Chainsaw Warrior – PC
Publisher: Auroch Digital
Developer: Auroch Digital
Release Date: Oct 7, 2013
Genre: Adventure, Indie, RPG, Strategy
Reviewed by Grant Chen
Review Score: 2 of 5
Games Workshop is famous for its Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 games, but that wasn’t always the case. A long time ago, they made board games. These titles are mainly forgotten these days, but one of them finally made a comeback: Chainsaw Warrior. As far as titles (in a literal sense of the word) go, you can’t get much better than that. Chainsaw Warrior is a solo board game where you must save New York from extra-dimensional invaders, and the PC version is a direct translation of that game.
At the start of the game, you’re treated to a motion comic explaining the background, then you’re taken to character creation. Character creation is almost entirely random. You roll for your Health (How many hits you can take before you die), Endurance (How much venom or radiation you can absorb before you die), Hand to Hand (Your ability to fight in melee), Marksman (Your accuracy with ranged weapons), Reflexes (Your ability to avoid explosive traps and shoot enemies before they close into melee), a random Skill (That can bestow unique traits or raise one of your other stats), and Equipment Points. The equipment points are the only part in character creation where you actually make choices. You start off with one weapon, the laser lance, but you can spend your equipment points to buy other weapons, armor, and equipment. Pro tip: Always buy a chainsaw. It’s right there in the title. Once character creation is over, the real game begins.
The goal of Chainsaw Warrior is to slay Darkness, a monster who’s about to destroy New York. To reach him, though, you need to go through two decks of 54 cards each, which contain monsters, traps, and other obstacles. Darkness himself is shuffled somewhere into the second deck. You have one hour to take him out before New York is annihilated, so you’re on a time limit. Every turn you take subtracts 30 seconds from the timer, so really, you have 120 turns to go through both decks and hunt down Darkness. Now, I mentioned before that you start off with a laser lance. This is the only weapon that can harm Darkness. If you run out of ammo for the laser lance, you’re hit with a time penalty as you have to leave to resupply. Other events can also force you to lose turns, so while you have an idea of how much time you have, you can’t ever be too sure.
Now, let’s get to the moment to moment play of Chainsaw Warrior. You click on the deck of encounters. The top card flips over. If it’s a monster, you can choose to shoot it. If you do that, pick a gun and roll some dice. If you hit, the creature dies. If you fail, or if you choose not to take the shot, the enemy closes into melee, then the monster gets to roll dice and you get to roll dice. The monster adds their hand to hand, and you add your hand to hand. If you win, the monster dies. If not, you get hurt, and fighting continues. As you can see, the combat isn’t too involved. You just flip a card, choose to take a shot, and then fight in melee. Monsters die in a single hit. You go through them pretty quickly, thankfully, but it’s very uninvolved. There aren’t just monsters, though. Traps can force you to lose time unless you had the foresight to pick specific gear at the start of the game, and sometimes, rooms are clear, or there’ll be free equipment to grab. There’s also the dreaded Chasm obstacle card, which forces you to reshuffle the discard back into the deck and start the building over, unless you happened to have the right gear.
If this sounds like the game relies heavily on randomness, you’re absolutely right, and that can be extremely frustrating. There’s a lot of gear to pick from, and on the hardest difficulty, you don’t even get to choose your gear. It’s just randomly rolled. While the game does technically offer you decisions, most of them are no-brainers – if you see a zombie and you have a chainsaw, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t bust out the chainsaw. There’s no way of knowing what tools you’re actually going to need going into the game, so the gear you pick might end up being crucial to your success or completely useless.
The game isn’t entirely without merit. It’s possible to enjoy it, and for a while, I did, but it’s not the kind of experience suited for playing on a PC. It’s the kind of thing you launch on your phone while you’re waiting for someone. In fact, the PC version is a port of the phone version (which is a port of the board game version, because recursion is fun). The UI in the game is obviously designed for a phone, as every element on the screen is much larger than it really needs to be. To attack with a chainsaw, for example, you have to open the item menu, and then select the chainsaw, then confirm. There’s no quick context-sensitive menu that pops up all of your hand to hand combat options when you choose to engage in hand to hand.
Chainsaw Warrior is an authentic port of the board game, and clearly a labor of love. The game even includes several cards that didn’t come with the original game, but were only included with issues of Games Workshop’s White Dwarf magazine. However, the original game design just isn’t suited for a PC experience. It’s only five dollars, and you can have a fun time with it, but it’s also five dollars on Android and iOS devices. In that environment, the game becomes much, much better. My advice is to skip the PC version, but give the mobile version of the game some serious consideration. It’s a decent way to spend a few isolated pockets of time.