Should you Pause or Play Warriors of Waterdeep?
Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is no longer a stranger in the video game department. We’ve already had a few iterations of this well-known tabletop RPG, whether as a direct adaptation of its universe or its rules. So it comes to no surprise that it made its way to the mobile platform, now widely regarded as one of, if not, the largest platforms for games.
Is this mobile iteration just another game that follows the platform’s formula or does it offer more? Let’s find out in our Warriors of Waterdeep Review.
Warriors of Waterdeep doesn’t lean too much on its graphics to bring it to the top. While we do get 3D models, they’re more on the average to border above average quality. The sprites are noticeably unpolished with lots of blur on certain parts such as weapons and armor. The environment though fares a lot better, with intricate, sharp, and fine details. The overall feel of the game is dark and gloomy, a common theme for the series and dungeon crawlers.
Although the heroes do have a more colorful color palette to them, including their skill effects but more on that later. The models look a lot better during combat scenarios than in close-up shots and scenes. So at least there’s a bit of refinement to them. The UI is good though, not too cluttered and simple and easy to navigate.
What the game lacks in overall visual quality it more than makes up for in animations and effects. Skills are flashy, detailed, and entertaining enough to be considered as eye candy. They’re not overblown either, though the blasts from explosive skills do have kind of a bright flash to them but not enough to be a distraction. To top it all off, we even have special close-up scenes when one of your heroes perform a critical hit, which differs depending on the weapon equipped.
So, there is a lot of effort put into these animations and effects, which we appreciate. What we do miss here is the option to change the graphics quality. Granted the game is not using an overly powerful engine and the graphics are rather simple but it still would’ve been nice to have that option. Especially for entry-level and older devices.
The overall graphics of Warriors of Waterdeep is on the average, maybe bordering above average, side. The 3D models lack a bit of sharpness and detail and the absence of flexibility in graphics quality is also a bummer. Thankfully, the animations and effects are superb enough to redeem this entire department.
To be honest, the game can be played without audio and it will still work fine. You won’t be weirded out seeing your heroes flail around without any accompanying sound. Yet, the devs also put quite the effort here giving life to every bit of movement and shuffle the characters and villains make. Even the skills have their own corresponding sound effects that fit the bill.
We also have background music, that isn’t distracting and is actually nice to listen to. Surprisingly, we have voice-overs of all the text popping out every now and then, which adds a bit of drama and narration during dungeon exploration. Interestingly though, all the flexibility was placed on audio as there are options to turn off both the background music and sound effects.
The audio of the game is great, every movement, skill, attack, and whatnot of the characters and villains are well represented. We even have voice-overs for the text that we see, although at times it can be distracting. We’re not entirely sure why we have better flexibility here than in the graphics department though.
Right then onto the juicy part — Gameplay. Warriors of Waterdeep runs on a turn-based tactical battle system with elements of dungeon crawling and the tabletop D&D. While it owes its universe to D&D, it only took bits and pieces of its rules. Generally speaking, you’ll see a lot of the tabletop RPG’s terms, monsters, and whatnot but the gameplay is still largely on the turn-based tactical side.
To be honest the game doesn’t feature a lot of modes. So your playtime will revolve around only a few things — Exploration (the main quest line), Battle (the PvP arena), Challenge (the side-farming feature), and powering up your heroes via the Equipment and Level system. Unless you consider shopping as another thing, this is by far the only stuff we can do.
Despite the minimal game modes, we do get a lot of play time as it has no stamina or energy system. That’s right folks, if you so wish it you can play Warriors of Waterdeep for days on end. There’s no autoplay here either, everything is done manually. So you’ll really be spending your time playing the game rather than watching it. Now then let’s get to the nitty-gritty of things.
As mentioned earlier, the game uses a turn-based tactical combat system. Meaning, your heroes and enemies will take turns performing actions and there’ll be a sort of tactical board in place. The turn indicator is that white line you see circling around a hero and enemy’s level marker (that hexagonal icon with a number). That tactical board, on the other hand, is divided into zones, each zone has a maximum of four slots. So, the rules of melee and ranged engagement apply here.
Basically, melee heroes and enemies have to be close to one another to attack, while ranged characters have the opportunity to whack from afar. Melee attacks have a range of one, while most ranged actions have a reach of two. The board won’t always be clear though as the game introduces obstacles along the way. This can range from traps, to blockades, and even narrow paths where only one to two heroes or enemies can pass. The game also makes use of a class archetypes, where one class deals higher or lower damage to another.
Movement isn’t overly restricted. Basically, as long as there is an open slot in an adjacent zone, including the one they’re in, characters can move to it. However, a zone already occupied by a character can’t be entered by the opposing side, even if there’s an open slot. So, it’s possible to stop the movements of enemies as well as get blocked by them.
This can be used to prevent melee characters from engaging ranged units or pin down an entire party at the edge of the board. Another thing, heroes have movement skills. That’s right, movement can be used to your advantage. For example, Halbenet, the Cleric, has a chance to heal a random ally every time he moves.
Attacks and Skills
Heroes have four action options, the first is movement, which we’ve already explained, and the other three are their traditional skills and basic attack. Now, a hero’s basic attack isn’t just the common basic whack as, like movement, it has an accompanying extra effect. This extra effect depends on the weapon your hero has equipped and, like the movement skill, has a trigger chance.
It’s actually quite clever how the indicator of success was implemented, which is via a d20 die. As you may have noticed, when selecting your hero’s basic attack skill you’ll see a dice symbol on the upper right. When this symbol turns red, it means that extra effect we’ve been talking about will trigger. Only the movement and basic attack have this trigger as the remaining two actions are your traditional skills with cooldowns.
Equipment and Level System
To say that the game’s equipment has a large influence on your heroes is an understatement. To be frank, it’s actually the lord and master of your heroes. That’s because all of their skills are tied to their equipment. That’s right, every piece of your heroes equipment, except armor, has a corresponding skill attached to it:
- Boots/Leggings — Movement Skill
- Helmet — Skill slot one
- Class item — Skill slot two
- Weapon — Basic attack and effect
- Accessory — Passive Skill
Not only that, but equipment upgrades will also be your main method of leveling up your heroes. Yes folks, the best way to level your heroes won’t be by the traditional method of doing quests and whatnot but by upgrading their equipment.
That’s because questing gives so little exp that you can just forget about leveling your heroes this way. Sure, it helps in the early levels but once you hit level 4, a measly 8 – 18 exp won’t even make a dent to that 1,875 requirement to reach level 5.
So how exactly does equipment help in leveling? Well each piece you upgrade, whether they equip it or not, will add to your hero’s exp bar. The higher the equipment level and the rarer it is the more renown it gives.
The problem here is, the price increase is exponential and the amount of gold you get from normal chests and via exploration won’t be enough in the higher levels. Not to mention, the rarer the equipment the more expensive it is to upgrade.
This is why equipment plays such a large role in the game and why chests are so important. After all, those chests will be your main source of coin and equipment.
Right then, let’s now check out the different game modes Warriors of Waterdeep has to offer. Starting with the main story/quest mode — Exploration. Exploration is divided into different dungeons, each with its own separate chapter and stages. The basic formula here is that each dungeon has a final Boss and Mini-Bosses dubbed as Leaders.
Each chapter will have around two to three normal stages before leading up to a sort of final battle with a leader or the boss. Each of these stages will have two to three rooms, which you will traverse. Hence, the game’s adaptation of dungeon crawling. The normal stages have basic mobs on all of its rooms while the leader and boss stages will have a leader or a boss in its final room.
It wouldn’t be much of a dungeon crawl if you’re just traversing in a straight line right? So, to mix things up a bit you are given a choice of what kind of room you’ll enter after your first tango with a stage. As you’ll notice the entrance to a room will have a symbol on it, this depicts what the general type of enemies you’ll be facing in that particular room.
The game has plenty of monster-types adopted from the D&D universe. There’s also a chance that you’ll encounter a secret room, which will have bonus loot but generally more powerful enemies as guardians. Then there’s that dialogue box with an arrow pointing at a particular room. It’s basically a subtle hint on what you can further expect from that room, apart from the door symbol. Here’s a list of the room types you’re going to encounter in the game:
Now, what’s interesting here is that once you clear a stage you can no longer repeat it. Meaning, reaping the rewards (particularly those coveted equipment chests) such as those boss and leader packs, is a one-time thing. Quite the bummer, especially when equipment plays a big role in the game. Progression in Exploration is also closely linked to Challenge mode but more on that later.
Next up is Battle, this is basically the PvP or Arena mode of the game. You’ll unlock this once you obtain your 4th hero and defeat Bonebreaker. It makes use of the same turn-based tactical battle system but the arena is smaller than your conventional stage setup.
This is live PvP, meaning the other team is actually controlled by a player, which is why you only have 10 seconds to issue commands. If you fail to move your designated hero within that time frame, he/she will move one zone forward, if able. Then the timer for your next action will be cut in half.
PvP is quite important in the game as its another source of chests. Each victory will grant you a battle chest, that can be opened with a timer or instantly by using gems. You can only keep at most four of these chests in your queue and open only one at a time via that timer. There’s also a daily counter that gives out Brawl chests, coins, and a VIP chest once you achieve 8 victories.
Fair warning, heroes that head into battle here are randomly chosen. This won’t be a problem when you’ve only unlocked 4 but once you get your 5th it’s a whole different story. So make it a point to evenly level and equip your heroes. Although, that may not be enough as matchmaking, though proclaimed to be balanced, is rather iffy. Basically, players are paired with an opponent in the same arena with approximately the same trophy count.
Sounds fair right? Problem is, it’s possible to be matched with a player that has progressed deep into exploration and hasn’t touched Battle or worse, someone who pays. Yep, sadly, Warriors of Waterdeep is mired by the ever so notorious Pay to Win mechanic. The cash shop offers certain chests that hand out guaranteed rare and epic equipment as well as tons of coins.
Meaning, paying players can definitely be ahead of the competition by busting out their wallets. Not to mention, a single level difference between heroes is huge. Don’t think that a level 4 hero can be taken down easily by your party of level 3s without casualties. Remember, a hero’s level is closely linked to their equipment. Meaning high-level ones are sure to have decked out equipment. That’s not all, a loss in PvP won’t garner any rewards, not even a battle chest.
Last but not least, Challenge mode. Remember how we mentioned that dungeons in Exploration cannot be repeated? Well, that’s because you’ll be re-visiting them via the Challenge mode. Although, this mode works differently from Exploration. You’ll gain access to Challenge once you complete the very first dungeon of the game — Sharpstone Keep. After that, you’ll unlock succeeding dungeons by first defeating their bosses in Exploration. I know what you’re thinking, if there was an option to rerun the story dungeons why was I complaining.
Well, unlike in Exploration where you can run stages for free, Challenge dungeons have coin costs after your free daily try. We actually understand why as the rewards in completing Challenges are bountiful. Although, you’ll probably be bankrupt from the repeated runs to even upgrade the pieces of equipment you just looted. So, it’s actually counterproductive after the free daily. Sadly, only Sharpstone Keep has a free daily run, the rest always has a cost.
The stages in Challenge dungeons are the same with Exploration, although it’s the usual setup we previously mentioned. Instead, a dungeon is divided into three boss fights, each boss you defeat provides you with a reward die — a D6, D12, and D20. At the end of the Challenge, you’ll roll each of individually and choose one of the rewards.
Yes, you get to keep only one of the rewards at the end, not one for each of the die you earned. You’re not limited to the dungeons you’ve completed as there are event ones each day. These Challenge events vary but the first try is always free. Although, there are times when there are VIP-only events. Yet another advantage to paying players.
It’s quite sad that the bad gameplay mechanics outweigh the good. We can already see how Warriors of Waterdeep can be an intensely grindy title just based on how acquiring chests and leveling work. It’s also not safe from Pay to Win mechanics, granted it only affects PvP but that feature is vital in acquiring additional chests.
There is no Gacha but it’s replaced by an equally infamous system, which are loot boxes. We also have that VIP subscription option that gives further advantage to paying players. However, it’s nice that there’s no energy or stamina system or even autoplay, so at least we get to fully engage the game.
Warriors of Waterdeep could’ve been a very great mobile D&D game. You can easily overlook the average graphics quality, thanks to the amazing animations and good core gameplay. The adopted rules and the turn-based tactical battle system is already quite enticing and the devs avoided some ingredients of disaster — a Gacha system, energy/stamina system, and auto play.
However, it wasn’t able to avoid Pay to Win, which is actually game breaking for some, and those loot boxes. There’s also that grind factor due to the small amounts of exp and coin you can earn by questing. While there are those that won’t mind it, it’s still looking to be one of the grindiest mobile games we’ve ever encountered. The bad just really outweighs the good. Hopefully, future updates tip the balance a bit more to give players some more breathing room, especially free to play ones. There’s just so much wasted potential here.
- No Gacha system
- No Energy or Stamina system
- No Autoplay
- Excellent Animations
- Enticing turn-based tactical combat system
- Live PvP
- Pay to Win (especially in PvP)
- Can be really Grindy
- Visuals are just on the average
- Progression is loot box dependent
- VIP System
So, with a score of 7 over 10, should you Pause or Play Warriors of Waterdeep? The verdict? — Play when you can but it’s okay to hit Pause.