Impressions: War for the Overworld: The Under Games is disappointing

The Under Games DLC for War for the Overworld is underwhelming and a disappointing conclusion to a game that allowed many players of a certain age to indulge in a bit of nostalgia. With news from the developers that a new campaign would be released with this DLC, I expected there to be content similar to the main game and the Heart of Gold expansion where the player was involved in a story, and the levels were scenario-based. Instead, players are given something more akin to several point-control skirmish maps against the AI. It’s simply not the high note I wanted to leave this game on.

Welcome back, Underlord!

According to the pre-release information, Brightrock games wanted to focus on the various Underlords in the game as well as replayability. So, the developers contrived a scenario where all of the Underlords competed against each other to find out who would lead the underworld army against the overworld forces. The player chooses from four Underlords, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Underlord Shale can attract beasts with various powerful mutations, but can only build very basic traps that require more mana and take longer to build. Conversely, Underlord Volta can build all of the traps, which require minimal mana, but cannot attract any beasts at all.

After selecting an Underlord to play as, the player competes against the other Underlords in elimination matches in various point-control arenas. Capturing these points will typically grant the player a sieging ability that either attacks the enemy’s dungeon core or core shards, which are placed farther away from the dungeon core, forcing the player and the enemy to defend and attack multiple locations at once.

The arenas don’t change, but the starting position on the maps will, depending on the Underlord the player chooses. The player can also decide on the difficulty of the AI for each arena, ranging from nearly completely docile to impossibly-high-APM. Unfortunately, this is the bulk of what’s added with The Under Games.

While I’m positive that a lot of programming went into creating this DLC, the final product feels thin. It’s hard not to feel like you’re simply playing new skirmish maps against the AI except with triggered WAV files when the AI does something like capture a point or take damage.

The objectives also don’t vary much from map to map. Typically, you’re tasked with capturing points and waiting for the siege weapons at those locations to kill the opponent. There aren’t any races to collect a certain amount of gold or tug-of-war scenarios. As such, the objectives during the campaign get stale quickly.

The four available playable Underlords do add a small amount of variety, but in a dissatisfying way. While each Underlord has one unique buff and debuff each, the bigger differentiator is what abilities and rooms are removed from each individual Underlord. This means that whichever Underlord the player uses will never have complete access to the entire tech tree. It adds challenge, but in an artificial and frustrating way.

Patch 2.0

Whether or not you buy the DLC, all WftO owners receive Patch 2.0 which is a substantial update to the game in terms of balancing and polish. In game cinematics, like the ones that introduce new units for the first time, are much more focused. Specific achievements, like timed challenges, have been adjusted to be more forgiving. A handful of abilities have been changed or removed and replaced. For instance, the Warding Totem that scared off enemy workers has been replaced with the Conduit, which is a persistent area effect that boosts friendly worker productivity. Finally, I’ve also noticed changes to the audio that includes more dialog from more units. For the complete list of changes, read the release notes.

There are still a few points of frustration that haven’t been addressed. For example, you can’t quickly skip the in-game cinematics at the beginning of most levels where the game sweeps across the map to point out points of interest. You still have mash the spacebar to skip each individual WAV file. While you’re doing this, unable to play, the enemy AI is busy working against you and the in-game timer is currently running.

This delay causes issues when the AI is set to the highest difficulty or when there’s a timed challenge, and the player needs every second to succeed. Nevertheless, this is still the version of War for the Overworld that I wish I had originally played.

It looks like this is the final significant update that the game is going to receive. It’s unclear how much more support the game will get or how long the support will continue. From the game forums, it appears that the developers are still busy squashing bugs and addressing player concerns, which is a credit to the company. Ultimately, despite a lackluster final DLC, War for the Overworld was an overall positive experience, and I encourage fans of “dungeon management” games to experience it for themselves.