Wartales, Shiro Games’ turn-based tactics RPG in which you lead a mercenary company in a low-fantasy world plagued by banditry, wolves, and, well, plague, is so gritty you could use it to strip paint. The tough early game, in which you’ll march down Struggle Street trying to earn enough food to keep your employees alive and enough cash to pay them, might be off-putting to some. That hasn’t stopped it from winning fans, with Shiro boasting that it’s sold more than 600,000 copies so far and been wishlisted one million times.

Wartales is doing well with players on Steam, who’ve given it a user rating of 91% positive over more than 13,000 reviews. Our own Rick Lane gave it a score of 83 in his Wartales review, praising its “rich and granular mechanical toybox” as well as its potential for character-driven storytelling.

“As you pootle around in your camp,” Rick wrote, “your mercs will occasionally have moments of introspection leading to a minor narrative choice. In one example, Ledric resolved to be more social with the other mercs, presumably to improve his standing with them. His efforts did make him one friend in the camp. Unfortunately, it was the pony.”

He also made sure to mention the important fact that, as well as being able to hire more mercenaries and increase the size of your camp as you go on, “You can capture and tame wild animals to fight alongside you, and each animal has its own skill tree.” The idea of leading a beast band made of bears and boars, with the minimum number of humans to tame them, seems pretty tempting. Especially since animals don’t need to be paid, just fed. It’s a practical choice, really. Wartales left early access on April 12, and is available on Steam and GOG. 

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