Heroes of Hammerwatch (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 11.02.2021

Review for Heroes of Hammerwatch on Nintendo Switch

Every rogue-lite boasts of how much content they have on tap, but Heroes of Hammerwatch is one of the few to actually live up to its claim. Not just that, where most rogue-lites feature an array of items and enemies mainly as clutter, this puts every bit of its pixelated world to good use. Even procedurally generated stages go the extra mile, by consistently featuring some semblance of level variety. Coupled with multiple classes and fast-paced hack 'n' slash combat, Heroes of Hammerwatch is an excellent addition to the rogue-lite genre, as well as the Nintendo Switch's library.

Heroes of Hammerwatch is a rogue-lite all about making progress, one with design philosophy that strives not to waste the player's time. Which isn't to say the experience isn't grindy - it is - but every bit of collected experience, Gold, or Ore, is a legitimate step forward. Very rarely are there dead ends within stages with absolutely nothing of value, an issue that plagues most titles that rely on procedural generation in lieu of thoughtful level design. There are even recurring traps to give exploration some dangerous flavour.

Non-stop progress means little without unlockables to work towards, of which HoH is filled to the brim with. While players are free to pick from five starter classes, four more are unlocked by progressing through the main campaign. Unlike most rogue-lites, perma-death is unlockable as well. Each class gains access to Mercenary upon reaching Level 20, incentivizing genre veterans to stick out different characters in order to make the most out of the meta-game.

Screenshot for Heroes of Hammerwatch on Nintendo Switch

Classes share basic similarities in how they control, but each one is unique enough to justify their inclusion. The Paladin can afford to fight aggressively thanks to his shield, the Ranger is perfect for passive players who want to keep a distance, and magic based classes are fragile but deadly. On that note, the controls have translated reasonably well from keyboard and mouse to controller in the port over from PC to home console. To ensure players can aim while moving, combat takes a Twin Stick approach where the left analogue walks, the right stick aims, and the shoulder buttons attack. Turning requires quick reflexes, and isn't as smooth as with a mouse, but enemies aren't so aggressive where a controller can't get the job done.

As enemies swarm players on sight (often in large mobs,) it's important to be mindful of where a character is aiming. Their aim is conveyed through a literal line of sight in gameplay, but it's not hard to get turned around in combat's chaos. While each character's standard attack is fast enough to chain into a light combo of sorts, support skills require SP to use. Although both health and mana gradually regenerate through gameplay, it's nonetheless important to bait out enemies and avoid mindlessly spamming skills.

Screenshot for Heroes of Hammerwatch on Nintendo Switch

It should be pointed out that levelling benefits aren't immediate. Levelling-up rewards the player with stars that they can then use to upgrade their abilities. Every character can improve abilities along with purchasing new ones. Eventually, every shoulder button will have its own purpose tied to a unique skill. Levelling does take time, but there are other means of earning stars. Accomplishments serve as the in-game achievement system, and occasionally these reward stars upon completion. It's as if every little action is tied to progression, no matter how small.

Procedural generation is often the death of otherwise good rogue-lites, but Heroes of Hammerwatch doesn't suffer in this regard. Not only does an emphasis on action keep the focus fast paced - bolstered by aggressive and persistent enemy AI - stages feature regular traps and puzzles so that the level design remains engaging. There also tends to be treasure around every corner. Gold is found in abundance, often littered about, while Ore is more valuable and therefore rarer. Both forms of currency are necessary for upgrading, but death understandably saps players of everything they have on hand (save for their level.) The only way to preserve Gold and Ore is to find pulleys that send them back to town. Gold is taxed, but Ore is too important to risk losing.

Screenshot for Heroes of Hammerwatch on Nintendo Switch

Combatting the Gold tax are also mid-dungeon shops. Stores will randomly pop up inside of dungeons, selling better supplies than those offered in town. While all these items will be dropped on death, it's worth carrying some Gold on-hand just to get a leg up on the next few floors. The early Mines aren't too demanding in this regard, but later areas are far more taxing- especially in single player. It should be pointed out that while the core campaign is designed with multiplayer in mind, the game is perfectly playable single player. There's no local co-op, as there was in the original Hammerwatch, but this is perhaps a necessity considering the rogue-lite sequel has far more personalisation going on.

Not only are players building their own character, they're also actively upgrading a town. As is the case with most Switch indies with a multiplayer focus, the online community is already a wasteland, but this is a title best played with friends to begin with. It can't be stressed enough just how many rogue-lites settle for quantity over quality. For Heroes of Hammerwatch to offer dozens upon dozens of hours of substantial gameplay is as rare as it is riveting. The base game alone is jam-packed, but all the DLC is accounted for in the Switch port, leading to a dense play-through that somehow never settles on a dull moment. Grindy as it may be, Heroes of Hammerwatch is one of the finest rogue-lites on the Switch.

Screenshot for Heroes of Hammerwatch on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

One of the most addictive rogue-lites on the Nintendo Switch, Heroes of Hammerwatch blends classic action RPG progression with a hostile world design that'll have heroes second guessing every turn they make, and whether or not their next foe will be their last. Procedurally generated level design can never match up to thoughtful handcrafted stages, but HoH is able to cut the difference thanks to its easy to pick up gameplay loop, and an understanding that even the smallest bit of progress is meaningful. Between experimenting with classes, upgrading your town, and dungeon-eering with a trusted group of friends, Heroes of Hammerwatch is a must-play.

Developer

Crackshell

Publisher

BlitWorks

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date TBA   North America release date Out now   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   

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