Heroes of Hammerwatch, from developer Crackshell, is a fast-paced rogue-lite action game, complete with plethora elements of procedural generation. It features colorful pixel art, a variety of character classes, and a unique charm that keeps players coming back.
The game starts off with you selecting one of the available starting classes and entering your hub town. You can choose to be a range of characters, including a paladin that has high armor, a ranger that fires arrows from safety, to a sorcerer that deals a lot of damage but can’t take much punishment. From there, you’ll meet all the NPCs who will soon be your best friends as they sell you upgrades to your armor, skills, potions, and more. Then, you’ll enter the mines. This kicks off a six-act campaign through a variety of environments, from a damp dungeon to the snowy top a castle. Each act is punctuated by a boss, who are fearsome opponents. The acts themselves are filled with traps, loot rooms, and a very large number of enemies. You’ll make it your goal to conquer your foes and collect the treasure, since each item you find offers you a unique bonus to aid you during your journey. These bonuses can increase your chance to evade attacks, give you a flat bonus to the amount of gold you find, and more. When your run through the campaign is completed and you kill the boss of the final act, you unlock the next difficulty. All the items obtained in your run will disappear, but your gold and ore will remain. You can spend these on all manners of upgrades for your character, and completing a difficulty with a specific character class will unlock a bonus shared across all of your characters, regardless of class. With so many avenues to gain strength, it is difficult to feel truly stuck if a new difficulty feels insurmountable.
In-between runs through the campaign, you have the opportunity to spend your gold and ore on various upgrades that are permanent, leaving you with a slightly more capable adventurer. Accumulating gold and ore can be fast-tracked by playing on a slightly lower difficulty than what you’re capable of, since the enemies will fold easier and you can run through the campaign swiftly. On difficulties you’ve already beaten, you have the option to skip the acts by completing a portal room. The portal room consists of a cube that you need to burst down while being attacked by enemies from the next act. You don’t need to worry about missing items that you would have gained by completing the act properly, because completing a portal room will gift you several items of varying quality. Character customization allows you make an adventurer that stands out, and you’ll unlock different colors for armor pieces, hair, and more as you play the game. You will also unlock drinks and blueprints. Blueprints let you spend ore crafting a specific item to take into the dungeon with you to start with, while drinks let you take certain buffs, but some come with negative effects as well.
Ultimately, the success or failure of each run is dependent on the player and how they adapt, but there is a ton left up to chance. The specific items you find, the traps, and even the layout of the maps are all randomly generated, which leads to huge variances in the runs through the campaign even if you start them all off with the same circumstances. This can lead to joy and frustration, but it’s a good idea to take the bad runs in stride, since they’ll teach you to deal with the worst the game has to offer.
There are currently two different DLCs for sale, with another on the horizon. Right now, you can buy the Pyramid of Prophecy, which adds a new character class, the gladiator, and a new campaign. The other DLC for sale is the Witch Hunter class. The DLCs make the base game feel much richer, and both new classes are fun to use. The new campaign included with Pyramid of Prophecy is not as fun as the base campaign, but there are reasons to complete it regardless.
There is no ultimate endgame. You can push the game as far as you want to go, and you might eventually get your fill of Heroes of Hammerwatch. The game is certainly more fun with friends, and public multiplayer is very active in the event that none of your friends are available. Learning the various traps, beneficial item effects, and how to most efficiently destroy your enemies is a cerebrally engaging experience. However, you are eventually left with a realization that you are only chasing higher numbers. All in all, Heroes of Hammerwatch is a great way to spend time with people, but only the most hardcore and grind-oriented players will take long-term joy in its single player mode.
-Infinitely replayable since there is no limit to how many difficulties you can unlock
-Multiplayer can be easily set up with friends or strangers
-Progress between runs is noticeable and gratifying
-Progressing on a class that you don’t use a lot can prove to be very beneficial to your main class, which encourages exploration in different playstyles
-Playing with different combinations of items and discovering new and overpowered strategies is a lot of fun
-Long sessions of grinding can wear someone down regardless of success or failure
-Some characters are more difficult to progress with in a single player setting
-Guild bonuses seem unevenly distributed between classes
-Multiplayer bugs linked to long play sessions (three hours or more) can limit visibility of the map during a run (to the point where the entire screen is red)
-Chasing specific blueprints or drinks can be maddening when met with repeated failure