Heroes of Hammerwatch is a roguelite RPG that ably executes upon the expectations of the genre. It’s got a great set of interlocking systems and currencies to progress on in the meta game and every run gives a feeling of progression while maintaining tension over dying. I absolutely fucking love the game. It is exactly the type of game that is for me. My brain’s been drenched in pixelated RPGs my whole life; Heroes of Hammerwatch was inevitably going to be a game I got hooked on.
Hammerwatch basically hits all the roguelike-like beats in a mostly typical way: there’s a dungeon (or a tower, or something) and the player chooses a fantasy trope like a Sorcerer or a Thief and battles through floors of monsters. The player earns persistent EXP while collecting Gold and Ore that are lost on death if not shipped away at randomly-generated lifts in the mine. Ore upgrades the town where the character can be improved via gold and skill points. It’s all pretty much by-the-books. That’s by no means a bad thing when executed as perfectly as it is here.
Every run is fun, even the repetitive first few floors maintain a touch of progression via Gold and Ore. There’s 7 disparate classes and they’re all pretty fun in their own ways (though a personal quibble is the lack of a class that speaks to me; I tend to bounce around between characters). Furthermore, the multiplayer is to die for–getting a few friends together for dungeon runs is really where the game shines. When a co-dungeon crawler dies, another character can resurrect them but from then on they’re “soul linked,” meaning if one dies they both die. It’s a delightfully fun mechanic that keeps everyone alive during the runs while ratcheting up the tension as friends die and revive. Eventually everyone will be soul linked and one false move will end the whole game.
The only downside is the game doesn’t go above and beyond in any way, really. It executes perfectly and I’ll recommend the game forever because of that, but it doesn’t blow the mold in any significant way. Basically, the game is so good that the only big complaint I have about it is it isn’t genre-changing. (I mean, the game is designed so well it feels simple and obvious–surely Crackshell could have broken the mold a tad with those design chops!) Also, I’ll note that multiplayer makes the game so, so much better that it’s nearly required. The game is fun enough alone, but multiplayer with friends outshines the solo experience so much it dims the solo experience afterward.
I’ll wrap up with something like a caveat: I must reiterate that I’m glowing on this game so hard because it is for me. I love pixel graphics. I love the Gauntlet series. I love RPGs, I love roguelikes. I love progression-through-repetition. Everything about this game is geared towards my tastes. Heroes of Hammerwatch is basically an ideal game for me. A week or so ago I was going to write a review of Vermintide 2 but I bored of that game after a dozen or so hours (even with friends, the way it’s meant to be played!!). But Hammerwatch? Fuck, man. Hammerwatch has got me by the balls. I’m two dozen hours deep and I’m not even close to being done with this game. Heroes of Hammerwatch is for me.