You can tell from WARSAW‘s brutal introductory cinematic that it doesn’t pull any punches.
Providing a harrowing look at the Warsaw Uprising, a major World War II operation that took place in the summer of 1944, WARSAW is suitably uncompromising. After ensuring you know the basics with a series of short but effective tutorials, it truly drops you in at the deep end.
Putting you in control of the Polish underground resistance, back at your hideout you can manage your forces, equipping them with weapons and skills, or even improving their rank if you have the required medals. You can also buy and sell supplies, repair weapons found during missions, recruit help, and more. The usefulness of all these functions will obviously be a bit limited when you first start the game though, so you’ll be wanting to see what missions are available to begin the game proper.
Spread across multiple districts, you’ll find that WARSAW gives you a choice of multiple missions to tackle. Whichever one you choose, however, the others will be failed – time doesn’t stand still in other locations while you go about your business. You quickly grasp that success in WARSAW is a balancing act; you need to undertake missions in locations which you feel are most under threat to keep them on your side. Though if one is beyond hope, you might just decide to sacrifice it in order to further your hold elsewhere.
Once you’ve chosen a mission, you then need to choose who you’re going to take out to complete it, and also what supplies to take. That’s another balancing act, as you want to make sure you’re carrying enough ammo to deal with any enemies that you encounter, but also leave enough space for any items that you can loot. After all, anything you can lay your hands on is useful to the resistance’s efforts.
Missions are carried out by you moving your squad’s marker around a map to complete objectives. Your objective might be to reach a certain location to check it out, for example, or wipe out certain enemy units. Along the way various opportunities will arise as well, such as discovering supplies just laying in the street or stumbling upon a building that piques your interest. Interacting with them can be fruitful, but there’s always a risk that something isn’t as it seems. Sometimes you’re better off giving things a wide berth, and that includes combat if it’s unnecessary, as it’s brutal.
Battles are your typical RPG fare. Your squad takes up the left hand side of the screen and your enemies the right. You get a move, or an ‘activation’ as the game calls it, for every squad member you have, although you can act two or three times with the same character if you want. You might not be able to though, as each move costs one or more stamina, and each character has a maximum of three stamina segments at any time. The less stamina a character has, the more vulnerable they are to enemy attacks, too. Each side makes a move one after the other, and when all moves have been used, the turn is over and another commences.
Each squad member has a variety of skills to use, some afforded by the weapons they’re equipped with and others determined by their class. To be effective in combat, you need to consider each squad member’s attack range and special abilities. Taking cover also helps, as well as flanking enemies – in this case attacking enemies that are in a different row to the attacking squad member. Fail to balance your aggression with maintaining your squad’s health and a member may die. Permadeath means that you really won’t want that to happen, but c’est la vie.
Complete a mission and you’ll reap the rewards, as well as be presented with a status of your resistance efforts. It doesn’t usually make for pleasant viewing. You’re also treated to an event and the end of each mission. You might get a new team member, for example, or have your decision-making skills tested with an incident for you to deal with. Then you return to the hideout to manage your party before setting out on yet another mission. Rinse and repeat until you complete the game, or simply lose interest I guess.
Honestly, I’ve not played much of WARSAW yet, but my experience up to now has felt like an uphill struggle. Though I’m guessing that’s the point. Battles are demanding, and with injured squad members needing to rest for days before being fully operational again you can’t rely on an A-team to take out on every mission. But you need to keep at it, successfully completing missions so that the momentum of the uprising is maintained. If it drops to zero then its game over. You fail.
Due to its demanding nature, WARSAW certainly isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Those who like a challenge will probably lap it up, though. Available on Steam right now for only £18.99/$23.99, maybe give it a go if you think you’re up to the task.