Turn-based strategy has entered a bit of a renaissance lately. After being almost totally sidelined by action games and real-time strategy, titles like XCOM and The Banner Saga brought some relevance back to the idea of waiting patiently. The genre is well-suited to mobile as well, since it foregoes fast-paced twitch controls in favor of thoughtful taps. That said, maybe the taps could stand to put a little more pep in their step.
In The Last Warlock, you play as a…well, a warlock. Some might say “the last one.” This warlock is capable of summoning other characters to fight alongside, ranging from wood elf archers to zombies to minotaurs. You move the warlock and its minions around a colorful 3D pixel grid, spending combat turns to attack, summon, or perform simple actions like opening chests. Light environmental puzzles break up the combat, but most of your time will be spent facing off against other non-warlock magic-users.
Missions are generally well-designed. The environments feel streamlined, but with enough space for light exploration, tracking down extraneous loot and monsters. Because of the summoning mechanic, I felt encouraged to experiment from mission to mission. I never felt like I was locking myself into a specific party type, since there’s no character to level up except the warlock. Still, it’s a bit annoying that no characters start with weapons, forcing you to begin each level with a hunt for equipment.
The turn-based structure also leads to a few pacing missteps. Even tactical RPG classics like Fallout drew a distinction between in-combat and out-of-combat control, allowing you to move freely when outside battle. The Last Warlock features no such distinction, so you’ll be bound by AP limits even while simply walking between fights. Granted, Warlock is divided into short missions, composed mostly of combat, but any downtime can really kill the momentum.
Inventory management also proves perplexing. Each of your characters has their own separate satchel, and they can only transfer items when standing adjacent to one another. If it were paired with strict satchel space limitations, it might be an interesting strategic wrinkle, but as it stands, I just send my warlock to collect everyone else’s items at the end of a battle, adding another step to my slow movement chain.
The visual style is charming, if a little generic. The world is made of Minecraft-like blocks, even down to the tiniest particle effects. I wish the same care had been taken with the UI, which features some weak fonts and busy patterns on buttons. It would be nice if a little more care was taken with the presentation, because I found it pretty off-putting at first. There is a good game in here, and it would be a shame if potential fans passed on it because of a shoddy screenshot.
Still, that good game is admittedly slow, even down to double-tapping to select a character. Hardcore turn-based fans will probably view it as par for the course, but for the rest, this likely won’t be an entry point. If you do see it through, though, you may end up wanting another warlock beyond the last.
Is it Hardcore?
Slow-paced gameplay hinders an otherwise solid tactical experience.