Have you played Z: Steel Soldiers? Me neither, but 3D Realms’ and developer Slipgate Ironworks’ newest, freshly announced title Warpaws takes a lot after the comedic robot RTS. Only, as the title implies, this new game is about animals rather than robots. More specifically, it’s an RTS set in an alternate World War II fought between cats and dogs. If the whole anthropomorphic part wasn’t alternate enough, it’s also a fight that doesn’t involve Allies or Axis powers, just general vibes of the conflict.
The dogs certainly feel like they’re modeled after the US, though. When I asked about that, the devs assured me that isn’t the case. The factions and their arsenals draw from many countries and even later periods than WW II. I mean, the helicopters are a dead giveaway, they weren’t an impactful thing in the actual war.
We were soldiers, and kittens
It will be interesting to see how this sort of “no real bad guys” WW II looks in Warpaws‘ single player campaign. But keep you expectations in check — the devs admit that it will be something akin to a tutorial to make you learn the game.
The real meat of Warpaws resides in the multiplayer. 1v1, 2v2, 2vAI, King of the Hill… That’s where the real show is. In a sense, it’s more honest that way. Three Moves Ahead planted the idea that RTS campaigns are often closer to tutorials than actual bespoke stories, and I have never forgotten it. So Warpaws nearly stating that out of the gate is refreshing.
So is the gameplay! Or, at least, it’s different from what you’d normally expect. Z: Steel Soldiers had regular base building, but only a single resource, and the Warpaws devs are taking that even further. There are no resources in Warpaws, there’s limited base building, capturing map zones provide benefits such as closer spawn points, and all unit construction depends on timers.
There was an issue in Steel Soldiers, namely, a winning faction could just keep winning by constantly outbuilding the losing faction. To solve that issue, Warpaws‘ build times increase the larger your army is. So the defending player will be on the backfoot, but not that much of a backfoot.
Putting “cat” into “German big cat”
Outside of this stripped down economy model, the battle between cats and dogs is fought in a fairly rigid rocks-paper-scissors fashion. Units have distinct specializations in what they do, so you’ll have an anti-infantry tank, an anti-tank tank, and so on. No unit will be universally capable, and if memory serves, the factions mainly differ in visuals.
There is some amount of freedom with factions, as each one has a special unique hero unit. It’s akin to the various commando infantry types in Command and Conquer: Generals, rather than massive super tanks.
The units in Warpaws will be fairly simple, with very little unit abilities to activate. This, I’m sure, cuts down on micro and APS supremacy, which is always a good thing. However, they won’t be entirely gone. For example, units will find weapons like grenades on the field, and then use them to blast a path through the mountains.
Yeah, you read that right: Warpaws will have destructible terrain. So far, it looks fairly silly, as you’ll be blasting entire hills and mountains away. This is meant to change the battlefield conditions, opening new avenues of approach and making previously-safe flanks perilously exposed.
But that’s not the only peril! Warpaws’ maps will be set in one of five biomes, each with their own actual dangers. Tropical Island maps? Well, you’ll need to wade through a lot of shallow water — shallow water that infantry-chomping sharks tend to infest. Fighting in the city? Watch out for tank-crushing trains! This is a great feature. I’m all for maps having neutral factions and dangers to the players’ forces.
Internet is for pictures of Pawatroopers
Am I also for the game’s art? Well, the vehicles in Warpaws sure look nice, if a bit on the stylized, chunky side (the ancient SWINE is also an inspiration). I’m less of a fan of the infantry dogs themselves, who seem to based on Basset Hounds. The fact that you see their droopy faces up close via the animated 3D busts in the unit panel doesn’t help.
I’m also already set against the decision to make unit barks actual barks. Of course, this might still change during the development, and maybe it was just a placeholder in the version we got to watch. But unit barks, I feel, are a very important part of any strategy game where you’re not pushing around divisions or other large military formations.
All in all, it’s hard to say how Warpaws will shake out in the end. I’m a single player guy through and through, so campaigns that don’t reach Wings of Liberty level of polish are always a hard sell for me. But the people demand multiplayer action, and multiplayer action they will get. And then they’ll get eaten by a shark.