Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go!
It’s nearly impossible to play Hammerting and not make comparisons. It’s one of those games that is unique in many ways, but is best described as an amalgam of multiple genres. The game is a hybrid of a dungeon-builder, a resource manager, and a sandbox game. Your task is to juggle recruiting an army of dwarven workers while simultaneously attempting to complete missions in the outside world.
Like I said, to those with experience in any one of these genres, the style of Hammerting will be relatively familiar. You recruit dwarves and build structures using resources gathered by the troops you’ve built. It’s simple. Once they’ve arrived, you put your workers to use in various ways. You can have them build structures, mine the depths of the mountain for ore, or fight their way through ancient tunnels.
Here’s the issue. When a game is built on such a simple premise, its success (or lack thereof) is predicated on the execution of a few core mechanics. If your entire game is based on the way in which these interact with one another, when you encounter even a minor hiccup, you have major problems. In Hammerting, the clear weak link in the chain is the behaviour of your dwarven workers. They’re absurdly difficult to control and often get completely sidetracked by pathing issues.
First, credit where credit is due: Warpzone Studios is making an honest effort to address these bugs. During the course of my playthrough, they released a hotfix for the elevators which turned them away from a dwarven graveyard back towards their intended function. But while elevators were the most egregious example of bad pathing, my dwarves still encountered plenty of problems during basic play. Even while sitting back, passively letting them build structures, the dwarves would find the strangest solutions to simple problems. If they needed to gather copper ore, for instance, they’d end up running towards it, and then back to their starting location, only to return to the same spot to collect it.
For me, bugs like pathing issues are just that: bugs. Sure, they’re annoying, and at worst, they can be game breaking, but they will be eventually fixed. The studio will probably lose a lot of players initially over the whacky pathing and other issues, but as it is smoothed out, they’ll find a loyal fanbase.
A problem I can’t overlook; however, especially with Hammerting, is fundamentally poor design.
The combat. Oh, lord, the combat. Can it even be called that? Typically, in fantasy lore, dwarves are described as battle-hardened warriors who are no stranger to a fight. In Hammerting, the dwarves have decided that the best tactic is to simply smash into the enemy and begin a health race to the bottom. If that wasn’t bad enough, rats, goblins, and slimes prove to be more than formidable opponents. They lay waste to my dwarves time and time again. Remember the pathing issues? Here’s when they actually start to bother me. Nearly every single time one of my dwarves is getting destroyed in a lopsided fight, the reinforcements arrive far too late because they’re running all over.
I feel like I’m being fairly hard on Hammerting. Let me be clear: this game has potential. It’s just not there yet. The graphics are beautiful. They’ve done an excellent job with the lighting and the depth of the environment. And, though mired by poor execution, the concept is fresh and intriguing. Oddly enough, the obvious issues that are plaguing Hammerting might be a positive for Warpzone Studios. They know exactly what they have to address. Once they can sort out the pathing issues and revamp the combat system, they’ll already be lightyears ahead of where they are now.
Unfortunately, in its current form, Hammerting is a concept and not much more. There are sporadic moments of enjoyment that are inevitably bogged down by bugs and the other underlying issues. Fine. Let’s assume that the bugs and glitches will be worked out. Then, the studio only really has two major problems. The combat is flat and frustrating. They need to introduce some diversity there (perhaps ranged weapons, stationary turrets, or the like). Beyond that, the game desperately needs a more clear overarching goal. What’s the point of all this production? Currently, the overland map and the work done under the mountain feel like two distinct games. Hammerting is an unearthed gem waiting to be polished. Warpzone Studios just has to keep digging.