There is absolutely nothing wrong with a good old bit of strategy. I cut my teeth on games like Dungeon Keeper and Theme Hospital. This is the creative end of the strategy genre but there’s something really cool about being able to meet level objectives while pretty much, doing things your way at the same time. This is also a sub-genre that got booted into the mobile abyss because it’s one that with a bit of tinkering can be a huge cash cow. Thankfully there are still some very good titles out there that aren’t going to try and eat your wallet and we may well be looking at one of those today. Actually, we are, it’s called Hammerting and it’s sitting neatly in the Steam store waiting to be collected.
Before I go any further with this one I’m going to add a friendly warning. This isn’t going to affect my score because it isn’t game-related but it is important. Hammerting needs a lot of VRAM to run properly. My rig is old but it’s still pretty powerful and will just about run the game. Check your system specs before buying because there’s no way it’s going to work on less powerful computers, a high-spec graphics card is a must. Right, now that the technical aspects are out of the way, let’s get on with reviewing the game.
In Hammering you’ll be taking control of a band of dwarfs. You’ll need to build and manage their mountain home while exploring the outside world and meeting and trading with the locals. This is the sort of game that will give you a list of objectives that you’ll have to meet as you go. This means that the game and, therefore, the story has a step-by-step approach. This also means that I can’t tell you anything about the plot more than I have, (not that I would anyway,) because I don’t really know too much either. Go along for the ride and find out.
Interesting locations appear in the depths
Hammerting is very much a game of micromanagement and this in and of itself doesn’t bother me. Sometimes you want that level of depth in what you’re playing. This isn’t just a case of asking one of your dwarfs to craft a room and then that room doing stuff for you. Each room can provide various items and these ingredients are then needed to craft other things. If you’ve played any games of this style in the past you’ll catch my drift straight away; if you haven’t there’s a certain amount to juggling to be done as you proceed.
The most important thing that I feel about taking this approach to the game is that the final product be user-friendly. There’s nothing worse than slogging through a hundred menus and windows trying to find one thing that you’re trying to build. While Hammerting is a little cumbersome from the outset when you figure out the slightly complicated control system things begin falling into place quite nicely.
An overworld to be explored.
Hammerting tries to be as helpful as it can in teaching you how to play. The tutorial is detailed and it needs to be but it isn’t an active tutorial. This isn’t a case of being given a tutorial area and told what to do step by step until you get the basics. This is a bunch of pop-ups that you have to click through telling you what the million and one commands in the game do before moving swiftly on. If you didn’t understand the first time around everything is written in the game’s log for you. This is something that’s definitely handy. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to need it.
This is the sort of game that asks a lot of the player. On the most basic level, this is a massive mining operation because you’ll need those building blocks to construct pretty much anything. After that, you need to produce all the things that will make your civilization thrive from tools to weapons. You’ll need to farm so you don’t starve and explore so that you can expand. You’ll also need to fight. You’re not the only inhabitants of the mountain and some of the other dwellers are less than friendly. While indulging in the colossal amount of multi-tasking you’ll also need to research so you can build new rooms and generally progress in the game. I quite like a bit of depth, but this might feel like a lot to those of you not used to this sort of complex strategy.
On top of all that I’ve just mentioned above and the trade relations with those outside your mountain you also have to manage your dwarves as individuals. They level up as they go so you can skill them appropriately. You can manage their professions, which is actually really cool. Not every dwarf is a blacksmith or miner you need cooks, farmers, and arcanists as well. It makes sense to have the best character for the job and pushing different dwarfs in different directions will only serve to help you in the long run. You can also equip your mountain-dwellers as you would in any other RPG, something that’s pretty smart. I love the fact that these are people you’re dealing with and not just a bunch of faceless pawns running around a map.
Hammerting is also the sort of game where you’ll find yourself restarting a lot to get anything done. By the time I’d worked out what I had to do and started to feel my way around the mountain my dwarves were sick and starving. This was my first go from scratch and it ended badly because I was basically fumbling about with the commands, which took me ages to get to grips with. The second attempt was me learning how to build and get a basic idea of what different ingredients did and the third was an exploration mission to see what was beyond the first 100 feet of explored land. Number four is my current run and I’m kinda getting the hang of things now. This sounds like a lot of messing about for not a lot of return and that is very much the case. I’m a patient player and I’m more than willing to start over to get the desired outcome. Many other players are not and I think Hammerting will put them off in the first five minutes.
Your dwarves aren’t just minions, they’re people.
If you are willing to approach a slow learning curve and learn with the game, (which I’m thinking is very much the point here,) you’ll likely get quite a lot of fun out of Hammerting, if however, you want to click a few buttons and have everything else done for you this is not the game for you. I can see quite a lot of players getting through the tutorial and facing a wall of confusing icons and just thinking that they can’t be bothered. I nearly did this but that wouldn’t be reviewing and secondly, I wanted to give the game a fair chance. I’m slowly starting to enjoy myself now that I’ve lost hours of my life working out what I’m doing. Quick gratification this is not and there’s loads about the game I can’t tell you because I simply haven’t gotten that far yet.
Hammerting is what I’d refer to as a grower. This game nearly got a pretty low score from me, something that I don’t think would have been fair in hindsight. There’s nothing wrong with the graphics, (actually they’re really cool,) and I love the sound; so nuts and bolts wise we’re pretty much all good. I can forgive the controls now I’ve mastered them but they didn’t feel too user-friendly right at the start. The more you play the game and the more you uncover the better this title gets. As you explore your mountain and learn how to make new things it all starts feeling really rewarding. I’m still trying to get to grips with upper-world relations so that’s something I can’t speak for but I’ll get there. I’m just concerned that a lot of players won’t have the patience to really give Hammerting the fair go that it deserves. I very nearly gave up before I’d even properly tried and this is very much a disservice to what is actually a very deep, well-thought-out title. Instead of wanting to give up, I now want to keep going back and losing an hour or two to see what my dwarves do next.
Everything builds something. It all comes down to the knowledge you’ve gleaned.
All in all, Hammerting is going to be quite a polarizing game. If you have a lot of patience and are willing to approach things at a slow leisurely pace I think you’ll have a lot of fun here. I strongly recommend perseverance because when you get the hang of things there’s a lot of fun to be had. If you’re used to everything being served to you on a plate or very simple interfaces where you can do almost anything with a few clicks I don’t think this is going to be the game for you. If you’re very new to this type of strategy I think you’re jumping in at the deep end too. This being said though, Hammerting is a very customizable game. If you’re a complete newcomer I’d start on a small mountain, turn enemies down to very easy and disable waves so you don’t keep getting attacked. Learn the basics and then give yourself a headache. Either way, this title is still worth a look if you’ve got some time to kill and want to do it constructively.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Some heavy lifting
Look and Feel - 8/10
Challenge - 8/10
Replayability - 7/10
Story - 6/10
Controls and UI - 6/10
Hard work pays off
Hammerting is a brilliant strategy game if you’re willing to put the time in. If you’re the sort of player that likes a quick thrill and some relatively easy gratification this might not be your thing. Those of us willing to put the energy in will likely have a lot of fun here though.
Hailing from Southport England, Alex started his gaming career in the late 80s on a Commodore 64. Since that time he's either owned or played on virtually every console released. Alex happens to...