The war on bugs.

There are a lot of fantasy stories set in medieval kingdoms. Some focus on kings and wizards—those who live in castles and are surrounded by power, both military and magical, to change history with their decisions. Wartales is not a game about those people. It’s about a dirty band of mercenaries going from job to job and battle to battle, fighting to stay alive, repairing their battered equipment, and, most importantly, getting paid.

It’s the lowest of low fantasy, where the enemies are not just the outlaws and wild animals you must defeat, but also hunger management, fraying relationships between the troops, and getting lost while walking, walking, walking across the various kingdoms. No one likes you—you are killers for hire, after all, with no loyalty to anyone but your team—but they need you.

In terms of gameplay, it works like this. After putting together your initial team of four players, you set off in search of a town where you can take jobs. Along the way, you can be attacked by thieves and wild animals, and perhaps come across townsfolk and refugees who also need your help.

All of this takes place in a large world map, with your team walking and leading their pack mule. Eventually they’ll get tired and need to rest, where you’ll need to feed them and eventually pay their wages. If you can’t accomplish that, the team will weaken and eventually split up.

Once you enter combat, Wartales becomes a turn-based strategy game. You’ll fight your enemies by moving your characters one at a time on a grid map, making use of their attacks and special abilities while your foes do the same. As your characters level up and gain new equipment, they’ll gain new abilities and specializations based on their skill tree. So, while you might have multiple rangers on your team, one could specialize in poisoning foes while another has the ability to throw smoke bombs to break up combat.

In addition, you can unlock special attacks and buffs by using “valor points.” These are gained by fulfilling combat conditions like attacking multiple foes at once, having team members move to support their allies, and rallying their forces.

In addition to combat abilities, your mercenaries can also have a secondary job like blacksmithing, thievery, angling (fishing), mining, and others that you’ll unlock by exploring the map. Each character can have only one job, though, and while you can select which job your initial team members can take, once you start hiring mercs to replace the dead or beef up your ranks, they’ll come with their jobs already decided.

Some of the benefits are obvious. Having a blacksmith allows you to make weapons and armor rather than buying or looting them, fishing provides you with food, and the cook can learn recipes to enhance the restorative effects of your food. Having a tinker on your team allows you to make objects to enhance your camp (like a hitching post for the mules or a better cooking set up).

As you start to personalize your team, outfitting them with better gear, they’ll also start to build relationships with each other, which will come up as dialogue options during camp. Successful characters will gain bonuses, but make a mistake during combat—like accidentally hitting an ally with an arrow or taking lots of damage—and things will turn sour.

While all of this makes for a nuanced take in a low fantasy setting, the Switch port of Wartales is unfortunately hampered by bugs. The game crashes frequently and often at key moments—while entering story missions or attempting to make choices that could affect the way the world unfolds.

Equally unfortunate is that the game autosaves at irregular intervals, meaning that once you reload the game, you might find yourself back at the beginning of a fight you finished half an hour ago.

There’s a lot of potential in Wartales. It’s a good looking game with a lot of room to flesh out a roleplaying experience to your particular taste.

You’re rewarded for exploring and adopting different playstyles, and having a character you’ve worked on for hours unexpectedly die in combat can be gutting. Especially when they’re gutted. The game has limited magic (healing potions and a ghostlike fog filled with spectral beasts), but dead is dead; when you lose characters, you’re expected to bury them.

But the crashing problem is far too frequent, and losing not only gameplay but the ability to complete key missions simply prevents me from enjoying the game. I’ve been patiently waiting for a patch to fix stability, and suggest you do, too.