Saturday, December 23

Review: Hammerwatch [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

Dungeon-crawling has become quite a hobby for gamers over the years but when you ask just about anyone what classic game paved the way for how things are done you’ll probably hear the name Gauntlet a lot. Aside from being the game that popularized the concept of the multiplayer quarter pumper and making everyone hate the idiot who shot the food Gauntlet was a well-executed action game with varied classes that was a blast to play with a few friends. Hammerwatch both honors and refines many of the elements that made Gauntlet work (including a great callback level or two) and provides a satisfying challenge through its 2 campaigns and bonus modes.

Possibly most importantly the controls are easy to pick up but are nuanced enough that you’ll need to be smart if you want to survive. You will always have a base attack as well as a special attack that consumes your magic. As you progress you’ll collect gold and these attacks can then be enhanced in a variety of ways by vendors. In particular I liked the upgrades tied to combos that can provide health as well as added offensive oomph when you’re able to chain hits on enemies continuously as it helped me focus on what I was doing and the reward was always worth it. Each class has its own feel, and if you’re up for a challenge the melee classes tend to be far more difficult to keep alive so if you’re finding things too easy you should simply amp up the difficulty or choose a different hero.

Multiplayer is really where the game shines, especially since it then makes the melee classes more viable if you have someone with ranged attacks helping cover for you. The shame is that though there is an Online option in the menu it isn’t quite ready to go yet, but if you have some friends to play with locally for now it makes the game far more varied and fun. That isn’t to say rocking the game solo isn’t possible, you’re just missing out on some of the benefits of having back up and people to enjoy some of the crazier moments and close calls with.

One thing to note is that the dungeons in the game’s 2 satisfying campaigns are pre-made and not generated dynamically so replay will be about challenging yourself or trying out new classes, but there’ll be an element of going through the motions potentially. The good news is that both will take quite a few hours to clear and are satisfying to complete. There are 2 additional modes but they’re more endurance and survival challenges to test your skills, not to provide you with new deep adventures.

While many games have tried to emulate the look and feel of Gauntlet over the years I don’t think any that I’ve played have nailed it quite as well, overall, as Hammerwatch. Through the game’s two beefy campaigns I was thoroughly sucked in by the action and the various puzzles and hidden rooms had me scouring every corner of the maps for secrets. If you’ve had an itch for a quality action-oriented dungeon crawler that is also very accessible it is easy to recommend.

Score: 8

  • A wide variety of classes ensure there’s something for everyone
  • People in search of a challenge can go for a melee class or alter the game’s settings to amp things up
  • The game’s 2 campaigns are quite different and provide a varied experience

  • Though there’s an online option in the menu for now it is merely a tease
  • Since the dungeons aren’t procedurally-generated once you beat the 2 campaigns your interest is likely to drop

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