Hammerwatch II is a direct sequel to Hammerwatch. I played the first game but never finished; it was always one of those "Oh, I should go back to it" kind of games. I never did. I’m unsure what it was about the first one that stopped me from finishing. I recall the story to feel very straightforward, go do this, now do that. From what I can tell, the story of the sequel begins minutes after the first game. You have made your way to the top of Castle Hammerwatch and slain one of the three dragons that are wreaking havoc on the country.
The story continues with the king attempting to regain his throne from his evil necromancer brother, the one controlling the evil dragons. You and the slowly growing group of outlaws are still relegated to the city's sewers, but things are looking up, sorta. Maybe a second dragon has been slain, but plenty of work still needs to be done. All of Hammerwatch II’s story is big in scope. You can choose to ignore most of it, being told through quests, or read the fine print of every quest to get a better understanding of this vast, detailed world. While it never feels like a groundbreaking fantasy story, it is still entertaining and has plenty of plot points to be as entertaining as you want it to be.
I couldn’t get over how drawn into Hammerwatch II I was from the get-go. After a short trial playing as a Paladin, I rerolled as a Ranger and didn’t look back. The island you begin on acts as a starter zone of sorts. You learn the basics of the game here, how questing works, potion brewing, a little of everything. I headed into the town on the island, picked up every quest available to me, like I would in an MMO, and was off. I searched out the pirate hideout and was surprised by how big the area was.
I thought I would go there, take out a few pirates, and move on. I was in there for over an hour clearing out the place, finding everything I could, figuring out all the secret areas, and taking out all the bosses in order to finish the quests. While trying to finish all of the quests on the island, I stumbled onto other hidden areas that I would need to come back to later on in the game once I had the right equipment. If you find that all you are looking to do is get off the island and onto the real game, then this might not be for you. This is Hammerwatch II, the island shows you what this game is, and if you don’t like it now, you will not like it off the island.
I had chosen the Paladin when I initially began. I played around a little, got to one of the caves that housed the wolves I needed to clear out, and attempted to do so. After a couple of encounters, I died. No big deal; that’s part of playing. I loaded back up and tried again. After a few fights, I once again died. This didn’t turn me off, but I was a little upset. I think I’m better than this. After all, this was the starter zone, and I was dying after three or four fights. I decided to start over, this time taking the Ranger class. It has more range and uses mana, energy, and stamina differently than the Paladin. I immediately fell in love. I could take on enemies more efficiently, and most importantly, I was having more fun.
I’m glad I could find my class quickly; once you start, you don’t really stop with Hammerwatch II. There are tons of quests to pick up; some of them progress the main story, like stealing a notebook to find the location of some hidden hideout; others are simply gathering enough grapes to make some wine or clearing out boars that are bothering someone who’s newly moved into the settlement. You don’t need to do every quest, but I’m someone that can’t say no to picking up ten quests at the same time. There’s nothing more satisfying than coming back to a town, turning in four or five quests, and leveling up. It’s like free XP. There is a lot to do, and thankfully if I found myself struggling with getting through the next portion of the main campaign, I would just go around and clear out a few side-quests.
There is no hand-holding when it comes to Hammerwatch II. Most of the quests will give you a long, detailed story or an idea of where to look or go in order to complete the quest. I had several quests that were, “this person is in between town a and town b, find them, take them out, report back.” I would scour the countryside looking for this person, or item, and turn up empty. The map makes the areas look bigger than they actually are, but I still had no luck finding certain quest items or people.
I’m usually in favor of more hand-holding than the typical person, but there is just something about Hammerwatch II that makes me enjoy every aspect. I love that it gives you a direction to head to and expects you to get there without any help. On the starter island, you are given a map to find the location of a buried item. That map sucks; in-game a child drew it, but the map does next to nothing to help you. I thought about it and found the item I was looking for without going crazy. Zero hand holding. Once I made it to the mainland, I knew I would be alright.
The main map isn’t much better, either. You can see the main towns, and an occasional house or tower standing by itself, but there are plenty of big items that are not represented on the map. The distance the map makes objects feel from one another is also a bit unsettling. It looks as though Switch Town and Aventurine are a large distance away, when in fact, it doesn’t even take a minute to travel from one town to the next. You can hit tab while on the main game screen and see a pop-up map of what is immediately by you. I like this map, it helps with finding the hidden rooms, but if they had made this a mini-map on the main screen, I would have been happier, and wouldn’t need to constantly pull up the tab map to see what I should be searching for.
My biggest complaint is the fact that the multiplayer portion of Hammerwatch II does not have individual loot. All of the loot is dropped once a character is killed, meaning if you are a melee character, you will get all the stuff. Hopefully, that person will share with your party, and if I’m playing with friends, I would have no problem. I can see that playing as a ranged character might be hard if you are playing with people you don’t know. There is also no couch co-op. I get it, it’s 2023, and couch co-op is a rare thing to see. Hammerwatch II would be an absolute blast playing with someone sitting right next to me. I’m shocked this wasn’t included from the get-go.
Developer Crackshell has done a lot of work to make Hammerwatch II a worthy successor to the original by expanding on an already great formula. The world is now open to explore, no longer confined to a single castle, and while the story is told in a somewhat linear fashion, you don’t always have to follow it. Combat that is fun and challenging, questing doesn’t feel too bloated with fetch quests, and the world is filled with loot that I crave more of. I had a lot of fun with some boss fights, I bet they are even better playing with three other friends. I would love to see individual loot for each person in multiplayer, and a couch co-op would be a dream come true. Those feel like minor complaints, especially when I had a great experience playing solo. A bigger, bolder game than the first, Hammerwatch II gives me the old-school dungeon crawl itch I needed scratched.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).
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