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Released: 1981

Genre: Strategy

Format reviewed: Atari 2600

Publisher: Atari

Submitted by: Mat Corne

Back in the early 80’s, before Bomberman existed and when Mario Kart was not even a glint in Miyamoto’s eye, Atari released Warlords, arguably the originator of the multiplayer battle game. Building on the success of Pong and Breakout, this game is effectively a 4-player version of the latter with each player defending the blocks comprising their ‘castle’ from being hit by the ‘fireball’ being bounced around the screen, whilst at the same time trying to break down the walls of their opponents’ castles and destroy the warlord within.

This would be little more than a glorified game of Pong if it weren’t for one significant change in the gameplay. By holding down the button on your Atari paddle controller, you can actually catch and hold the ball on your ‘shield’ (or bat) and then fire it off from a different position by releasing the button. As a result a skilled player can keep catching the ball when it comes to them and then target a specific player to bombard time after time. Consequently Warlords is a game that requires skilful control of the paddle combined with keen strategy to target either the strongest player to try and eliminate them as quickly as possible, or the weaker players to get them out of the way!
This is one of those games that appeals to seasoned gamers and casual newbies alike because with such simple controls it is easy to pick up, but the more you play it the better your skills become. The graphics are simple even by the 2600’s blocky standards and the sounds are limited to an admittedly satisfying thunk as the blocks are smashed from the castle walls, but none of that matters because Warlords has gameplay that is truly timeless and never ceases to entertain.