We don't want to generalise too much here, but real-time strategy games tend to be pretty straight-faced. They're usually attempting to emulate reality, or lean into hard sci-fi. While there's obviously nothing wrong with that, it's always great to have some variety. Warpaws, a brand new game from 3D Realms and Slipgate Ironworks presents players with a more light-hearted RTS.
The game does base itself very loosely on WWII, but it's set in an alternate world where cats and dogs are the ones in conflict. One look at it and you can see what the studio is going for: a cartoonish, expressive style that keeps things light to appeal to a broader audience. The art style is what sticks out the most from our time watching gameplay — it's still in development but has a clear visual identity that certainly differentiates it from its genre peers.
Having said that, Slipgate Ironworks is taking inspiration from some RTS classics, name-dropping the likes of Z, S.W.I.N.E., and Company of Heroes. Warpaws will have a much lighter tone than all of those, but the team wants it to be a gratifying experience whether you're new to real-time strategy or not.
The game will feature two factions — the Battlecats and the Wardogs — and you'll wage war against the opposition in various biomes. We saw early looks at dry deserts, tropical islands, and snow-covered battlefields. These environments will be somewhat dynamic, featuring certain hazards you'll need to keep in mind as you command your animal troops. For example, sand and snow storms will reduce visibility, and water can freeze up, allowing you to traverse the ice. Some bodies of water will contain sharks, while a city biome has a train running through it, so you'll need to watch where and when you move your army. Certain points are destructible too — you can blow a hole in some rocks to create a shortcut, for instance.
By and large, the game looks to be fairly familiar, but unlike a lot of RTS titles, there is no resource management or complex base building. Things have been somewhat streamlined — to make more units, you'll need to capture strategic buildings on the map, which can then produce more soldiers. Different unit types require different lengths of time to appear; you can recruit lots of low level infantry or wait for a much stronger unit to emerge.
Unit classes of course have their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, so it'll become a balancing act of choosing the right cats or dogs for the job. Engineers can build tank traps and turrets, spies can disguise themselves to infiltrate the enemy, and commandos drop mines and health packs. All of this will be introduced to you with a single player campaign before you head into the real battle that is online multiplayer.
Warpaws will feature a few modes for multiplayer, which seems to be its main attraction. You can buddy up for some two-player co-op against AI, or engage in 1v1 or 2v2 matches. As well as the traditional deathmatches, modes such as Capture the Flag and King of the Hill will be included.
As for how the game controls on console, it'll have a bespoke method for those using a controller — something akin to Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, we're told. We weren't able to play during the demonstration, but the game's simple commands, tidy UI, and streamlined management make us think it'll be okay.
Overall, we're left feeling fairly optimistic about Warpaws. The gameplay changes are intriguing, and it's hard to deny the cute, cartoonish visuals. On consoles, RTS games have rarely got it right, but perhaps by streamlining certain aspects and offering something easier to get into, this one might have a shot. The game is heading to PS5 in 2023, as well as other platforms.
Thanks to 3D Realms for the opportunity to check out Warpaws. What do you think of this unusual RTS title? Choose cats or dogs in the comments section below.