Wartales presents itself as a highly strategic RPG, where mistakes and impulsiveness are harshly punished: it is precisely for this reason, however, that it is so damn satisfying to succeed in mastering it. 

Born from the minds of the French developers at Shiro Games and published by Shiro Unlimited, Wartales was initially made available for PC via Steam and GOG on April 12, 2023, subsequently for Nintendo Switch on September 14, 2023, and finally also for Xbox One S/X on October 31, 2023. It falls into the category of tactical RPGs, and the events unfold in a dark fantasy world, through exploration, team development, and rough turn-based combat.

Wartales - World

Mercenaries and outlaws

Wartales won’t greet us with lengthy explanations or walls of text about the context. The plot does not play a central role, nor is it too detailed: instead, the game encourages us to explore the vast world divided into regions, starting from the Tiltren Region. A screen will allow us to choose and customize the background of our mercenary team, initially composed of only four members, and a pony. Already here, one can notice the developers’ desire to immerse the player, through the choice of the group’s strengths and weaknesses and those of the individual members, all obviously accompanied by bonuses and penalties of the various statistics.

It will only take a few minutes to already feel an integral part of the world, which does not revolve around our protagonists, but proceeds according to its own tracks, harmoniously and naturally integrating the four unfortunate souls we’ll find under our command. But let’s not forget that these are mercenaries, who therefore will demand a salary, to be paid every four rests at the camp, under penalty of increasing penalties that may end with the abandonment of one or more members of the group. This, combined with our group’s obvious need to eat, manage inventory, equipment, injuries, illnesses, and unforeseen events, immediately poses a significant and pressing challenge, even at the lowest difficulty levels. The world is largely hostile, and few locations can be called safe: especially in the early hours of the game, it’s very easy to feel disoriented and overwhelmed. And the game punishes even the smallest mistake with merciless severity.

Strategists wanted

Wartales doesn’t loosen its grip even during combat, indeed, perhaps it’s then that it truly shows its teeth. Whether we find ourselves crossing swords with bandits or trying to repel huge, monstrous, and infected rats, the slightest tactical oversight can have dire consequences. Combat unfolds along the classic lines of turn-based RPGs, but with some peculiarities: first of all, there is no initiative system, but allies and enemies act in a predetermined order at the beginning of the encounter, the consultation and management of which already constitute an important strategic possibility. Then, combat skills do not require mana or vigor to be used, but rather valor points, limited resources that characters generate in different ways in and outside of combat, depending on the group member we are controlling at the time, their class, and specialization. For example, a support character might generate a valor point when they find themselves alongside an ally at the end of their turn, while an assassin might do so when delivering the coup de grace to an enemy.

Yet it’s deeper and more complex than it seems: it’s up to us to choose the specializations of our characters, and how they produce these invaluable valor points. We must plan their evolution and role in the group in advance, and the task will become increasingly burdensome and reasoned as our band grows. The secret of success lies in being able to put together an eclectic and balanced party, whose members are able to support and help each other during battles, using the strengths of their roles to turn the tide of battle and manage to beat even the toughest enemies.

The opponents are ruthless, often possessing passive advantages and complex group tactics. They constantly target the most vulnerable ally or wait for the opportune moment to unleash an area-of-effect ability that inflicts devastating damage. We must be able to do the same because every turn and action is exceedingly precious. Also because in Wartales, the death of a character is permanent, and at the highest difficulties, it doesn’t even pass through the “dying” status where it’s still possible to save the poor companion. A critical hit, a miscalculation, or mispositioning, and it’s all over.

Wartales - Combat

But then where’s the fun?

I’m sure many of you are asking this question. The fun lies in the challenge and the consequent gratification. Every mistake, every waste of valor points, every death of an ally, every failed mission, serves as a teacher. There are few videogames (and I assure you, being a hopeless lover of the most difficult games) that manage to convey such a sense of triumph and achievement as Wartales. We as players grow alongside our characters, treasure the harsh lessons taught by the game, devise ever more imaginative tactics to bypass or nullify the obstacles in our path, and eventually come to dominate the game.

Just a few hours in, and our group of unfortunate souls will have become a company of ruthless cutthroats, or unwavering protectors, or unpredictable turncoats, depending on our completely free choices. But the essence remains the same: the battles and challenges that once frightened us will now be ridiculous skirmishes, but the golden rule remains to never forget what we have learned so far. Otherwise, Wartales will make sure to reprimand an overconfident player even after fifty hours of adventures.

Look, mom, I’m a lumberjack… no, a bard!

The development of the party, which can include an unlimited number of elements between people and domesticated animals, will take place both conventionally, by leveling up, and by improving the professions we will choose for them. These don’t just offer opportunities to gather resources in the world (Miner, Lumberjack…) or to craft useful equipment, items, and potions. (Blacksmith, Alchemist…)

In fact, each profession provides passive bonuses to statistics, and even here, careful planning will be required because although nothing prevents us from changing a companion’s profession at any time, doing so will cause us to lose all progress made, including the aforementioned incremental stat bonuses. A thief won’t get any great benefits from becoming an expert Blacksmith and receiving a significant strength boost, just as it’s more beneficial for a warrior to dabble in something other than Alchemy, since the effectiveness of all their abilities isn’t governed by dexterity.

Not to mention that, as we progress through the adventure, we will have to assign a captain and a lieutenant to our group. Needless to say, the benefits provided by these titles will inevitably lead to an increase in the demanded salary. The chosen ones have the goal of coordinating and encouraging the group in battle and carrying the banner, through which we can customize the emblem and name of our group.

Wartales - Character

Boundless freedom

There are truly a plethora of things to do in Wartales. The main story missions intertwine with the side ones, almost always requiring choices with long-term consequences, and the vast majority of locations in the world hide secrets, additional missions, or dangers. We have very few limits: from assaulting caravans and hiding in the woods from enraged guards to defending helpless farmers, robbing people at markets, purifying nests of monstrous rodents, or hunting nightmares and ghosts that populate the forests at night, the only barrier is the one we set ourselves. Always keep in mind that everything leads to consequences, and often we won’t be able to assess their magnitude immediately.

We will meet various factions and independent groups, which can potentially bring great advantages (or troubles) to our party. Each city, although similar to the previous ones, has its own peculiarities or different possibilities, and the regions are extremely diverse from each other. Good quality graphics, with pleasant textures and well-realized light effects, largely contributes to making even the most insignificant of abandoned huts memorable.

As I mentioned above, there is no limit to the size of the party, as long as our income and food supplies are sufficient to keep everyone without causing riots or discontent. The management side loosens the reins as we progress, never letting us go entirely. There are multiple ways to “break” the game’s economy and fill the group’s pockets, and it’s fun and rewarding to discover them little by little. In this regard, there are several difficulty levels. It’s true that even at the lowest settings, there are constraints and dangers, but we don’t have necessarily to suffer so much to enjoy the end credits.

Even our traveling camp, a daily mandatory stop, is customizable. Both by building and improving new equipment and by modifying its position and functionality. Right here, we’ll have the opportunity to deepen the mutual knowledge of our companions, through events and dialogues possibly generated by a plethora of variables: accidental friendly fire in battle, a particularly tough fight, an exceptional discovery… Again, the choice is ours. Sometimes turning an ally into the nemesis of another won’t prove to be a bad idea… Who said having a madman with two long daggers in hand is necessarily a bad thing in combat?

Wartales has sharp teeth… but it’s worth getting cut

In short, Wartales is a tough and thorny gem, strongly reminiscent of old-school tactical RPGs, which are undeniable inspirations. My advice is to gather the courage and try the most challenging difficulty levels: trust me, winning a battle by the skin of your teeth and collecting tons of loot is a true dopamine rush. A title that offers no discounts and demands to be understood with the right amount of time: a real leap into the past, which demonstrates how an archaic formula works excellently nowadays, with the necessary modernizations.

Wartales, the review: a gem with a tough shell

“Every mistake, every waste of valor points, every death of an ally, every failed mission, serves as a teacher. There are few videogames (and I assure you, being a hopeless lover of the most difficult games) that manage to convey such a sense of triumph and achievement as Wartales. We as players grow alongside our characters, treasure the harsh lessons taught by the game, devise ever more imaginative tactics to bypass or nullify the obstacles in our path, and eventually come to dominate the game.”


  • Brutal. Cruel. Adrenaline-inducing.
  • Terrific freedom.
  • Excellent longevity and replayability.
  • Satisfying party management.
  • Pleasant graphical component.
  • Believable, lively, and vibrant world.
  • Requires a tactical mind…


  • …requires a tactical mind.
  • Truly punitive at times.
  • Dispersive, especially in the early hours.
  • Repetitive soundtrack, albeit pleasant.
  • Could have dared more in variety and depth of battles.
SCORE: 8.8


I’ve been a gamer, amateur writer and technophile since 2006. I personally prefer games that can offer a good challenge, and I’m a great enthusiast of retrogaming. I love to dissect every single backstory behind messages, development and secrets of videogames, which I consider proper work of arts.