Games, like any form of entertainment, benefit from a wide variety of different takes and options. No genre is limited to one idea on how it should be done, no shortage of people offering their own spin, and more to make it stand out. Heroes of Hammerwatch – Ultimate Edition does this for the rogue-lite genre by merging character progression with randomly generated levels. This is nothing new but interesting characters, the ability to build your town and countless ways to increase your power makes for a compelling ask, but does it work out for the best or does it hammer that point flat?
There isn’t much of a story to Heroes of Hammerwatch – Ultimate Edition besides a vague understanding that you’re going into a cave to kill monsters, collect resources and build yourself and those around you up. That is enough to sustain the experience, though optional quests and townspeople add a bit of flair to your progress, though it’s an experience defined by the gameplay loop.
It’s been a while since I played a game that had such a linear idea to progression. You go into the cave, collect gold and ore, along the way there is a way to bank these resources, though gold gets taxed, and upon death said resources are used to make runs easier. On so many levels it’s a very hollow and grindy experience.
Almost immediately players should realize your main goal isn’t to level per se, it’s to get as many resources out of the cave as possible. This is what will make you powerful and how you actually progress to the next area. However, Heroes of Hammerwatch – Ultimate Edition also wants to make this as cumbersome as possible.
Throughout your journey, two elements will come into play. The first is that everything is designed to be something of a roadblock. Initially, I have no blacksmith, so I need to invest like five ore to unlock that vendor who proceeds to make my sword like 10 attack points stronger for a bit of cash. After upgrading, I can’t exchange more cash for power without leveling my town hall, costing like another five ore, only to have another blacksmith level for something like 10 ore. This then restarts the same process, just now it’s 20 ore to unlock another upgrade for 25 ore, leading to another town level for 40 and it just repeats until you eventually hit the cap.
This is, unfortunately, true for every element. One element lowers the tax rate, another makes the shop more worthwhile, there is an ore vendor that becomes increasingly more valuable as you progress, and even new elements that can be unlocked to make runs easier. Another, very important element is your guildhall. Leveling will unlock stars and can be used to enhance or unlock perks or abilities. For example, the first sword upgrade hits 19 physical damage over a 120-degree arc and five levels later increase to 31 damage over a 240-degree arc. These are extremely important
All of this is basically the gameplay loop in Heroes of hammerwatch – Ultimate Edition. Explore, collect resources, improve your town to unlock new ways to invest in a hero, followed by building up the town to do it all again. How worthwhile this depends less on the rewards each upgrade offer and more on how much fun is exploration, something that is honestly a mixed bag.
For a game that boasts procedurally generated levels, it fails to create that different of an experience. The mine, prison, or whatever might look one way in this run, another way in another run, be a goldmine the run after that and cleaned out following that but the levels and overall gameplay never changes. No matter what levels come down to moving down hallways and getting absolutely swarmed by enemies. It isn’t uncommon for 20 or more things to be coming at you and for better or worse, either the hero of the swarm is going to fall rather quickly. Ironically, it rarely is the huge group of enemies that cause problems, it’s ranged enemies that might get a lucky hit or two in. As a result, the best course of action is to isolate them, disarm their threat, and then kill the seemingly endless waves of useless peons.
Eventually, one of two things will happen. Either a boss will show that, despite having the ability to defeat thousands of enemies, you lack the power required to progress, resulting in more runs to obtain whatever is missing to progress, or the boss is defeated and then the next world overwhelms your hero, again, resulting in the cycle restarts.
Despite all this, Heroes of Hammerwatch – Ultimate Edition has some good. Unsurprisingly, the seemingly endless waves of enemies are, if nothing else, engaging and there is something to be said about the mindless fighting aspect. Since this is the ultimate edition, all the DLC expansions are included to further increase your grinding, with more enemies, customization, and things to unlock. There is also an online co-op, though it’s impossible to say how popular it will be.
Heroes of Hammerwatch – Ultimate Edition Review – Verdict
To make it simple, there are really two ways to look at Heroes of Hammerwatch – Ultimate Edition. Either you decide you love the simple and engaging gameplay, the one where you run around, fight swarms of enemies and slowly build up the town or it’s a grind-heavy mess. As a fan of the roguelike and roguelike genres, it falls more in the grind-heavy mentality, simply because the limits are less skill and more resources. Still, it’s engaging enough to, if nothing else, get some fun out of it.
[Editor’s Note: Heroes of Hammerwatch – Ultimate Edition was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]