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Hammerwatch II
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It's unfortunate co-op implementation dampens overall appeal | Review - Hammerwatch II

It's unfortunate co-op implementation dampens overall appeal | Review - Hammerwatch II

1K View2023-08-16
Hammerwatch II is a retro-style action RPG developed by Crackshell. Serving as a direct sequel to the original Hammerwatch, the game offers a rich and nostalgic experience that delves into the heart of pixelated dungeon exploration and intense combat encounters.
đźź©Pros
+Nostalgic pixel art
+Engaging hack and slash combat
+Huge dungeons and maps to get lost in
+Overwhelming amount of quests
🟥Cons
-No split-screen/shared screen, unlike the first game
-Co-op progression / savefile is tied to the host only, making co-op play inconvenient
-Technical issues such as broken controller support and intermittent stutters
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Released as a follow-up to the successful roguelite Heroes of Hammerwatch, this title returns to the franchise's hack and slash roots and directly follows the story and gameplay of the first Hammerwatch game. Players are transported to a fantastical realm where they must aid King Roland's resistance efforts while navigating a world teeming with danger, quests, and opportunities for character growth.
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The pixel art aesthetic that defines Hammerwatch II serves as an inviting path into a retro crafted world. This pixel-perfect design encapsulates both the nostalgia of classic gaming and infused with modern gameplay mechanics such as skill upgrades, leveling systems, and item and equipment looting. From lush forests to foreboding dungeons, each location is expansive with huge maps to explore and secret locations to uncover.
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Hammerwatch II features a simplistic classic Zelda-like combat system, where players must master a diverse cast of character classes including the Wizard, Paladin, Rogue, Warlock, and Ranger. The array of available classes offers varying approaches to combat, catering to different playstyles and preferences. Instead of being point and click like Diablo, the character is directly controlled using the WASD and aiming is done via mouse.
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For its controller scheme, it functions similarly to a twin stick shooter, especially when using ranged classes. Characters in total have one movement ability, one basic attack, one defensive and offensive skill to use, forming the basic core of the combat.
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Hammerwatch II features intense battles as players navigate hordes of enemies, unleash devastating spells, and strategically time attacks to emerge victorious. The mastery progression system for upgrading the skills of the heroes and attribute system further deepens the experience, enabling players to refine their characters' abilities and tailor their skills to suit their unique strategies.
The game features a very expansive world with intricate dungeons. From the initial settlement, players embark on an overwhelming amount of quests that take them deeper into the realm, ultimately leading to getting lost in colossal dungeons brimming with secrets and challenges, sometimes for lack of direction. Navigating the game's world and dungeons isn't as flawless performance wise, as I’ve experienced random stutters in the gameplay experience can momentarily disrupt immersion, and I hope this could get patched up soon.
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The controller support requires joystick control of a cursor to navigate menus at times, and I’ve experienced it becoming completely unresponsive intermittently. This has forced me to resort to using a mouse and keyboard for the time being, which, in all honesty, works exceptionally well and is likely the superior way to play the game.
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Just like the first game, Hammerwatch II is proud of being designed with cooperative play in mind, allowing players to band together and basically double or quadruple the fun. However, UNLIKE the first game, Hammerwatch II does not feature shared/split-screen, which is an unfortunate design decision that is further exacerbated by the next issue, which is how save files work in co-op sessions.
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Save data is tied to the host player's computer rather than the individual participant's, which makes playing the game cooperative with random people a hassle. Even with friends, the data is tied to the host, so players will not be able to continue their progression without the host player. This save file style is commonly used for split-screen/shared screen games such as It Takes Two and Overcooked, so it is definitely a strange decision that was overall met with negative responses from other early players.
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Hammerwatch II stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of pixel art aesthetics and classic dungeon-crawling gameplay. While the game excels in delivering captivating retro visuals, engaging hack and slash combat, and an easy to understand progression system rooted in character mastery, it's crucial to address the quirks that occasionally disrupt the experience such as broken controller support and save file concerns.
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Conclusion:
Hammerwatch II
is a neat and enjoyable game that maintains the momentum of its predecessor, but doesn't truly innovate or introduce groundbreaking mechanics. Paired with a missed opportunity that is the unfortunate cooperative implementation where only the host retains progression for all connected players—whether they're random individuals or friends—results in a game that, all things considered, is average at best.
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