Hammerwatch is a pixelated hack-and-slash RPG that tries to be a little different from everything that’s already available. If you’re thinking “O, no, not another pixelated game,” you might be in for treat, but you might also be right.
Hammerwatch can be considered an indie game, but it’s getting harder and harder to fit anything in this category. The quality of these titles has increased tremendously in the past couple of years and Hammerwatch certainly fits the bill.
The game was developed by just two guys, Jochum Skoglund and Niklas Myrberg, but Hammerwatch is complex enough that you couldn’t tell just from the way it looks and plays.
It wasn’t developed with the help of a crowd-funding project, but it did pass through the Steam Greenlight program on Steam.
Ever since Steam for Linux made an appearance, this section of the review doesn’t make sense anymore. There are no special instructions and games just install, with very little effort on the part of the user.
Nonetheless, there are some titles in the Steam library that need a little extra attention, and Hammerwatch is one of them.
Players will actually
need root access in order to play this game because it requires the Mono package and every dependency that comes with it. If you’re fine with this requirement, then installing the game should be fairly easy.
The name hack and slash really says it all, especially for this game. I’m not sure who exactly coined the name of this genre, but I’m pretty sure this is the game they had in mind.
Players get to choose from a few classes of characters, which are pretty straightforward and really express the type of gameplay you’ll be expecting: paladin, ranger, warlock, and wizard.
I played with the Paladin class and it takes a lot of button smashing. The character is pretty easy to control and I only had to use the WASD and the arrow buttons, which sounds simple, at least in theory.
The game starts pretty easily, pitting the player against weaker enemies and defenseless crates. This is a problem, which must be mentioned right from the bat. There are too many crates; in fact, there are more crates than enemies. The worst thing is that all crates contain a small amount of money, so you're pushed by a compulsory (probably maniacal) need to destroy them all.
The number of enemies soon increases and so does the player’s work. Killing enemies becomes a difficult task, and it's not all that rewarding.
From time to time, you'll be able to put that money to good use and buy upgrades for your life, mana, and various skills. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't seem well balanced and the checkpoints are too far in between.
The upgrades for the main attack arrive too late and the player always struggles against the incoming hordes of enemies. You will get respawned at the start of a new level if you die, but you also have a limited number of lives, and this means that you'll have to reload the last save.
Maybe there are some people out there who really want this kind of punishment from their gaming experience, but I started the game on the medium difficulty and I still felt that the performance curve was abrupt.
A much better playing style is provided by the ranger, which allows the user to inflict the same amount of damage, but from a respectable distance.
From a graphical point of view, there isn't much to be said, but the option features a few selections such as lightning, glow, ambient occlusion, vsync, and soft shadows. I'm unsure how these features are actually implemented, but they don't seem to impede on the style of play.
A more interesting aspect is the music used in the Hammerwatch. The sound effects are run off the mill and don't really offer anything special, but the music is dynamic and feels almost modern.
Hammerwatch also comes with a cooperative multiplayer mode, allowing users to connect every which way, either locally, online, and even to direct IP. The problem is that we couldn't find any matches to connect to, but this might be rectified in the future after more people buy the game.
I can't stop thinking that Hammerwatch might have been a much better game if it incorporated two different mechanics, a random level generation and a much better action curve that doesn't punish players in such a drastic manner.
Even with this in mind, Hammerwatch is still a fun game to play and I suspect that I might return for more punishment.