Hammerwatch initially released a number of years back for the PC, and almost instantly enjoyed an impressive following and a decent reception. Published by BlitWorks and developed by the folks at Crackshell, Hammerwatch is often described as a definitive local co-op experience, which is quite the compliment if you ask me. If you’ve already played the PC version of this, don’t look away, because the console version has some timed exclusive pieces of content to pull back returning fans. Furthermore, according to the official Xbox Store listing, we’ll be enjoying online multiplayer and new mods in the near future. That alone provides several reasons to dive back into the fray, and many more reasons for you to pick up this game if you’ve never give it the time of day.
Hammerwatch is a top-down hack-and-slash dungeon crawler that sees you playing solo or co-op as you make your way to the top of Castle (wait for it) Hammerwatch. This is no ordinary castle, you’re hardly going to get a royal feast and a comfy bed to rest in during your stay. Instead, you’ll be slaughtering hundreds of monsters throughout, with hundreds more spawning in before you have a chance to freakin’ blink. Hammerwatch on console brings a great deal of change in comparison to its original release, including balance changes to the classes, improved character art, and a brand new class – The Sorcerer. We also get to enjoy the Temple of the Sun expansion, and two extra modes: Hero Defense and Survival. Safe to say that for the generous asking price of just £7.99 / $9.99, you’re getting your money’s worth.
Hammerwatch gives you the choice of three difficulties to select from – easy, medium and hard. Don’t be fooled into thinking that taking the easy option actually means that the game will be easy, because although it starts out quite accommodating, it soon becomes the polar opposite. Each class is unique and comes with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses, which surely comes in handy when working with your buddies. The Paladin, for example, can take a hit and dish out some mass damage. Whereas the Sorcerer cant sustain much damage, but can attack from afar. There’s a total of seven classes to utilize, collectively serving long-ranged, mid-ranged, and short-ranged combat choices. Other perks are included per-class, which goes on to add a solid balance to the fields of play.
Unlike other games of similar ilk, Hammerwatch doesn’t support leveling-up. Instead you will be purchasing new upgrades and abilities with the coins you collect on each run. These abilities are both helpful and plentiful, showering you with additional goodies such as raising your health capacity, nabbing combo focused perks, faster mana bar refill, and more. It can indeed be a bit grindy to farm for coins due to the demanding price of new abilities and upgrading your class, but it’s a sweet trade-off when you take into account how much these additions make a difference in the long run. The controls are very easy to get to grips with, being that your main commands will be your standard attack and a special attack. The special attack will cost you a fraction of magic, which naturally goes on to drain your mana bar.
There were times in which I felt quite overwhelmed by the size of the environments within, but Hammerwatch does a great job at encouraging exploration. Whereas killing hordes of enemies is the main function of the game, there are several secrets and puzzles that you’ll need to uncover and solve respectively, too. These don’t prove to be too headache inducing, and serve only as a means to get you to stretch your legs and put on your thinking caps. Much like the classes, the gameplay on this front is well balanced. The enemy variants are notably impressive, with new and interesting forms taking shape as you dive deeper in. Boss battles are never overly taxing, but they still manage to put up quite a fight and test your reflexes.
When you’re done with the Castle Hammerwatch campaign and the Temple of the Sun campaign, the added extra modes offer heaps of replay value. Hero Defense is a straight forward case of holding back hordes of enemies in an attempt to stop them from reaching a specific point. Survival on the other hand is a lot tougher, and sees you battling enemies in waves before taking on the final boss. These two modes are by no means as intriguing as the campaigns, but they certainly make an already bulky game all the more meatier. With that being said, Hammerwatch is undoubtedly an experience that’s best played with others. You can certainly clear the game alone, despite how tough it can get, but you would be missing out on that shoulder-to-shoulder fun that runs deep in Hammerwatch’s allure.
Lengthy loading times to the side, Hammerwatch is the pinnacle of couch co-op fun. The addition of timed exclusive console content, along with the promise of online play and new mods, makes Hammerwatch an absolute steal when you take the generous price tag into account. The game looks great and plays great, which is further bolstered when you bring your friends into the fold.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.