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Warsaw @ Pax East – Hands on impressions

Relive one of WWII’s legendary urban battles, as one of the doomed resistance fighters of Warsaw

Playing a game where you are not the chosen hero/person of destiny/etc is not the norm. Being just a regular grunt, fighting a small aspect of a bigger conflict is not usually compelling enough to dive too deep into for a medium that relies on a nigh unkillable protagonist to act as your avatar. Halo Reach comes to mind as an excellent example of this trope – where your Spartan III was destined to die from the loading screen, and you were just there to experience the slow fall. Warsaw, a new WWII game developed by Pixelated Milk and published by gaming company joins these ranks as it tells the story of the Warsaw Uprising – a 63 day rebellion during World War II – that ended in defeat and destruction.

The game has been compared to Darkest Dungeon quite a bit – both in dark tone and gameplay – and I can see the resemblance. The layout and art style evoke the new genre started with that release, and it’s an ideal setting for a new game of this type. Knowing that the vast majority of characters you’re interacting with and trying to keep alive will all be killed by the end, makes many of the gameplay choices feel both compelling and sad. Take a look at the release trailer to get an idea of how truly bleak and melancholy this game is:

The team responsible for the game prides themselves on the high level of historical accuracy you’ll find in the setting, characters, and situations. As the Uprising was a civilian partisan battle, the ranks of your heroes run the gamut from women, to old men, to children. The sight of a small child, wearing a helmet several sizes too big, hit me quite hard as a father of two young boys. To think about the young loss of life in war is difficult, but to interact with that loss is quite another thing all together.

Overall, the gameplay is quick to pick up, and compelling. I’m not a huge strategy game player, so I found myself a bit lost from time to time – but the devs have included a robust tutorial system to help you out if you get lost. Battles are almost JRPG reminiscent, with turn based action, heals, area effects, buffs, and special attacks. I managed to wipe out my entire squad on my first attempt due to mismanagement of my movement and healing – so it’s not a walk in the park by any means.

in speaking with Krzysztof Paplinski, one of the producers, he summed up the goal of the game in both providing an interesting game about WWII’s urban battles, and to expand the general knowledge of this key moment in Polish history. With the recent gaming renaissance in that country, it’s inevitable that more and more games seen through the unique lens of the Polish experience will be coming out. If Warsaw is the leading edge of this drive, it’s a great example. I’m excited to see how the game turns out upon release sometime in Q3 of this year.

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