Recently launched on Steam, Warpaint is a turn-based strategy game that lets you customize your troops by painting them to your taste. The game supports both Mac and PC, and features VR support via SteamVR (Vive, Rift, and OSVR). Taking inspiration from board and tabletop games like hexagonal chess and Warhammer, Warpaint’s gameplay is easy to pick up but hard to master.
Real-time strategy gaming seems to suit VR pretty well, but few developers have chosen the turn-based approach; Warpaint shows that the more sedate pace of turn-based strategy is a natural fit for VR too. Commanding an army of dwarves with different movement abilities, the gameplay is mostly tactical, and played with a surprisingly high degree of tension, thanks to the ever-present threat of catapults.
With red projectiles reminiscent of the balls from board game Weapons and Warriors, the catapults introduce a dextrous aspect to Warpaint’s gameplay that, like many action board games, benefits from a skilled aim and a bit of luck. Catapults have the potential to change the momentum of a game—pulling off a double kill with a lucky bounce for example—but there is always a danger of taking out your own pieces too.
Friendly fire triggers some amusing ‘sorry!’ and ‘whyyy?’ dialogue from the dwarves; the voice acting is a stand-out feature, adding a healthy slice of charm to what is otherwise a rather plain presentation. I’d like to hear a wider selection of dialogue, perhaps even a battle announcer. Certainly a narrator for the tutorial would be welcome.
Warpaint doesn’t have the graphical chops to produce the most enticing screenshots or footage, but the straightforward style at least works effectively in VR with clean edges and high performance. No doubt the game would make a better first impression with a few additional effects, combined with a more integrated visual design for the UI and in-game motion controller models.
Otherwise, the game presents itself as a solid production, with well-balanced gameplay and a great set of features, including ranked matchmaking. You can play online or locally, against friends or AI, with VR users and monitor users playing together. The VR implementation isn’t attempting to reinvent the wheel here, it’s simply an effective and compelling option. While the game allows instant teleporting around the play area from multiple scales; the most useful tactical view is from above and at a distance, meaning that monitor users shouldn’t feel at a disadvantage, although I did find it easier to gauge my catapult shots using a headset.
It would be useful to have a way of adjusting the distances between different camera scale toggles, as the lower option sometimes feels too close, and the next height up sometimes feels too far away, and perhaps an option to rotate the view during or after a teleport could help those using ‘standing’ VR mode.
Aside from the joy of firing catapults in first person, the Army Painter system is the most interesting use of VR in the game, which allows dwarf customisation in the same way one might paint Games Workshop miniatures. Rotating the piece in one hand while airbrushing the fiddly bits with the other captures the feel of the hobby in a satisfying, impressively robust way. A system allowing for full customization, including limb-posing and accessorizing with different pieces of armor and weapons would take things to a whole new level and we hope it will be considered for future versions of the game.
Warpaint’s modest asking price is perhaps representative of the fairly small amount of content available, but it is a game made with care that deserves your attention. Developer Adam Thompson has been actively responding to initial feedback, having already rolled out fixes and improvements: the full details are available on the game’s Steam page.