Warsaw Review

Rise up.

The Warsaw Uprising was a significant event during the final year of World War II, as the Polish Resistance and Polish Home Army fought for two months to free Warsaw from occupation. It raged from August to October 1944, but ultimately failed thanks to limited support from Allied forces and the overwhelming difference in power between the two sides, leaving Warsaw almost totally destroyed in the aftermath.

Warsaw, the simplistically titled video game, is unique in how it tries to present the events in an accessible fashion through the medium of a strategy game. It’s not an easy game though, and this gets across just how hard the Polish fought against their oppressors with the odds stacked so heavily against them. In the game that’s how it always feels. There is no win state, there is only survival. You may win battles here and there, but another part of the Uprising falls each day.

You start in a hideout with a random selection of characters that you can take into the streets of Warsaw to scavenge supplies and fight patrols. Within the hideout there is an officer that gives missions, a nurse to heal the wounded, a supply officer who can buy or sell supplies, a priest who keeps a list of the dead, recruiters who can pay for new fighters, and an archivist who writes the stories of the characters. There isn’t a weaving storyline through this though, and it is quite difficult to bond with characters given the likelihood of them dying quickly.

You’ll patrol a 2D rendition of Warsaw, navigating the streets and alleys with your limited pool of action points. Once they drop to zero you return to the hideout. During the patrols you’ll run into enemies, at which point the game transitions to a turn-based battle screen, showing your characters on the left of the screen and the enemy on the right.

Battle sites may have barricades you can position characters behind or they could be out in the open. Different characters have different abilities like being able to build barricades, heal team members, inflict status effects like bleed or burn depending on the weapons they have, and can help rally for more action points in fights. However, who you can send into battle really does depend on the luck of the draw for your random allotment of characters.

If you don’t get a healer character for your run, you’re going to have a bad time. Even if the team survives a mission, they’ll likely be so low on health they’ll be in the infirmary for days. You could send them out to battle again, but health does not regenerate outside of the infirmary or in between fights. As you progress enemy forces just seem to get stronger while yours get weaker, no matter what you do. Again it plays into the imbalance of the situation, though it really does drag you down.

The missions themselves don’t vary too much, leaning on similar objectives to either find resources, help someone, or fight. The first two of those amount to nothing more than finding what you need to and clicking on it. Travelling over the map can be a bit of a pain as the icon can get stuck in places. Events do pop up to give some variety and can affect morale and resources depending on the decisions made, but without a narrative weaving through these events feel a bit standalone and empty.

Warsaw’s art style is particularly striking and the map design itself shows the destruction of the city, even though it is using a 2D top-down view. The style of battles is evocative of Darkest Dungeon, with a semi-cartoonish look that still gives off the vibe of being in a serious situation. Sound work is good as well, though the voices can sound a bit strange at times. A soldier saying “Du” monotonously as he attacks is a bit jarring.

Warsaw is a game that captures some of the desperation and inevitability of failure that the Warsaw Uprising faced. The random assignment of characters removes some player choice, and there is a lack of narrative to add more weight to the events. However, as a strategy game Warsaw is well put together and offers a challenge in a unique setting.
  • Captures the hopelessness of the situation
  • The art style looks very good
  • Robust battle system
  • Relies heavily on random generation for characters
  • Navigation can be a pain
  • Lack of a narrative reduces the impact of events
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From the heady days of the Mega Drive up until the modern day gaming has been my main hobby. I'll give almost any game a go.