After its success on PC over the years which has seen the game garner a following of dedicated fans, Heroes of Hammerwatch has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One too – bringing with it hours upon hours of fantasy dungeon-crawling fun that can be enjoyed solo or with up to three other players in online action. It’s the ‘Ultimate Edition’ too, which includes all of the previously released updates and DLC to ensure console gamers really are getting the most fleshed-out version of the game.
The first thing you’ll do in Heroes of Hammerwatch is build your character, with an array of classes on offer including the likes of a melee-focused Warrior, a bow-wielding Ranger, a spell-casting Sorcerer, a healing Priest, and even a Witch Hunter that brings a crossbow as well as an assortment of neat magical abilities (this class was originally DLC but it’s available from the get-go for console gamers). Each class genuinely feels unique to play as and there’s something here for everybody, so Heroes of Hammerwatch will definitely cater to your style of play and offers plenty of replayability in trying them all out.
Your adventure begins in the town of Outlook, where you’re tasked with clearing out dungeons and completing quests as you look to make your way to the top of the dangerous Forsaken Spire… easy, right? Well, Heroes of Hammerwatch is a rogue-lite, so progress can be lost upon death. However, the improvements you make to your character and town remain persistent (more on that in a bit), so you’ll always find your odds of success improving despite the many deaths you’ll suffer along the way during your journey.
Combat in Heroes of Hammerwatch utilises twin-stick mechanics, with players moving their character with the left stick and aiming with the right, whether that’s when slicing away up-close with a sword, blasting out arrows as a Ranger, or using ranged magic attacks to wipe out foes from afar. Between all of the different classes on offer, there are a good range of weapons and abilities that can be utilised to kill your enemies. Thankfully, they’re all easy to use thanks to the game’s simple yet intuitive control scheme, which makes switching between attacks and abilities feel accessible throughout – regardless of the class you’re playing as.
Be warned though: whilst you have a good arsenal of weapons and attacks at your disposal, so do your enemies. You’ll always want to be wary of any tricks they might have up their sleeves (especially in boss encounters) if you want to survive, whilst the fact they like to attack in mobs means you can expect to find yourself outnumbered A LOT.
The dungeons you trawl through are randomly-generated and full to the brim with traps and hazards, enemies to kill, loot to collect, simple puzzles to complete, and nasty bosses to vanquish… basically, everything you’d expect from your typical video game dungeon. There are only two ways to actually leave a dungeon in the game though: by clearing all of its floors or by dying. Grim, right?
When you die, you lose anything you’re carrying… items, gold, ore… the lot. However, there are ways around this, with players able to send any of the loot they’ve collected back to Outlook by giving it to a friendly fellow named Miner Oliver who is found in dungeon – if you do this, you’ll still get to keep anything you give him if you die. However, he takes a percentage of your loot from you, so there’s a bit of a risk and reward element in place: do you give up some of your loot to ensure your run wasn’t in vain if you meet an untimely demise or do you risk venturing through to the end of the dungeon to keep it all? It is these decisions that’ll determine if a dungeon run was successful or not and ultimately factors in on your progression through the game.
That loot which you amass from dungeon runs can be invested in different ways, though one of the most interesting is by improving Outlook. You can spend the ore you collect to bring in new buildings which offer additional services and items for the player to purchase, as well as an array of different upgrades for abilities and weapons. Alternatively, the gold you collect can purchase new gear and improvements for your character. The two currencies go hand in hand together to offer progress through the game, with the fact they’re split into two different options meaning you never have to sacrifice a facet of your development for one or the other. You can also level up as you work through dungeons too, though this can feel like a slower process when compared to utilising the loot you earn.
That loop of working through dungeons, collecting loot, and making improvements makes up the bulk of Heroes of Hammerwatch’s gameplay – if we’re being totally honest, it doesn’t really offer anything that you wouldn’t have seen before. That doesn’t stop the game from being a whole lot of fun to play though, with the fast-paced twin-stick combat proving frantic and enjoyable, the locales you explore full of personality and surprises thanks to their random design, and the sense of customisation offered with your town and character surprisingly deep. It’s one of those games that just manages to absolutely nail the basics which in turn makes for a very addictive experience where you’ll find yourself clearing ‘just one more’ dungeon into the early hours. It’s perfect for quick blasts on the Nintendo Switch too, where the portable nature of the console adds a level of convenience to quickly collecting loot when you’ve got a few minutes spare.
One of the best things about Heroes of Hammerwatch is the sheer amount of content on offer. Besides the base game being packed with areas to explore, enemies to kill, and fleshed-out classes to play as anyway, it also comes with all of the previously released DLC including two content packs which bring with them additional campaigns to play through with extra locales to explore and bosses to beat.
An additional ‘Mercenary Mode’ can be played through when you get a class to level twenty, which gives you a powerful character to play as with plenty of gold. However, it comes with the permutations of permadeath, so it’s a lot more challenging than your standard playthrough of the game. Want to keep expanding your classes? You can also jump into ‘New Game +’ to carry on your adventures, with enemies’ strength scaling along with you. There’s simply so much on offer in Heroes of Hammerwatch that you could potentially spend hundreds of hours in its expansive and entertaining world.
Best of all, it can all be enjoyed in online co-op with friends, with up to three extra players able to join you as you work through dungeons and gather treasure. This adds an extra strategic element to the game where you can work together in co-ordination to wipe out the many enemies that are scattered across dungeons, whilst it’s also pretty satisfying to show off your character build too. It’s definitely one of the most enjoyable co-op experiences that I’ve played for some time and I keep finding myself coming back for more time and time again.
Heroes of Hammerwatch offers dungeon-crawling gameplay that’s simple in design, but also incredibly varied, fun, and addictive. I had a really good time building my character by charging through its plethora of dungeons and challenges, whilst the sense of progress that came with developing the town of Outlook and unlocking new abilities kept me hooked into the game for hours on end. Add to that the fun online multiplayer and abundance of content to play through and you’ll quickly find that Heroes of Hammerwatch is a title that all dungeon-crawling fans will want to check out.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC