As a gamer who never had the pleasure of playing the previous entries in the Hammerwatch franchise, I was pleasantly surprised by Hammerwatch II. Launching the game reminded me of those carefree days when I was four or five years old playing Gauntlet on my uncle’s Sega Genesis. From its music to its design, there’s a certain look about Hammerwatch II that appeals to the retro gamer in me.
But to dismiss the game as just another retro-clone would be wrong because Hammerwatch brings a lot of modern sensibilities, taking players on an adventure for the ages.
A wide-open world to explore
I don’t think I was quite prepared for the undertaking that is Hammerwatch II. In many senses of the word, the game world is massive with a map that seems to stretch onward and onward farther than I anticipated. You’ll spend a bulk of your time exploring various dungeons, taking on side quests, and leveling up your character. Through your journeys, you can three tiers of abilities that help in the heat of battle.
There’s a nice hack-and-slash element to the game combined with some old-school RPG elements. For one, you select from one of five characters and customize their traits to fit your playstyle. Although, anyone expecting Baldur’s Gate level of nuance may be disappointed. Likewise, the character customization left a bit to be desired as well.
While tearing through enemies was appropriately satisfying, one issue I found during my playthrough is the game doesn’t hold your hand when it comes to objectives. More than once, I found myself wandering aimlessly trying to figure out where I should go next. It was a bit of an issue given the scope of the map and the number of quests and places to discover. However, it added to the gritty nature in my opinion. It felt a bit at times like I wandered into a DnD campaign and had to figure this out on my own.
Better With Friends
That being said, you are definitely encouraged to play this game with a friend. Not only does it make taking down some dungeons easier, but from a leveling and design standpoint, it seems like Hammerwatch II encourages cooperation. It brings to mind games like Gauntlet, which casts multiple characters on a quest.
Being able to combine attacks and focus on different areas with a friend opens up new levels of strategy that just aren’t possible on a single-player campaign. Likewise, I needed someone to help me navigate! That being said, the game still has plenty to offer from a single-player perspective. Just don’t try playing with a controller.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the controller to work right during my playthrough. It was also a bit of a bummer that the game wasn’t Steam Deck verified since I often play on the go. However, I had a much better experience playing with keyboard and mouse. Hammerwatch II isn’t a perfect game by any means. It’s sometimes cumbersome and frustrating at times, but it was also charming and creative and a worthy addition to the genre.