Warsim: Hardcore Kingdom Management With Retro Appeal

I must admit that upon encountering Warsim: the Realm of Aslona I had no idea what to expect. Unlike Shark Attack Deathmatch 2, which befuddled me on premise alone, I went into Warsim completely blind as to what kind of adventure I was about to embark on. I suspected that I might get sucked into a dialogue heavy, visual novel knockoff type experience, and I’m happy to say that I could not have been further from the truth.

Before you continue, I must give you a mandatory warning. Abandon all dread of reading ye who enter Warsim. The game sports ASCII style illustrations, but these are more to add flavor than impart direction. The vast majority of critical information in Warsim is conveyed through yellow text against a black background. If you want to steer the fate of Aslona, you’ll need to don your reading glasses.

Speaking of steering Aslona, the game itself explains that the sole point of Warsim is:

“to keep the Kingdom of Aslona from destruction, how you do it is entirely up to you, be you a harsh dictator, a great explorer, a bloodthirsty warlord, or a charismatic diplomat.”

In other words, Aslona is your oyster. Unsurprisingly, she’s one tough oyster to crack at higher difficulties. Therefore I recommend that your first playthrough to be at either the casual or easy level. This will allow you to explore the game’s mechanics a bit more thoroughly before you get slaughtered by the Rotting Satyr Commonwealth (yes, this happened to me).

Troops, Gold, And Henchman- Oh My! Managing Your Realm In Warsim

In this section, I’ll lean towards a more descriptive account than a prescriptive one, as any advice I dispense will likely lead you to the same doomed road my poor subjects shuffled down. Thus far, all of my playthroughs have ended in one of two manners:

  1. A stunning defeat handed to me by hordes of enemies
  2. A slow decline due to a dearth of men and money

That being said, I had a damn good time dying in Warsim, and I figure many of you will, too. For starters, Warsim’s soundtrack makes every decision feel like you’re balancing the fate of the universe on your fingertip. Many retro simulators opt for a more low-key OST, like FTL’s. However, Warsim went full orchestral, and the tracks often sound more gripping and tense than the actual gameplay they accompany.

As for that gameplay, you’ll be relegated to pressing the number pad to make a dizzying array of choices. Listing the areas, competitions, and random situations you encounter in Warsim would be a futile effort, so suffice it to say that you’ll find yourself swimming in things to do and places to see. However, there are two main areas where you’ll spend the majority of your time:

  • The Throne Room
  • Exploring Aslona

The throne is the seat of your kingdom (literally), and it’s from here that you may judge peasants, send criminals (and the innocent) to the dungeons, and even converse with the Mad King himself.

Explore vast swaths of pixel-sized geography in Aslona

Exploring Aslona is rather self-explanatory, and it’s here that you will stumble upon slavers, bandits, and rebels — each with their own agenda that you can either ply or crush to suit the needs of your realm. Warsim also boasts a host of different races, like the:

  • Void Demigods
  • Moon Giants
  • Rotting Satyrs

Plus dozens of others that I’ve seen across several run-throughs. The developer said he has plans to increase this to thousands of possible races, but honestly the diversity seems varied enough for my sensibilities in Warsim’s current iteration.

As the king, you balance budget, public opinion, and troop deployment as your enemies gather round to spell Aslona’s doom. There’s an internal rebellion that needs quelling, as well as the usual bandit raids and goblin invasions. To aid you in this aim, you hire staff that grant various bonuses. In a way, it reminds me of a much more sophisticated version of the classic flash game Mastermind: World Conqueror. Who you send on critical missions can be the difference between a terrific victory and a resounding defeat.

One of many distinct areas you can interact with in Warsim

When you battle your enemies, the screen will manually run through each instance of combat and then list the summary casualties. There are three basic levels of troops:

  • Peasants
  • Soldiers
  • Knights

Each represents a significant leap in strength over the previous, and a correspondingly large increase in investment. Soldiers and Knights cost much more to train, and their losses are felt much more acutely than a peasant’s. You marshall the army, and can split it among several objectives per turn. Be careful, if you have spread your forces too thin, your opponents will strike while you’re weak when it comes to their turn.

Beyond those basics, there’s little more that needs to be shared. One of the game’s few drawbacks is a lack of replayability. After you’ve reached the point where you can run Aslona for sustained periods of play, you’ll begin to deal with the reiterations of random encounters, either in your throne room or on the battlefield. Instead of spoiling all the twists and turns Warsim has in store for player’s kingdoms, I’d rather have them deal with the Mad King on their own terms.

The Warsim Community: AKA How To Do Early Access Right

Sometimes, it’s the metagame that matters most.

For a text-based simulator game that just recently became available on Steam, Warsim boasts a surprisingly large and active community across several platforms. If you’re scratching your head about how to deal with the latest goblin incursion, or simply want some advice for how to handle the throne room, you can visit either:

There’s more than a good chance that the game’s creator, Huw Millward, might be the one to give you advice or ask for your opinion. He’s very active on the forums and constantly polls his players to see what mechanics need to be tuned, expanded, or eliminated. Warsim also has a robust development cycle, with new changes and fixes coming out on a regular basis.

In many ways, this contrasts starkly with other early development titles that function more so as advertisements and revenue streams than a true alpha/beta phase public playtest. Warsim is right where an Early Access title should be, not obviously unfinished and/or totally broken, and not a nearly finished product trying to market itself.

New players who want to participate in the shaping of Aslona outside of the little black text box can actually do so. There are few games that offer this kind of relationship to their development in a meaningful way. Couple this with the title’s reasonable price and profound simulation mechanics, and I have to say that Warsim is well worth a shot for fans of old-school Zork or Dwarf Fortress.