ve only seen four or five that offer something that’s not for me, so that’s a positive). You can sell these for copper and occasionally silver, and you will have more of them than you know what to do with. At least the boxes tell you what level they are. But you also need to disenchant/break down these for crafting reagents. The armor/weaponsmiths can craft gear at fairly reasonable amounts of materials and Silver/Gold, for low-level stuff anyway. The really good gear is a horrific, terrible slog. They only make gear for 20/40/45 though that I’ve seen. So you’re going to spend a lot of time emptying your inventory of these boxes, opening them, and deciding to sell or break the contents down. I’ve picked up a lot of incredible, powerful armor this way though, and your gear goes towards your Mettle score, which as I said above, is your rough Power Level. On the topic of inventory though, this is a buy-to-play game where you also have to spend Gold on increasing the size of your inventory. The first row you can unlock is 1 gold, then 10 gold. I haven’t even had 10 gold in the game yet, and I’m level 20. This is definitely a tactic of free-to-play games, where you can spend real money in addition. I don’t understand why a buy-to-play game would have such a small inventory.
This talk of inventory and Mettle leads me to Costumes. You can spend real money on Kumi, which is the real-money currency. Costumes are “mostly” cosmetic. They offer 50 Mettle, and at a time where my Mettle is 250-300, that’s a pretty significant number. Weapon Costumes also offer the same amount of Mettle, so you can stack more raw power for PVP arenas with cosmetics. So you can wear a body costume, a hat costume, and weapon costumes. Mettle is a figure that comes from adding the item level of all your gear together and is used as a requirement for Hero/Raid Dungeons. That tells me if you can’t find the gear good enough to do something, you can spend money to help supplement you, and that’s a terrible decision.
The actual gameplay of Warlord’s Awakening is standard fare for ARPGs – you walk up to NPCs, get quests, and wander into the world to obliterate all things in your path. The respawn level is insane, so you actually don’t need to move away from one spot, if that’s what you want. You can stand right next to an item you need to collect/break and it won’t take all that long for it to respawn – less than a minute it felt like on many occasions. The actual combat is smooth and fluid, the visuals and music are solid and enjoyable, but the dub again is absolutely dreadful. I would have never muted the game if it weren’t so horrific and annoying, grating on my ears. Though this is supposed to be a multiplayer game, I have yet to see a person queue for a dungeon with me and saw maybe one person per map that wasn’t me, total. During the actual time of this review (when the game had already launched), concurrent players were in the 25-50 range. That number has expanded to about 180 people, but I still seldom see anyone. Which honestly is fine with me on a personal level, because I’ve had zero problems soloing, and enjoy playing ARPGs alone. But if this is supposed to be an MMO, raiding and high-end dungeons are going to be a nightmare without a regular group. I have players on public chat. But it’s usually to see if they can get access to a cheat program, or looking to buy Kumi. It doesn’t seem like their anti-cheat software works very well if people are boldly talking about it in public.
Fun, But: 2.5/5 (Fair)
I kept saying to myself as I was playing and writing this review, “This is fun, but. . .” and that’s really disappointing. The only really enjoyable part for me was the combat and the general look of the game. But it’s plagued with so many weird and upsetting choices. As you defeat enemies, you fill up a Monster Journal, which gives you rewards for killing enemies. But the standard/first reward you get is almost always worthless. It’s usually a potion or an MP potion. How is that useful, when I have 300 of them already? You also cannot have a Pet at the same time as a Mount. Pets come in two flavors: Mounts and Not-mounts. The Not-mount pets offer stat bonuses, and can also be purchased on the real-money store, for those that want the better/rare Pets. It’s also not made clear that you can sacrifice your pets to each other to train/increase their power. The Pet eggs do drop pretty frequently in the open world, so you won’t be wanting for them. Plus they’re pretty damn cute in most cases. There are simply too many things about this game that are “Good, but”. This particular ARPG only tries desperately to bring a dead brand back to life, one that was already marred by the stigma of being pay-to-win, that it would have to do far more than what it has to win back the trust of players. Perhaps people would be more trusting, if it were free-to-play, and had a reasonable, fair monetization system. It’s not the worst cash shop I’ve seen, but it’s still not appealing. Warlords Awakening is something I probably would have enjoyed more, were it marketed as a single-player title, without some of the ridiculous, free-to-play decisions slapped in to a buy-to-play game. As much as I loved the combat and the battle stances, there are simply far too many free-to-play ARPG options that are fair and balanced in terms of their monetization, that I would pass on Warlords Awakening. The combat is what really sold me on it initially, but everything else around it just lets me down.
Warlords Awakening Screenshots
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