Before you’re even 100% certain of what you’re doing or who you are in Project Warlock, you’re put in a room with a magical throwing knife, a staff that shoots lightning, and a couple of pissed-off spiders who aren’t there to thank you for playing their game. Within 10 seconds of starting, I’m back in high school, in 1998, installing any old creaky Doom WAD a friend tells me about over AIM for the hell of it, without a single blessed clue what needs doing except that anything that isn’t me must die.
That’s really the main draw of Project Warlock, a game that wears its ’90s FPS inspirations loudly and proudly. Despite a few interstitial cards between areas, there’s no deep story or motivation or pageantry to be found here. It’s just you and your arsenal of magical and military weaponry vs the supernatural hordes. At any given moment, it’s paying deep homage to Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Heretic, Quake, Duke Nukem–the list goes on. The question, however, is what exactly does Project Warlock bring to the table that’s unique? The answer is, ultimately, not a whole lot, but what it does, it certainly does well enough.
The style clash between all the game’s wild, anachronistic elements certainly counts for something. This is a game where you can take out lurching cyborgs with a crossbow, wield laser rifles against abominable snowmen, and kill Lovecraftian horrorbeasts with a submachine gun. That mix makes for a smirking, free-wheeling sort of game where every problem has a brute-force solution from somewhere in the annals of history or legend. If a shotgun can’t fix all your problems in this game, a fiery magic spell probably will, and vice versa. There isn’t necessarily a wrong approach for many of Project Warlock’s challenges. As long as you know which button pulls the trigger and which one opens doors, you’re generally fine. And no matter which weapon you wield–from magic staffs to double-barrelled shotguns to sticks of dynamite–the vast majority of your arsenal packs an absolute wallop when it hits.