I don't think we're in 1980 anymore.
Warlords is an arcade title by Griptonite Games, a Washington-based developer and part of the "super developer" Foundation 9. Similar to its classic counterpart, Warlords is a vaguely Breakout-esque game, where players use a shield to bounce fireballs into their opponents' castles, while simultaneously protecting their own in the process. As a castle wall becomes damaged, it eventually breaks, allowing for a final fireball to slip within the walls and end the game.
Additionally, players are given control of a "rally soldier", around whom soldiers—adorably vicious little soldiers—will spawn and follow orders. Depending on the placement of the rally soldier, players can indirectly command their troops to repair their own walls, damage enemy walls, or occupy control points on the field to garner bonuses—reverse enemy movement, increase fireball attack damage for the commanding player, etc.
In the initial stages of any given game, the single fireball bouncing lazily around will be incredibly simple to deflect for even the poorest of players. But as time progresses during the match, the number of fireballs increases, to the extent that skilled players can find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of projectiles filling the screen.
It's here that Warlords presents a most fascinating challenge; any victory will surely be a pyrrhic one, and players will find themselves deciding not which enemy to attack, but which walls are worth taking damage and which must be protected at all costs. Between controlling your own troops and keeping an eye on the enemies, and the dozens of fireballs arcing about the playing field, the game quickly becomes incredibly hectic and the snap decisions required to mitigate damage and trip up opponents is exhilarating.
There are very few technical issues present in even the preview build, such that it surprised me that the game I played was considered "unfinished". Whatever tweaks Griptonite might make to the game will be purely aesthetic, I'd imagine; if it were published at this very moment, it would feel like a finished game. It's impressive how polished the game is already, to the extent that the infamous "quick release bug fixes" that have become the norm may not be required for Warlords.
Warlords is certainly not, by any extent, a full retail $60 game. But for what it presents as a downloadable title, it's incredibly good and surpasses most of its peers so far. Look for it to crash into XBLA and PSN this Summer 2011.