Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Let's Get Ready To... No, I Can't. I Just Can't. Warcraft Rumble First Impressions

After I finished writing yesterday's post I did indeed go take a look at Blizzard's newest venture, a mobile game called Warcraft Rumble. As you might expect from the name, it's set in the world of Azeroth and stuffed with characters the developers are clearly hoping you'll recognize from World of Warcraft or the rest of the franchise.

The cute wrinkle this time is that the characters aren't the original NPCs but their "Minis". I wasn't aware minis were a thing in WoW. I associate the term wholly and solely with Guild Wars 2, where no-one is anyone without a whole entourage of tiny clones of mobs and NPCs trailing along behind them like an unruly school outing. 

Actually, plausible though that sounds, it's not remotely accurate. You'd think an AI had written this. Sadly, you can only have one mini out at a time in GW2. I wish you could have more but there you go. We don't always get what we want, even when it's something trivial.

Sorry. Where was I? Oh yes, Warcraft Rumble. So, the idea seems to be that you control an army of NPCs...

...No, wait, we'll have to stop again. I'm not entirely sure who "you" is in that last sentence. It's not explained in the game or if it was I missed it. 

There's no "Player Character". It could just be you, the Player, but that seems a little shaky as a peg to hang the whole thing on. There is a framing device that alleges the game is being played by NPCs in inns and taverns inside the gameworld itself: "Throughout Azeroth people can’t get enough of this mysterious new machine. A new strategic sensation has swept the land..." so I guess it could be your WoW character in the game, in an inn, playing Warcraft Rumble on a gnometech arcade machine...

It's all a bit meta, frankly, which naturally I liked. Or I may be overthinking it. It's probably that.

Going back to the "army"of NPCs I mentioned, that is literally what it's called in the game: your Army. There's no explanation of whose army it is, either. It looks like a random bunch of NPCs and monsters to me...

Okay, I'm definitely overthinking this...

Your army fights... other minis. Not another Army as far as I can see. Villains, maybe. Bad guys? Whoever gets in their way. 

Honestly, I feel like it would have been more realistic to give your "Army" some sort of superhero style team name. The Azerothian Avengers, maybe, although I guess that might have caused some copyright issues. 

They certainly seem to act more like a bunch of superheroes than an army. They all act independently of each other for a start and most of their fights seem to be duels and skirmishes rather than formal battles. Then again, I guess modern warfare can be a bit like that. 

I withdraw my earlier objection. "Army" it is.

The gameplay is described as "mobile action strategy" by Blizzard, who ought to know. They also call it "frantic" and sum the whole thing up as "joyful chaos". Having played for about half an hour, I can't fault the language. It's non-stop, crazy action. You can have that if you want, Blizz.

It goes without saying I don't have any hand-held devices capable of playing Warcraft Rumble. Mobile games these days require the kind of processing power that would have put Neil Armstong on the moon five years earlier, had NASA had it in the 60s. 

That's a ludicrous analogy that bears no scrutiny whatsoever, by the way. Please don't scrutinize it. 

The point I'm trying to make is, I can't run any modern mobile games on my Kindle Fire or my aging and faulty phone and don't expect to. That's fine because I don't much enjoy playing mobile games on phones or tablets anyway. I'd rather play them on PC, which is what I did with Warcraft Rumble.

I had a bit of trouble getting it to run. I tried Bluestacks first. It took three goes to get it started and then it crashed during the opening cinematic. I swapped to Nox, which wouldn't run it at all. I went back to Bluestacks and that time it worked on the second attempt, after which it ran flawlessly for as long as I wanted to play, which ended up being about half an hour.

The game is formatted for a phone in portrait mode. It seems most people use their phones in vertical alignment, which mystifies me. I've seen a few GenZ jokes about old people (That's anyone over 25.) using phones in landscape mode so it seems to be an age thing but to me it just seems counter to the way eyes work. 

Either way, as with YouTube Shorts or TikTok, the portrait form factor looks very wrong on a PC monitor. And yet I got used to it surprisingly quickly. It took about five minutes before I forgot about it altogether. Well, almost.

The one reason I wasn't quite able to forget about it completely was the need to scroll up to see the full playing-field. The only time I lost a round was when I was concentrating on the top of the screen without scrolling down to see what was happening at the bottom and my harpoon gun blew up.

Remember when I said there's no Player Character? That might not be strictly true. The harpoon gun is you, basically. It has hit points and when they reach zero, you lose. It has its icon at the top of the screen opposite your opponent. I think that makes it your avatar.

Why they picked an inanimate object as the PC I have no idea. It seems very uncommercial. Wouldn't it have been better to have a little person you could dress and buy expensive cosmetics for in the Cash Shop? 

Gameplay consists of defending your harpoon gun, while trying to kill whoever's at the top of the screen, sending minis down to destroy it. Sometimes they also have a harpoon gun. Sometimes they don't.

There's a tutorial of sorts and although it's mostly tips and suggestions it's enough to get you started. The mechanics are very simple. You pick minis off the bench at the foot of the screen and drop them onto a blue area where they spawn into the gamefield. They then march or fly or waddle off to do whatever it is they do and that's just about the end of your control over them. There are some switches you can flick to get them to change direction but that's it. There may be more options later but I only completed the first zone and that's all I saw.

Minis do a lot of different things. There are melee minis, ranged minis, flying minis, mining minis. There are also Effects like Chain Lightning and minis like the S.A.F.E. Pilot, either of which you can aim at any part of the playing field without them having to travel there first.

There are Meeting Stones you can take control of to allow minis to spawn in at forward staging zones, and the aforementioned switches to send your minis going in different directions. Your melees and ranged minis fight while your miners dig up gold that you use to... I didn't get that part. You need gold though. Of course you do.

Your supply of minis is infinite although sometimes all of them are greyed out. That might be what the gold is for. Not sure. All of them level up and get different abilities and there are points to spend doing that and you can buy more and different types of minis for your army in the store and swap them in and out and the whole thing started out slowly but by the time I got to the end of the first zone there was so much going on at once I felt like my head was going to explode.

Frantic? Chaos? Yes!

Joyful? Not sure. Maybe. 

It was fun but the kind of fun that makes me nervous. I kept wishing there was a pause button so I could stop and consider strategy. In the absence of that I just kept throwing minis at other minis and as I did it I could feel a rhythm building. I can see how gameplay could become both intuitive and addictive. 

The first zone is Elwynn Forest. There are five missions, beginning with Goldtooth and ending with Hogger. I imagine you can see what the idea is already. 

The second zone is Westfall. Now you know for sure!

Even as a WoW casual I can see the appeal here. It's a trip through Azeroth, zone by zone, meeting all your favorites and whacking them in the head, just like in the real game. There's no pretense at a plot or a narrative or any of that dumb stuff that gets in the way of fun. Just pure name recognition and non-stop clicking. It's the Haribo Family Fun Multipack of the Warcraft franchise.

I really enjoyed it. I'm definitely going to play some more. It's frenetic and exhausting but you get rewards win or lose and anyway I only lost once. The final mission in the first zone, the one with Hogger, is flagged "Hard", as you might expect but it wasn't hard at all. I don't know if the game does get genuinely hard later. I don't even know what "genuinely hard" in the context of a mobile game like this would mean.

There's a full PvE campaign involving 70 zones. There are dungeons and raids. You can play solo or co-op. There's PvP. It's basically WoW without all of the stuff that makes WoW meaningful or significant, assuming you think it is or was. 

If I had a phone that could play modern mobile games and if I was minded to play modern mobile games on my phone at all, I might very well play Warcraft Rumble. Then again, if all of that were true, I might play any number of games and I'm not sure I'd pick this one over dozens of others. 

If it was on Steam, I'd play it for sure. A PC port would be nice. I might need a lie down after a few missions but that's okay. My reaction time could use a good work-out, once in a while. 

All told, it looks like a pretty good game if you know the characters and the locations. I'm not convinced it would stand out if you didn't but that's probably not going to be an issue. I don't imagine anyone other than Warcraft fans are going to be playing it. 


  1. I downloaded it as well and played a bit the other evening. I don't really have an opinion on it yet aside from the fact that it sized up nicely on a tablet, which sounds like a small thing, but I have dealt with far too many apps that are designed strictly for phone and then don't scale up correctly on the bigger, higher resolution tablet screen.

    So it has that going for it.

    1. It's certainly slick and professional. I'd quite like to try it on a tablet. Probably time I got a new one...

  2. Looks a bit like Blizzard's take on Clash Royale with some twists.

    1. That's interesting. I read a whole series of posts about Clash Royale (Syncaine's blog, I think...) but I never got a clear picture of what the actual gameplay was.

  3. I found it harder, as I approached the 5th? Zone, Kalimdor at least. The hard missions are often easier... I can see myself playing for a few weeks but the quest grind may kill it. I think there may be some anti-fail thing going on where the first try you get swamped, second try the first team walks to the final boss unimpeded and kills him.

    1. I wonder why they'd call those missions "Hard" then make them easier? Some psychological trickery going on!

  4. > I kept wishing there was a pause button

    There is a pause button right at the top, along with the timer for the fight. You can pause during the fight, and click on the enemy troops to see information about them, so you can consider what to use to counter them.

    1. Thanks! I was hoping when I put that in the post that someone would correct me and tell me how to do it. You'd think they might mention it in the Tutorial. They do explain the clicking on troops to see what they do but I thought you could only do it before the action started.

    2. Also now you say it, i can see the damn pause button right there in the screenshot! I was obviously too busy looking at the minis!

  5. This really seems like FFXIV Verminions, where you send out your own minions/pets/minis against the computer or another player's minions.

    1. I didn't know about that one. I just watched a little on YouTube and there are definite similarities. looks like fun, too. I might have to check it out if it's playable on the F2P version of FFXIV. I imagine it might be - a lot of the Manderville Saucer stuff was last time I tried.


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