True to its name, the Xbox Live Arcade has been a bastion for classic coin-op games. Between ports, remakes, updates and reboots, Microsoft's third parties have done a good job of keeping the 1980s arcade scene alive on the Xbox 360. But as fun as it is to play Final Fight, Contra and The Simpsons, I'm not sure we need three different versions of Warlords.
Don't get me wrong, I love the original 1980 version of Warlords. In the arcades, this Atari classic was fast-paced and always competitive. I also enjoyed the 2008 port of Warlords, although I was disappointed by the gameplay and the neo-retro paint job. Four years later, Atari took another stab at Warlords, this time starting from scratch and radically changing many of the mechanics. Unfortunately, this version was marred by a number of game-breaking bugs.
Apparently these two iterations sold well, because Atari is back with a brand new update to the 2012 remake. Not quite a sequel and not exactly a patch, this 2014 version of Warlords offers a number of substantial changes. For starters, the game actually works. Beyond that, you'll find a brand new online mode, more real-time strategy elements and gameplay that is a bit faster than the 2012 edition.
For those who missed out on the first two Xbox Live Arcade releases, Warlords is best described as a cross between Rampart and Pong. You're tasked with protecting a single castle from the onslaught of a bouncing ball. While that may not sound very threatening, you'll quickly realize that the balls will multiply, and keeping track of everything becomes a real pain. There are three other castles worried about the exact same thing, each trying to use the ball to tear down the competition's defenses. You're out the moment the ball breaks through the castle walls, and the last castle standing is the winner.
This enhanced remake uses the basic formula, but also adds a few major changes. Now you can choose between different warlords, each with their own abilities. There's magic that can be cast, improving your defenses and hurting everybody else. There are also triggers in the arena that create new obstacles, such as monsters that will attack the different castles. Now there's a bit more strategy than simply knowing when to catch a ball and release it.
This 2014 edition also features a lengthy story mode, which tries to flesh out the competition between the different warlords. The different missions aren't that much different from your basic quick match, but there are a few boss battles and it gives you an incentive to play against the computer.
Of course, the real fun of any version of Warlords is when playing against other people. Although developer Griptonite Games added a lot of extra nonsense, the core mechanics are still a lot of fun when playing locally. Unfortunately, it's a ghost town online. Every attempt to play against random people was met with complete disappointment. If you have friends willing to part with the five-dollar asking price, then I'm sure playing online will be a viable (and fun) option.
Despite the changes, I had a hard time staying interested in Warlords. I appreciate what the developers were trying to do, but I feel like the game was undermined by a controller ill-equipped for the job. Even with improved graphics and added real-time strategy elements, I couldn't get over how imprecise it felt. It's also not as fast as my memories of the arcade game, perhaps because of the added elements. Either way, this five-dollar remake left me wondering if we really needed another version of Warlords.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.