Reposted Review: Warlords


(Originally posted on the now defunct Blistered Thumbs community blog.)

Though from yesteryear WARLORDS is still valid today

PROS: Frantic, and fun. There’s even some meta in there.

CONS: Dated graphics. Short play sessions except for the devoted.

WTF?: Why does a 30-year-old game have better box art than most new releases? I mean seriously, look at how awesome it is. I mean REALLY LOOK. Now go look at the MW3 cover. COME ON!

I remember as a child, visiting my grandparents, stumbling upon old relics. Old keepsakes, conversation pieces, knickknacks, or even photographs. I would ask them about what these items were, what they did, what purpose they served. A lot of times this resulted in a boring story. But other instances they ended up telling interesting, captivating stories. Chapters of history that would never be found in school books. Sometimes I feel like the shoe is on the other foot these days when I’m at work, or at a hangout, or even spending a night at a bar with friends. Often times the subject of video games will come up, and someone I have a decade or more on won’t catch my withered cranky reference. This resulting in a strange history lesson that both intrigues the curious modern gamer, and bores the crap out of the guy trying to watch Sportscenter.

But before every one of you leave this blog to go tweet, or off to the malt shoppe, or whatever it is you whippersnappers do, here’s an old timer’s flashback.

Back in 1980, when I was about to turn four, there was an arcade game called Warlords. Around a year later it hit the Atari 2600, and it is here I first experienced it.  Warlords is hard to define. It has the puzzle game element of Breakout or (For those born into the world far later than the seventies) Arkanoid. Paddles are involved, bouncing boulders into walls are involved. It also has the frantic action of a hockey game, as combatants try to defend their fortified castles from becoming rubble, and ash.

The ultimate goal of this game is essentially to be the last man (Or in this case, castle) standing.  Four players each have their own defense shield/catapult that can move ninety degrees around their fortress wall. The game can be played with four people in a free for all, or fewer players with computer AI opponents in a free for all. This is noteworthy as the 2600 (Or the Video Computer System as it was known at the time) was one of the first, and only consoles to offer four player multiplayer. There are variations on gameplay but they all boil down to the same goal. The game uses a special paddle controller. Instead of a digital 8 direction joystick, Warlords has an analog paddle which is essentially a dial. Turning it moves your catapult back, and forth while pressing the button catches the boulder, releasing the button launches it.

While those of you who have never ventured outside the world of current generation consoles may scoff at the simplicity of bouncing a pixel about the screen, those who let their guard down, and try it will be surprised. Warlords is hypercompetitive. Warlords is cutthroat. Warlords doesn’t play around.  When four really skilled players get involved the game becomes really challenging, frantic, and entertaining. It’s exhilarating when after a five-minute ping ponging barrage, you finally destroy someone’s castle. On the flip side it can be absolutely soul crushing to be on the receiving end of such a devastating blow. Most rounds are truly nail-biting sessions when they get down to the wire.

The next time somebody tries to tell you that there weren’t any frantic games requiring copious amounts of muscle memory, and dexterity before the advent of the PS3 take them to a flea market. Pick up a 2600, some paddles, and a copy of Warlords. After a couple of hours of wall smashing terror you’ll be kindly telling them to get the hell off of your lawn.

Final Score: 9 out of 10 (Raid your elder’s cellar!)

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