First released in 2013, Hammerwatch is a co-op dungeon crawler and has now arrived on the Switch for a very appealing price of $9.99. Developed by only two people immediately Hammerwatch gives off a very retro vibe and is inspired by the “Gauntlet” series. The aim of the game is for players take control of a certain class and they must then make their way through one of the two campaigns or have an attempt on the survival or hero defence mode.
The primary appeal of the game is making an attempt to beat one of the campaign modes. Campaign might be a bit of a stretch on describing the Castle Hammerwatch and Temple of the Sun modes, but make no mistake these two modes do offer up a very meaty adventure that will certainly take more than one sitting to beat when you play with your friends or even by yourself. You are given a choice of 7 classes to pick from all of which are staples of the fantasy genre from Paladins, to rangers, warlocks and Priests (Also the first to consoles Sorcerer) all the classes vary in some way, from their standard and special attacks to how much health they start with. Whilst not massively unique each class certainly felt different enough to find myself mixing up how I played and keeping the game fresh. The class balance for the campaigns also felt exceptional with the my first full playthrough as a Priest felt challenging and fair, I wish I could say the same about the Hero Defence mode where trying to solo it as a Priest seemed almost impossible.
After you’ve picked your class and dive into a campaign, Hammerwatch certainly offers a decent amount of exploring and fighting. A massive swarm of enemies lies behind just about every corner at first the more basic enemies will aimlessly launch themselves at you to simply meet a swift end, but as you progress the enemies certainly get a little bit trickier as they develop from simple bats and worm like creatures to great battalions of archers who fire a sun blocking amount of arrows at you and your allies. It’s very “hack n slash” and like any good hack n slash very satisfying as you mow down unrelenting hordes.
Unlike the standard found in most dungeon crawlers the slaughter of your enemies will not result in leveling up and Hammerwatch takes a different approach to powering up your hero. Cash is littered all across the map and as you amass a mighty amount of coin you can then visit vendors who will exhange your gold for upgrades. There is a great amount of upgrades to choose from as there are a number of different vendors who specialize in different types. Health, mana, basic attack, walk speed, special attacks, and much more can all be upgraded. It’s an interesting system as sometimes it can become really tricky to decide on what to upgrade. On top of that some of the higher level vendors are hidden and you must solve puzzles or find secret paths to them which means you might be juggling the choice of upgrading your defensive stats now or hold out and hope you might come across a vendor who can upgrade your offensive capabilities soon
As mentioned above some vendors are hidden and must be found by solving puzzles or finding secret pathway and it’s not just vendors that are hidden. Each campaign is stuffed with secrets to find planks(I highly suggest collecting all these in Castle Hammerwatch), cash and bonus rooms all these are highly rewarding when found, but also llead into my biggest complaint of the campaigns. The puzzles to unlock certain secret areas is great and I have no issue with how much of a keen eye you need to find all of the switches spread throughout the floor, but once the requirements are met sometimes it can be quite tricky to actually locate the new passageway as the map doesn’t do a stellar job of pointing out where the new location is. It certainly is a minor isssue, but I did find it to be frustrating.
Finally what dungeon crawler would be complete without bosses? Hammerwatch brings to the table some well designed creatures to take down. The first being “The Queen” a unpleasant creature that is mother to the worm/maggot like creatures you’ve encountered prior to her. Each boss offers a challenge that keeps you on your toes, but also feels completely fair. The Queen sadly seemed to be the hardest boss in the first campaign, but the others still offered a challenge.
My experience with just the first campaign was excellent and it was quite the lenghty adventure. Clocking in at about roughy 6 hours whilst playing by myself. There were more than enough reasons to revisit the first campaign whether it would be playing with friends, tracking down the secrets I missed or collecting all those damn planks! Temple of the Sun is equally as enjoyable and is slightly less linear.
Hammerwatch also offers a survival mode and Hero Defense. Hero Defence will see wave after wave of enemy descend upon the map and follow a particular path, it is then up to the heroes to kill them before they reach the end where they will take away from the lifepool, once it reaches 0 it’s gameover. As I mentioned the balance of the Priest laying alone certainly felt off and practically impossible, but other classes or with friends it is a fun mode. Survival mode places the players in a mine where enemies continually spawn as you strike them down, collect some kind of jewel which can be used to upgrade your character and then see how far you can make it in the mine. Both modes are great fun and are probably a bit better suited for shorter bursts of gameplay.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Hammerwatch was provided by Blitworks.