So I’ve talked about the new Warhammer game coming from Fatshark Games a few times already, be it here on the blog or on the Couch Podtatoes podcast. I pre-ordered at the beginning of the month, which isn’t something I usually do, but the price was right and the wait wasn’t too long. Having preview information at my disposal, I knew I would enjoy the game so I pulled the trigger. As a pre-order bonus, we got access to the game a little early, as the Beta started this past Friday and the game releasing on the 23rd. I put a few hours into the Beta so far, and I have some thoughts that I’ll share with you now.
Gameplay is tight. Though I did manage to find one bug so far, overall the game runs smoothly, things work as you would expect, and there aren’t any drops in framerate even while streaming. The melee combat is visceral. Swinging an axe feels as it should. Blocking with a shield and then swinging it at your attackers to knock them down is very satisfying. Rapiers are quick and nimble. 2-handed weapons are slow yet powerful. This isn’t rocket science, but it feels right. Ranged combat is equally tight control-wise, but seems less effective in most cases. Crossbows are slow to reload, but pistols/shotguns and long bows feel much better. I haven’t tried out the Fire Mage just yet, but the ranged abilities coming from staves seems to be very effective at range.
The variety of Skaven is nice. Not only are there differing skins for the regular grunts, there are various types that are bigger and badder than their normal counterparts. Fighting a Rat Ogre for the first time was a magical experience. The armored Stormvermin come in packs and are tough to take down. The gunners, hook rats and assassins are a pain in the ass, as are the poison cloud creating variants. There’s no lack of challenge either. Normal difficulty still takes its toll, and the hard difficulty is almost too hard, at least at the lower levels with crappy gear. But there’s a couple of extra difficulty levels that I haven’t even seen yet, so there’s going to be plenty of replay value in this game.
As is common with most first person shooters of this era, you have a global experience level. The interesting bit here is that it’s not tied directly to any of the game’s five classes, so you don’t have to level each individually. Each level you’re rewarded with some gear, but each time it’s for a different class, so none are completely left out. Also, when completing a level, there is a dice game where you get the chance to earn better gear. The devs chose to keep with the traditional Diablo/MMO formula of color coding rarity, and so far the best I’ve come up with is a set of blue swords for the ranger class. Each time you level or dice roll, the gear can end up being for any of the classes, so that’s a nice way of avoiding an annoying individual grind. Gear is primarily weapons, though there are slots for trinkets, and you can change out your helmet, though I haven’t seen any of these drop just yet. Outside of the RNG at the end of levels, there are supposedly gear drops within the game, and you can also find extra loot dies that will help with your end-of-level rolls. At the very least, this system gives quite a bit of replay value if you’re the sort that wants to completely kit out your characters (I am).
The Beta only gives a taste of what’s to come though. Three levels are available to play at this time, though a handful more are scheduled to open at release. Of the three levels, I enjoyed the The Horn of Magnus level the most, but the others were fairly interesting as well. Each has a distinct feel to them. The Horn level sees you traversing a whole city, blowing through a gate with several powder kegs (a mini-event in itself) and finally blowing the horn and surviving an onslaught of Skaven. On Smuggler’s Run, you have to clear the Skaven out of the sewers and then escape yourself. Finally, on Supply and Demand, you fight through part of town and collect sacks of grain while being attacked by all manner of Skaven. Each of these game types varies ever so slightly, but are different enough to give you something new to do each time you play.
After each level and dice game, you’ll have the option to vote for what comes next. You can replay the same level, move onto the next or go back to the Red Hook Inn, where you start your journey in the first place. Here you can access your inventory (swap out weapons and gear) the mission map (where you can choose which level to play next) and access the forge – a powerful tool. The forge allows you to fuse, upgrade and disassemble items. Fusing requires five items of the same quality, and combines them into one item of the next quality up (5 whites = 1 green and so on). Weapons earned from the dice game often have locked traits that you can unlock in the forge, upgrading the weapon with passives. These upgrades require essences earned by disassembling items. It’s a basic system but it works well and I have seen some decent stuff come out of it.
Overall, I love the game. It’s been compared to Left 4 Dead, and I can say that it has a similar feel, though these small systematic upgrades give it a better replay value than L4D did, and the devs have already stated that more levels and classes are yet to come. I’ll be playing and talking about this game for a while to come. On Friday, I streamed for a while and uploaded the full uncut stream to my YouTube account. In that video, I only played on the Horn of Magus map because I was matched with a damn good team and we were just grinding for gear. We managed to beat the level on normal a couple of times, fail on hard once, and then complete hard mode. It was a blast, but I wanted to break so the video ends. I checked out the rest of the maps without recording, but I’m sure I’ll make some more videos before long. Here’s that stream for your convenience:
If anyone picks this title up, let me know. I need co-op partners!