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Hammerwatch: Review

Reviewing games sometimes feels like I’m administering my best friend’s driving test. I might give him the terrorist fist bump before getting into the car but then I have to pull out the clipboard and start ruining his day. It doesn’t mean I like him any less, I just gotta be honest; it’s a professionalism thing.

Hammerwatch is the latest top-down hack-and-slash arcade brought to you by Jochum Skoglund and Niklas Myberg. It features killing things and getting killed. Well you can explore for money and items but really it’s all to facilitate the killing of things a bit faster. Except for some items, which help you live longer and some other items, which do nothing.Hammerwatch-4The mechanics are simple, but fun. You can play as one of four different types of characters. Each character has a different feel to best clear out waves and waves of enemies. While some enemies drop a small amount of money, you don’t really get much from killing, you’re really just clearing out moving obstacles. There is no experience gain or leveling up, it all comes down to money, make sure to pick up every drop. So the key to winning is to find all the money you can to be able to buy as many upgrades as possible.

This is, in all sense of the word, an arcade game. The only thing it’s missing is the ability to accept all the coins it seems to be demanding from you. There is a life system that will drain on you because, like an arcade game, there is a battle of attrition. You will die, eventually, and you will run out of lives, eventually. While the challenge is fun, there is that overriding feel of an impending loss and that can remove some enjoyment. You can turn on infinite lives or regenerating health but it really feels like the game is tagging you as a loser in return.hammerwatchNow, to keep that doom off you can get find more lives and get money to buy upgrades. But nothing is explained. The arcades of old relied on loading screens, so they used those loading screens to give the player some important information. This game is made well enough to not need loading screens, but in replacement there should’ve been a manual. If you don’t know that there are walls you can walk through, you won’t even be looking for them.  I personally only found some secrets on my fourth playthrough.

There are some special skills you can use throughout the game, and you can buy some later, but there are only three special moves you can get, and you can’t choose from a larger list. Having just your basic attack and your one starting skill makes things feel repetitive; having just two more moves added throughout the entirety of the playthrough makes things feel shallow. It’s a long game which provides plenty of opportunity to explore but the only reward is the ability to buy bigger numbers for the stuff you already have.

As I mentioned before, I had a lot of fun with this game but these are major issues that could get in the way of most people’s enjoyment. It’s better to play with others to overcome some of these problems. There are so many enemies on so many floors causing so much death that it becomes a slog on your own but a party with others. There is nothing like jolly cooperation to make someone forget about their own mortality.hammerwatch05So a recommendation for this game really depends on if you just love online party games. Consider it a casual game that’s difficult to master.

Final Score: 7/10

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