Two Minds About Warp’s Edge
They said it couldn’t be done. They never believed that Dan and Brock could reunite, after some 600 days, and write another Two Minds. But at long last, we’ve done it. This time, we’re discussing Warp’s Edge by designer Scott Almes and Renegade Games. It’s a tidy little box that will have you dog-fighting in zero gravity at practically the speed of light. But will the g-forces nauseate you?
Dan: Yes. I’m actually very susceptible to even slight changes in velocity. I’ve always struggled with carsickness. One time at Disneyland, I ate a turkey leg right before Space Mountain, and—
Brock: As much as I’ve missed our nausea chats (and I really, truly have), let’s try to keep things on track.
Brock: The latest in Renegade’s “Solo Hero” series, Warp’s Edge follows the real-time dice and arena combat of Proving Grounds with bag-building and warp gates. It’s a space battle, with the future of humanity at stake. Well, the future of one human at stake. Our dashing and ambiguous hero, Taylor Minde, is stranded at the far edge of space, with only your ship and a flock of deadly aliens for company. Defeating them will require a deft hand at the controls, knowing when to dodge, when to fire lasers, and when to activate your niftiest red jacket.
Dan: Plus a time loop. That’ll be the highlight for most folks, I think. The basic idea is that you’re ejecting hot laser death at alien spacecraft and avoiding taking too many scorch marks of your own. For the most part, this means drawing a few chips from your bag to destroy or stun those enemy fighters, keep your shields up, or buy better chips. It’s a fairly light system. A chancy one, as well.
Brock: It’s pretty close to a “pure” bag-building experience, if such a thing exists. The pattern will be familiar to anyone who’s, say, used copper to buy silver or used punches to buy a kick, or any other way we’ve stacked our discard piles.
Dan: Like we’ve been intimating, the whole thing is straightforward. What gives it that extra oomph is that you’re stuck on the edge of a warp… thingie. Warp’s edge, get it? Your classic time loop situation. When things look dicey, you can rewind back to the beginning to start over again, except now you’re armed with any new chips you’ve earned. Plus upgrades. Double-plus knowledge. Because what’s a time loop story without knowledge?
Brock: The time loop is one of the brightest stars in this constellation for a few reasons. In most builders (deck and bag alike), running through your draw options is an event without much significance. You reshuffle and press on. It’s part of the cadence, a pit stop on the way to the actual fun parts.
But here the titular warp throws a curve. Each time you reach the end of your bag you’ll have to reset all of those pointy aliens you destroyed and face them all over. Sure, you get to keep all the new tokens you earned, and that feels great, but you’ll also slide one step closer to annihilation. If you haven’t blown up the big, bad mothership by the time you reach your fourth reshuffle, you lose. No more chances.
Dan: It’s certainly the highlight. I have some nitpicks with the bag-building, for reasons we’ll discuss in a moment, so finding yourself in a time loop is an appreciable twist. It’s sort of like playing a really trad deck-builder, going through those same motions you’ve mastered for years, wondering why this is supposed to be interesting, and then bang! You’re back at the beginning and now you know what will appear in the market, what your opponents intend to throw at you, that sort of thing.
Brock: The warp limitation, combined with the different methods for gaining tokens, is something I really appreciate about Warp’s Edge. You’ll savor every draw from your bag, and you’ll worry as it starts to feel too light. And maybe you’ll work out the perfect maneuver to stretch this last warp for just one more draw.
Dan: Okay, so here’s my big question, Brock. Of the great time loop films, which most closely resembles Warp’s Edge? Let’s see, we’ve got Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code, Palm Springs… I’m calling Palm Springs. I’ll explain why in a second. What’s your pick?
Brock: Not being familiar with Palm Springs, my first thought is to pick Source Code, since it has a definite sci-fi bent, or Edge of Tomorrow since it has the obvious alien-fighting element (and the incomparable Emily Blunt). But instead I’m tempted to call out my favorite recent time loop movie, Happy Death Day. It’s not a perfect fit, since dying in Warp’s Edge generally means an end to chrono-shenanigans, but in both cases a new loop means coming back with knowledge and, to avoid being too spoilery, other accumulations.
Dan: I haven’t seen Happy Death Day! Sorry, Brock, but that’s a disqualification.
There’s a reason I suspect Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t quite fit, and you can tell me if this applies to Happy Death Day as well. I’m thinking of those scenes where Tom Cruise goes through the motions of killing aliens in perfect synchrony with their movements and attacks. Like, he shoots one over his shoulder as it jumps at him, preempts Emily Blunt’s exclamation of surprise, saves a fellow soldier by goosing the back of his power armor right as a dropship crashes on the beach — he knows exactly what’s coming. He even knows how the aliens will react to his reactions, which exhibits a brain-melting depth of knowledge based on how many times he’s completed the loop.
Warp’s Edge doesn’t do that. Defeated aliens are reshuffled each round, so you aren’t learning, say, a sequence to beat. Even if they weren’t shuffled, they’re not quite distinct enough that they would present a sequence anyway; for the most part, they’re all very similar. Meanwhile, the chips you’re drawing pretty much come down to a very small handful of verbs — lasers and maneuvers, which are basically two flavors of attack, plus energy and a few special moves. And they’re randomized each play! The last loop feels as scrappy as the first. Your accumulated knowledge and reflexes are only lightly literalized by the game system.
That’s why Palm Springs fits better, I think. Not only because it’s a comedy starring your favorite character actor Andy Samberg (note: Brock loves some Andy), and Warp’s Edge has a certain comedic tone to it, but also because it possesses that scrappiness. Certain elements are predictable, but its real drama arises from those that aren’t. I think there’s room to explore the time loop in our medium, but Warp’s Edge isn’t really about a time loop. It’s more about picking the right moment to retreat and regroup.
Brock: The way they captured Andy Samberg’s teeth in Storks? A revelation.
It sounds like Happy Death Day and Palm Springs have more in common than just that Robert J. Gray was boom operator on both (thanks IMDB Collaboration search!). Their time loops are less deterministic clockwork, and more like branching Rube Goldberg machines.
But I’d like to get more into our feelings on just how successful Warp’s Edge is, because I sense we may be diverging slightly. Is this a hit on your solo table? Or have the super-accelerated tungsten rods failed to strike their target?
Dan: It might be most accurate to say that the rod went wide and its shockwave overcame the target’s perimeter defenses without entirely obliterating it.
I’m happy to see these dedicated solitaire games from Renegade — not just multiplayer with a solo mode tacked on, not just cooperative that functions better solo, but games designed with a single player in mind. And Warp’s Edge isn’t shabby by any means. I enjoy its moment-to-moment gameplay, the act of removing enemy ships and acquiring new chips and drawing them from the bag. But its core process is also slightly flabby. I want more chips in order to stay in the fight longer, but more chips means weaker hands that are less tailored to the ongoing fight. I’m supposed to be learning with each loop, but enemies are largely interchangeable. It’s very much a game about its process, but that process, while pleasurable enough in the moment, isn’t enough to make me want to keep coming back. When I go to set it up, it’s more out of obligation than because I’m eager to see how the next battle will play out.
That said, I’m open to being persuaded! Persuade away.
Brock: I definitely share your feelings about dedicated solo games. As popular as solitaire gaming is becoming in the hobby, it seems like the vast majority of players are carving solo into their multiplayer games. Most of my own solo gaming is with cooperative games, certainly, so Warp’s Edge was a welcome step toward adding bespoke solo experiences to my collection.
One quality that sells me on Warp’s Edge is its speed. I do mean that it sets up quickly, and playtime is short, but it’s more than just that. The traditional rhythm of bag-building is accelerated, prompting quick decisions and cascading explosions.
I don’t think it’s always successful, however. There are times when the speed outpaces itself, and it stumbles. There are some rules that feel overly punitive, and lead to sessions that cycle inevitably into failure. And I can’t imagine facing the more difficult bosses.
With all that said, I still think Warp’s Edge is worth approaching. There’s quite a lot of variety and novelty on offer, even for gamers who’ve been steeped in deck-builders for the better part of a decade. Its approach is innovative, or at the very least it’s cleverly iterative.
Dan: I do think it iterates in an interesting way. Coming back to the same problem with a stronger bag feels good, even if the enemies are so close to drones that I’m rarely tailoring a precise approach. That’s the crux of my indecision: even though I’m not really honing my approach, the illusion is convincing. I wish it felt more like I was mastering my approach rather than bulking up my bag, but it’s hard not to get caught up in the game’s core loop, in part because of the speed you mentioned.
Brock: Its speed and ambition are assets, but I’ll admit that they may occasionally be its downfall. It moves quickly enough to be thrilling and make a fancy shower of fireworks, but sometimes so fast that it doesn’t leave much of an impression. For me I think it’s a tentative recommendation, because I still think it works on a lot of levels.
Full disclosure, it works a lot better if you make laser sounds with your mouth. Were you remembering the laser sounds, Dan?
Dan: As somebody who used to operate an actual surgical laser, I’m sad to inform you that lasers make a dull clicking sound. Click click. There. I made laser sounds.