When I was 13 I, like every other young male geek in the UK, spent a year or so playing Warhammer and its sci-fi equivalent; 40K. While my patience for tiny paintbrushes and red rulers disappeared fairly rapidly I’ve kept an abiding love for the lore of both settings; they both possess a gothic, grimy quality which is either overdone elsewhere or simply not attempted.
So, when the chance to review Warhammer Quest came up, I had to jump at it. I mention this now because much of what I liked most about WQ is rooted in the world and how Chilled Mouse (the Indie publishing house behind Warhammer Quest) have brought it out in a game without a larger studio’s budget. If the Old World has never held any appeal to you, and you are not a fan of isometric turn-based RPGs then this game is definitely not for you.
If, however, you meet either of those criteria (or both) then read on!
For all I’ve said, Warhammer Quest isn’t actually based on the tabletop game but on a pen and paper RPG of the same name that Games Workshop released in the early days of the company. The game is now considered a classic by many fans and this has meant that, at heart, the gameplay of Warhammer Quest remains stubbornly close to it’s tabletop roots.
You have a party of adventurers with various skills, you enter Dungeons which must be explored one corridor at a time and you fight enemies who appear in the various rooms or else ambush you as you wait to make your next move.
While this gameplay is straightforward it is also well-executed with each character class having a unique set of skills and special abilities and the combat, although turn-based, can be extremely tense. My only complaint is a lack of tactical depth. Missing out basic features like flanking and backstabbing feels like a real glaring omission in this type of game and, while it is still important to plan your battles in order to take advantage of each character’s skills, it takes something out of the experience.
Combat is the main way characters gain experience with each slain enemy adding to the pool. This is another area of concern as unfortunately each character gains this experience individually. This meant I quickly found my main warrior was at level 3 while the rest of the party was still around level 1. The mage had a slight buff from healing and my ranger was racking up a few kills each time but, as my warrior usually finished off injured monsters, he was getting all the experience.
This is a feature I can imagine working well in a tabletop game, forcing conflict between player characters, but which falls flat when you need to advance your entire party.
While not dungeon-crawling your time is spent in a number of different towns throughout the Empire. These have an interesting introduction and act as quest hubs but otherwise are essentially a glorified menu so I won’t spend too long on them here.
The graphics are, much like the gameplay, simple but effective. The top-down viewpoint isn’t as stunning as some would like but serves to give a good view of the movement grid and both adventurers and enemies are easy to tell apart from each other and their kin. I only ran into one graphics bug on my playthrough, causing my warrior priest to suddenly do the limbo, and even that (while silly) was not a game-breaker.
As I said at the beginning it is the setting which really makes this game come to life. Everything from the range of characters available (Norscan Marauders! Dwarf TrollSlayers!) to the designs of the dungeons really captures the feel of the Old World. This comes across both in little ways, like a chaos emblem burned into a dungeon floor, and in larger effects, like how each town is introduced in the pages of a Grimms Fairytales-like tome that suddenly comes to life.
The quests are also delightfully in keeping with the Dark Fantasy nature of the world as you can never be sure if doing the ‘right’ thing will actually do good or end up with you in the local dungeons of a corrupt official. This is not a world that is friendly to its heroes and you’ll have to make morally dubious decisions to keep ahead of the wolves (sometimes literally).
While I would be happy to leave the review there I do have to bring up one final bugbear, DLC. Alot of content for Warhammer Quest is DLC, including fan-favourite enemies like the Skaven and Savage Orcs. High Elf players will also be disappointed as the two heroes from that race are both behind a pay barrier. None of the charges are excessive, the highest being £2.99, but it seems like alot of what should have been standard got moved to pay.
Still, I had fun with Warhammer Quest and would recommend it to any fan of Games Workshop’s products. Those who like turn-based RPGs should also have a blast, though they may find the limited options a drawback.
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