It’s been awhile since I’ve played a good old fashioned Gauntlet style game. Running around a two dimensional maze finding keys and treasure while killing hordes of enemies with a friend was fun. Hammerwatch is like that but with an interesting leveling up system and some decent puzzles. You can choose from four playable characters , each that are their own distinct class. The first is a Paladin, which is your basic melee tank class. The second is a Warlock, which is a good mix of melee and ranged magic that does area damage that is great for taking out swarms of weaker enemies chasing you. The third is a Mage, who casts different elemental spells in a radius, and the last one is an Archer who, well… arches. There are also two other modes that seemed to be hidden away. One being a sort of tower defense game, and the other being a survival mode. But those seemed to be just some extras that were scraped together to get more replay out of the game after you beat it.
The combat is relatively simple. You start out with two basic attacks, then end up getting four. I played a majority of the game as a Paladin, so I hacked and slashed my way through the game. But I found that hacking recklessly got me killed rather quickly. So you do have to be somewhat careful if you don’t want to lose a life. Some of the bigger battles get very tense and the enemies never seem to stop coming. The levels also get progressively larger and more complicated. In some cases, some floors have several exits. As a result, my biggest complaint was that it makes it very difficult to remember where each exit leads to. Mainly because that lead to a lot of wandering and backtracking that didn’t exactly encourage me to go back to find those secrets like hidden levels in homage to the original Gauntlet that earn you a heap of gold. Some secrets however, don’t make you haul back to a certain point. Some are as simple as a crack in the wall you can bust open.
The treasure that you pick up isn’t used just for score, it’s how you level up your skills. You scour the levels for every bit of gold you can find so you can level up your attack, defense, or combo meter. The combo meter isn’t as complicated as you think it would be. If you kill ten enemies within a certain amount of time, you will automatically heal yourself, move and attack faster, and shoot damaging waves around you. You can also build up your characters stats by defeating the stronger enemies and bosses. There seemed to be just enough gold to have you missing out on a couple skills each time you passed by a skill vendor. So I don’t think its possible to have everything leveled at once. As you advance in the game, you gain access to higher tiers of upgrades. It is nice that you end up feeling the upgrades as soon as you use them, which is very satisfying. You can also use your gold to purchase extra lives and potions that will heal you, or make you invincible.
The games co-op mode can be slightly frustrating. When I hosted a room, nobody would ever join. When I joined a room, I was kicked out immediately almost every time. But when I was finally accepted into a host’s heart and he allowed me to stay, I was instantly reminded of the fun I used to have playing Gauntlet as a kid with my brother. As I was playing with a full team of players, it was apparent that together you could clear out an area of enemies rather quickly. But that usually doesn’t last too long seeing as how everyone splits up and wanders off to do their own thing. This leads to everyone waiting for one person at a particular exit very often. It was nice however, reaping the benefits of some treasure or stat increase that somebody else found.
The story of Hammerwatch is almost nonexistent. It is literally you getting separated from your friends at the beginning, then them telling you to find a way out. That’s it, you never meet up with them again. But the game doesn’t need a story for what it is. The graphics are kind of charming in their own way. Everything is very simple and pixelated, but the way everything moves in motion makes it unique and eye-pleasing. It also has great use of particles when things explode or whither away. The music is actually pretty decent as well, and is somewhat catchy. However, it does get repetitive rather quickly and I turned it down most of the time and listened to my own playlist.
With all of that being said, Even though I played through the game by myself, I enjoyed my time with Hammerwatch. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it didn’t feel like I was trying to find where I was and needed to be for almost a fourth of my playtime.If f you like hacking at hundreds of bad guys through dungeons, you should definitely check this game out. Although I do recommend playing with friends, its still a pretty fun experience by yourself. Just don’t pick the archer by yourself, his arches are weak and stringy.