Project Warlock 2 is going all-in on firearms and ‘vertical as hell’ levels.

The original Project Warlock, a retro FPS launched in 2018, combined Wolfenstein 3D’s flat graphics and level design with current advancement mechanisms and substantial weapon upgrades. That strategy worked successfully for Jakub “Kuba” Cislo, who created Project Warlock with a small crew while still in high school. After having recently played the demo, I can see why it received such positive feedback. The weaponry packs a powerful punch, and the sharp sprites complement the current lighting and particle effects.

Cislo and the team of Buckshot Software are going all-in with Project Warlock 2, which was officially introduced today at the PC Gaming Show 2021 with a new trailer.

Project Warlock 2 will go into Early Access on Steam on July 29, with a Kickstarter campaign planned for late June to help fund two additional episodes. Each of the three episodes will consist of six large levels, with a new protagonist starring in each. The three new characters will presumably be disciples of the main Warlock character from the original game.

One of Cislo and the team’s top priorities has been a thorough overhaul of the magic system, which in the original game forced players to choose between weapon upgrades and new spells. “In the end, not everyone liked that notion,” he said. “Many gamers were afraid to buy spells instead of improvements because they were concerned that the spell would be inferior.” Magic will no longer draw from the same mana pool as weapons in the sequel, and spells will instead have simple cooldowns. The idea is to promote the employment of utility spells while not hurting your primary armory of weapons.

Speaking of weaponry, Project Warlock 2 will have more of them (22 total weapons are planned for Episode 1). Following in the footsteps of prior Doom games, weapons will be improved along branching routes that offer new capabilities and modify their appearance. Cislo gave the example of an assault weapon that may be updated to have a different burst firing or scoped mode. That may seem fundamental, but there are also things like magical staff, so scopes are unlikely to be the standard. Unlike Doom Eternal, it appears that these upgrading options are permanent. Players will not be able to switch between improvements on the fly, which Cislo thinks will motivate them to retry the game and experiment with alternative combinations.

Reimagined level design, which will be “vertical as hell” in the sequel, was at the top of the agenda for Project Warlock 2. “We’re adding a lot of verticality to the levels, and the geometry will be a lot more difficult,” Cislo explained. “The vast majority of the levels are multi-story complicated mazes.”

This was excellent to hear because my eyes tend to glaze over the extremely flat layouts of early FPS levels. Cislo claims that levels are constructed around familiar locations to assist players in visually orient themselves without relying on a minimap to keep them from getting lost (though it has one of those, too). Cislo recalls the “challenging effort” of creating fascinating level design while adhering to the self-imposed limits of emulating Wolfenstein 3D’s basic planar maps in the initial Project Warlock. “I think we did it somehow, and I’m pretty happy with the level design,” he remarked. “These were the constraints I imposed on myself in order to create the finest Wolfenstein 3D clone possible.”

The change to verticality is a significant one, and Cislo believes it will have an impact on how the remainder of the game feels. For starters, the levels are much larger this time around. Project Warlock 2 will include a full save system replete with autosaves and fast quicksave/quick load to accommodate for longer sessions between levels. The lack of manual saves in the original game (the only checkpoints were between levels) was a contentious decision when it was released. “I think Project Warlock was an excellent idea because the stages were short.” You might easily complete a level or two in under five or ten minutes.” Larger levels that players would not be able to complete in a single sitting require some form of saving option.”

Perhaps most fascinating are the small details Buckshot is using to enrich Project Warlock 2’s combat. Cislo noted that each enemy would have its own set of weaknesses and resistances that players would have to figure out through trial and error. Monsters will also grow “stressed” when you deliver more damage in a short period of time, causing them to become more erratic and less precise (kinda like old man Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4).

In this manner, players are rewarded for keeping up the pace and inflicting devastation, while there will also be plenty of reasons to slow down from time to time. Additional character bonuses will be concealed in secret regions (false walls, hidden switches, good old-fashioned ’90s FPS things).

To be honest, my retro shooter tastes have been primarily restricted to games that imitate the early polygonal period, but Project Warlock 2 may break that trend for me. More information about the game will be released when Episode 1 goes into Early Access on July 29.

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