Project Warlock (Switch) Review
When the armies of hell want to take over the earth you need the toughest Warlock around. Enter Project Warlock and everything you need to know about the story we just covered. Have you gotten bored of playing the old Doom ports on your Switch? Looking for another FPS with a retro look? Prepare your spells, grab your shotgun and prepare to take on Project Warlock.
Project Warlock is very much inspired by classic first person shooters such as Doom, Heretic/Hexen and Wolfenstein 3D. Developer Buckshot Software with creator Jakub Cislo have made this love letter to the classics. While you are taking on the forces of Hell, the Warlock finds himself in a variety of locations such as a castle, Antarctica, Egypt and Industrial.
Throughout these worlds, you’ll be facing a variety of deadly foes. Some are kinda cute like the bats, some are more monstrous like they have come from Quake or Diablo. Regardless your job is clear, anything that moves must die. Navigating these old school feeling mazes will take you right back to the 90s. It can be a little too easy to get lost, especially when door textures can blend in with wall decorations. From the very start, it’s wall to wall action, the demons don’t want to give you a moment’s peace. Bad news for them is that you’re a destructive whirlwind of death and magic that will cut them all down when you’re not picking up keys or pressing buttons.
Something you’ll notice quickly is that Project Warlock is tough. Just like the old days, prepare to be on the hunt for first aid kits often. There are a few difficulty settings, Standard gives you a few lives to clear each episode. Each episode takes 2-4 levels to complete, lose all your lives and you have to start the episode from the beginning. Casual gives you unlimited lives, and if you die you just have to restart the level. Or you can choose to be Hardcore, where you have one life. Die, then you have to start all over! At first, I very much recommend the Casual mode until you can get used to the game. The initial difficulty may be off-putting to some, at first I struggled to get into the game because of it. If you die in a level it’s back to the beginning regardless, it doesn’t help when you’re killed with the exit in sight. Part of the initial difficulty is how abruptly you’re thrown into the thick of it. There is a seal blocking the exit that shoots fireballs at you, this set me back more than once and is never explained. You learn from trial and error, but being sent back to the beginning of the level feels like a harsh method of doing it. I am very aware that older games never held your hand either, but you never felt like they were just not telling you important information.
After that initial difficulty spike, it improves immensely. The growing collection of weapons helps. As you destroy the evil forces and explore the levels, you’ll also gain points to upgrade your weapons and unlock spells. You also level up and gain points towards improving your stats or hit points, or have more mana to unleash. You can only spend these points once you finish the set of levels and go back to the Workshop. Dotted around this base are machines for you to perform your upgrades. It’s a little confusing at first, but all the machines give you access to the exact same menus. This could be a holdover from an earlier version. Each weapon has upgrade options, for example, you can turn your Pistol into either a Magnum or a flare gun. The Magnum uses more ammo to do more damage, the flare gun sets enemies on fire. Be warned that if you select one upgrade you lock yourself out of the alternative, once again the game fails to communicate important information. I recommend checking up online what upgrades do before leaping in. I know you shouldn’t have to, but the game doesn’t share enough information.
A more current addition is a weapon wheel to select your weapon from. Not only that, more than one weapon sits in each section. For example you can have the staff selected, hit Y and you swap between the staff and the pistol because they’re in the same weapon category. Weapon switching felt awkward when using the weapon wheel, especially so because the action doesn’t pause while you’re trying to change weapons. You can turn the weapon wheel off and cycle between weapon sets using the bumper buttons, I preferred this option by far. The developer has said that there is a fix in some form to address the weapon wheel, but the alternative option is perfectly fine for the time being.
It took me a few levels to discover the real Project Warlock, initially needing to make some tweaks to get that sweet spot. Locking down the Y-axis worked wonders, while it’s a preference thing, the free aim felt out of place in a game that didn’t seem to need that level of aiming.
Warlock captures the look of the 90s FPS well, with sprite-based enemies and obstacles placed into a 3D space. The look works the majority of the time, the 3D space makes the sprite work stand out as you move around it. However, as a result, some details can be difficult to clearly see. Some environmental decoration can be hazardous to your health, but it’s also just easy to get overwhelmed with a room full of monsters while there’s decoration also obscuring your vision.
Warlock also manages to nail the music to send those demons straight back to hell while listening to some rocking chiptunes. There’s a lot of different tracks in this game, whether it’s rock, metal, industrial, EDM or a mix. I could easily listen to it in the background outside of the game, I found it really adds to the fast-paced intensity when the going gets tough.
Visual filters can be applied to make the game look like a variety of old school computers such as the C64 and of course a Gameboy. Regardless of what you pick, the game always looks decidedly retro. Initially I wasn’t aware that the retro shader was on or that it could be turned off. While the retro computer filters are a neat touch, it looks pretty nice without shaders on.
Project Warlock is a blast when it all finally clicks. It does take some warming up to after being thrown in the deep end. With some small tweaks, I managed to deal with the more fiddly issues. If you’ve finished off the old Doom games on your Switch and need another dose of that retro FPS, Project Warlock definitely goes some way to scratch that itch.
+ Captures 90s FPS so well
+ Music to slay the demon hoards to
+ Enjoyable to play
- Gets off to a bumpy start
- Doesn’t communicate important information well
- Weapon upgrades aren’t undoable