Despite the name, Hammerwatch does not, in fact, present a playable character with a hammer. Unfortunate misunderstandings aside, Hammerwatch is a very no-frills dungeon crawler, and you’ll find yourself thrown into the main game within seconds of booting up the title.

Due to this, however, there’s no time to learn the game’s mechanics. You’re given practically nothing in terms of story or tutorial, and if you don’t have a controller, figuring out how the game controls on a keyboard may be slightly frustrating until you open the keybinds menu.

Hammerwatch presents its visuals in a pseudo sixteen-bit style with more modern overtones, such as shading, post-processing, ambient occlusion and even VSync. Because of this, the game is more demanding than one may expect, and I found that I had to turn off some of these extra settings to make the game play without lagging. These shouldn’t affect a vast majority of users – my laptop is from seven years ago - but for a 2D indie game, it is surprisingly demanding.

Despite lacking severely in the plot department, Hammerwatch isn’t lacking at all in style. The graphics are somewhat dull in the first stage, but once you move on further, the pixel art making up other areas really impresses.

Hammerwatch Review - graphics

It really is a beautiful game.

Hammerwatch gives you a choice between 4 distinct classes; Paladin, Wizard, Warlock and Ranger. The Paladin prioritizes decent melee attack and defence plus speed, the Wizard is mid-range fighter with little-to-no-defence but devastating magical attack capabilities, the Warlock is a melee fighter with potent magical attacks, and the Ranger is a long-range specialist with arrows that pierce multiple enemies plus explosive tendencies.

Together, they fight monsters.

Once I rebound the controls to something I found more comfortable and lowered the graphical settings, I was ready to play the game. I put it on Normal, chose one of the four classes (Paladin), and then jumped in.

The game punched me in the stomach, kicked me in the shin repeatedly and stole my wallet.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t use Paladin?

I tried every class with the same results each time. I was able to clear the first stage and gradually make progress through the game, but it was unreasonably difficult, and after a while I realized how much easier it would be if I had someone to fight with me.

Hammerwatch Review - intro stage

It’s dangerous to go alone, so don’t play singleplayer.

I have since changed the difficulty to Easy to make it further into the game, but make no mistake: this is not a single-player game. This game is balanced for multiplayer play through-and through, and at no point should you expect anything more or less.

On the subject of gameplay, however, it gets better. Initially, you begin with a simple weapon and a single class-unique skill, but as the game goes on, you begin to unlock more for your character by means of collecting loot (which means massacring lots of innocent crates and barrels) and using said loot to buy upgrades from merchants who give you different upgrades.

Some merchants, for instance, offer health and mana boosts, while others give you a combo capability (more on that later) and extra skills to add to your character. All upgrades, however, are quite expensive, and even if you make a point of collecting a lot of Vendor Tokens (which give you extremely minor discounts), you’ll still be basically emptying your wallet every time you buy an upgrade.

Hammerwatch’s saving grace is definitely in its combo system, however. Once you find the right vendor to buy the combo boost upgrade from, combat becomes a lot more enjoyable. The initial combo boost gives you a speed, attack and defense upgrade, but you can buy more to add to that, including healing and extra magic attacks.

Hammerwatch Review - Boss Battle

Even on the easiest difficulty setting, the first boss is a chore to beat. Trust me, you want to play this with your friends.

In Multiplayer, it’s a pretty safe bet to tag your friends along on Normal and have a good time. The classes are pretty balanced in a multiplayer context and every member of the team can do their jobs.

In singleplayer, however, this is a different story. As previously mentioned, this game is clearly tailored for multiplayer to the point that some classes- like Paladin- are nigh useless in Normal mode singleplayer, even in the very first stage. I recommend playing the Ranger or Wizard if you have to go it alone.

Progression through the stages themselves is pretty simple – find a key, get through a door, find a trap, deactivate it with a switch across the map, find another key, get through another door, and so on. You also have to find switches around the stages to activate the boss fights, and beating those bosses will allow you to progress onward.

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Hammerwatch Review: It's Dangerous to Go Alone
I will say that, personally, I don’t very much enjoy the game, but that’s because I’m personally biased toward single-player experiences. If you have three friends you like to play videogames with, Hammerwatch is absolutely a game you should consider, because even though it’s a bit difficult and barebones, there is a good multiplayer dungeon crawler beneath that’s just waiting to be explored.
The Good
  • Four distinct playable characters.
  • Nostalgic graphics that live up to the nostalgia.
  • Great for multiplayer.
The Bad
  • Surprisingly power-hungry.
  • Minimalistic approach to plot and tutorials leave much to be desired.
  • Game unreasonably balanced against single player.
6Overall Score
Reader Rating: (6 Votes)