To what degree can a game rely on its writing? Warlocks II: God Slayers is a decent little platforming hack-and-slash game by Frozen District and published by Fat Dog Games that enthusiastically bills itself as being "humorous." So does the writing elevate the experience? And more importantly, is it any good in its own right? Truthfully, while the setting and characters have their charms, they are not quite enough to make the game truly special.
We are the Warlocks
In Warlocks II, you have enraged the gods, and now they are out to get you. You begin the story imprisoned in a cage but are set free by a decidedly shifty shaman. You are then told to join the Order of Warlocks. Things swiftly get out of hand from there, and it's not long before you're saving entire races and murdering gods. That may not sound like a particularly comedic setting but Warlocks II is, in fact, hell-bent on making the player laugh. However, being consistently funny is always a challenge and unfortunately, Warlocks II doesn't quite deliver.
The comedy is crude, but that's not the issue. Crude humor executed properly is the basis of many a classic comedy, and while it may appear brainless, in actuality, it takes genuine wit to pull off properly. This is what Warlocks II (mostly) lacks. The tone is set by one of the very first jokes. A bottle is being passed around a campfire and somebody refuses it, loudly announcing that the last person to drink "has herpes." That's it. There's no setup or context. I suppose we're just supposed to be rolling around on the floor at the mere mention of the disease. One of the characters, the bratty, selfie-taking witch also feels a bit played out if I'm honest. It's a stereotype that has already been done to death.
Elements of the world, such as the adorable cowmammoths and the gods themselves, certainly have a more original flavor, but the writing was consistently a letdown. The characters are fun, but they just aren't given enough to work with. The characters you actually play as rarely open their mouths, let alone say anything funny. I feel like drunk goat warriors and child pyromancers are concepts crying out for an interesting personality but the player character is never fleshed out to any significant degree.
Hack Your Way Through
The meat-and-potatoes gameplay of Warlocks II is classic hack-and-slash with a nice sprinkling of new ideas that keep things interesting. You choose from five impressively distinct characters, Cormag the drunk goat being my favorite. Each also have their own set of abilities with cooldowns. Some characters fight from a distance, and others get up close and personal. The number of different abilities and the way they interact really lends the combat a great deal of depth.
Take Cormag for example. He can eat and drink in order to restore health, but doing so increases his intoxication, which can induce negative status effects at high levels. You can either deal with this by regulating how much you eat and drink or swap out one of your abilities to "Barf" which is used to make Cormag vomit. This decreases his level of intoxication and resets the cooldowns of your other abilities, meaning that being drunker actually gives you an advantage. This becomes an opportunity to refresh your cooldowns. The interplay between the abilities of the characters are interesting and fun, elevating the combat above the generally simplistic systems of the genre.
Complementing the complexity of the player character is the depth and variety of enemy minions you fight. Warlocks II understands that enemy variety should be much more than cosmetic. Different behaviors are what really make combat interesting. There are monsters that leap into the sky and rain fire on you from above, swordsmen that relentlessly pursue you, enemies that can perform complex acrobatics, and much more. Your foes provide a perfect foil for the player character, and defeating them — or even just working out how to beat them — is always rewarding.
The art and music are just as inconsistent as the writing. The characters are all imaginative, well animated and have great visual personality, but the aesthetic design of the levels is extremely bland. The colors and detail are nice, but there's little variation outside of some of the boss arenas. It felt like I was running around in the same space for most of the game. The music is fun but repetitive. It could have been used slightly more sporadically to stop it from stagnating the way it does.
Warlocks II doesn't quite achieve what it sets out to do, but it's far from being a bad game. The gameplay and the world are solid, but the writing lets it down slightly. It just doesn't have the wit and sparkle of something like Undertale or Psychonauts. If you like 2D hack and slashers with novel and interesting gameplay, then give Warlocks II a look. The writing isn't so bad that it ruins the experience; it's just a shame that it wasn't a little more clever.
GameLuster reviewed Warlocks II: God Slayers on the Nintendo Switch using a code provided by the publisher.