Get psyched for Project Warlock
When FPS roots take bloom
Project Warlock is a throwback FPS that originally released back in the halcyon days of 2018, when the only social distancing going on was my refusal to go near people who are taller than me. At the time I was anticipating Warlock, but when I tried it I found it didn't quite click for me; I recall that it was surprisingly demanding on my PC, with lots of shader effects and other tech stuff I don't understand, so I didn't pour a lot of time into it.
Fast forward to the 2020 hellworld we now inhabit and Project Warlock has been released on Switch (and other consoles that cannot be played on the toilet, and therefore do not matter). I figured it would actually run well on the system, though that isn't a guarantee (glares at Apocryph), and thankfully i was correct. Warlock runs beautifully on the handheld, and I was finally able to give it a GOOD OLD GO.
It's a bit like a cross between Wolfenstein and Heretic; the maps are more akin to the former Nazi-slaughtering classic in their relative boxiness. They open up a little later but mostly they're claustrophobic mazes. The Heretic comparison comes from the magic spells you'll pick up and magic-based weaponry; the monsters, too, are close to the beasts of D'Sparil than anything from the likes of Doom. At least, they are at first. No spoilers.
It's no secret that Wolfenstein isn't super easy to go back to, so you'd be forgiven for worrying about Project Warlock's game feel, but it works. The levels are well-designed, there's an automap (hooray!) and generally you have access to the tools you need to be successful against the enemy hordes. Movement is fast and smooth and there are a ton of options to tweak the experience however you'd like. It's necessary, because Project Warlock is pretty hard.
Even on the easiest difficult, I shamefully struggled to get past the first level. Unless you take time to learn how the game works and what your weapons are capable of, it's a rough time. It's the fun kind of rough, mind you - no, get your head out of the gutter. What I mean is that dying here is, to leap headfirst into cliché, always your fault. It's a game that isn't afraid to put you in strenuous situations and you'll quickly learn, for example, to charge a shot before you wade into an unfamiliar area. Between stages you can level up your Warlock with collectable points, though upgrades are expensive and said currency tends to be hidden in secret areas, which are hidden behind false walls which I couldn't personally see any "tell" for. This may well be because I am a stupid idiot, mind.
It's not without its flaws; I found switching armaments to be mildly awkward with a weapon wheel that didn't seem entirely responsive, and with multiple levels per stage you may find yourself in for the long-ish haul when you just want a quick go. I'd criticise the sheer amount of post-processed bloom going on, too, but you can switch that off or adjust it, so it's a moot point.
A strong effort, here, and not afraid to be "unfair", Project Warlock is striking both aesthetically and in its pacey, compelling gameplay. It gave me lovely Apogee vibes.
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher.