Hammerting Early Access Review
Source: Steam

Hammerting has been one of the most demanding games for me to cover of late, mostly because there’s no real tutorial in this Early Access stage and the numerous restarts I had to make while experimenting.

The game, from Warpzone Studios and Team17, has you command a group of dwarves as they aim to dig deep in the underground while a battle rages on overhead. To do so, they have to work quick, and that means building quarries, mines and forges to make secure structures, decent equipment, and fend off enemy attacks.

What posed the biggest challenge from the outset was the UI and not being able to control the individual characters. Least, I couldn’t anyway. The locations are poorly lit, so it’s encouraged to explore these massive environments to harvest mushrooms and raw materials for your base.

Hammerting Early Access Review

It’s not that the UI in Hammerting is cluttered, it’s just that there are so many menus at first. To the top of the screen are legends for how the war is going overhead, your status in terms of resources and fact-based information and statistics. Underneath this is the notification window which tells you about the things you need; food, beds, etc., but it’s also a hidden link to your lore where you research technology.

To the right of the screen are your objectives, which are often clear, and to the bottom, are your commands. The layout of the screen in Hammerting is a side view of the tunnels, and when it comes to building, a tile-based grid appears to show you where you can place structures and also where to mine.

Hammerting - Dwellings
Dwellings. Source: Screen capture

The dwarves will carry out their tasks a little erratically. Select some tiles to mine, and they’ll all jump in, and the same applies to building structures unless they’re already in a structure crafting an item. However, I couldn’t work out how to get an individual to do a specific task.

Each dwarf has a set of skills and levelling up is super quick, and you can choose their attributes, but not what their objective is. A lot of the time, I found that a dwarf would be doing a task then stop. For a while, I wouldn’t notice that a material was missing (an icon is usually displayed on the screen but very small), other times I had no idea why they would stop.

Exploring In The Dark

Dwarves can climb, though they prefer lifts and stairs. This means you can get them to mine form a great height, but mine a gap between the existing floor and a little higher and they can’t reach it. One of my many restarts involved mining the floor, not knowing they were about to fall through, unable to get back up.

In hindsight, you can build stairways from granite, found everywhere. Unfortunately, this took me hours to realise. Once understood, I was building these structures everywhere – to reach lower depths, to mine coal, iron and copper from above, and as make-do bridges.

The dwarves in Hammerting won’t pick up items by default and will leave them unless doing a task. This was counter-intuitive as right-clicking on an object would allow you to equip it, sell or drop. Other than trading for a profit (to recruit new dwarves but also pay a salary), the objects would clutter until needed.

Hammerting - All Mine
Mine, all mine. Source: Screen capture

Setting a task to craft items such as copper ore would mean the dwarf would head back to where they mined the copper, retrieve it, then head back. The automation process isn’t ideal, but you can’t instruct your characters on an individual basis. 

The Tides Of War

Finishing up on exploration, the further you venture into the mines and harvest goods, the more research points you’ll acquire – essential for learning new technology and structures. This, coupled with the points you get for trade, merge for better stuff.

Now, this is the essential part I overlooked through a couple of Hammerting playthroughs: the battle overhead. There’s a map screen showing the skirmishes with flag placements of the enemy attacking allied locations. An exclamation mark will often occur, and you will need to supply the resources to fend off the attack.

This can range from producing copper ore to weapons and food. Initially, you won’t have the option to craft the items; instead, you’ll have to complete smaller tasks, build up your points and then invest in new structures. Depending on how the battle goes, the top of the screen will show the way the war is going: if the enemy takes too many positions, it’s game over.

A lot of the material requests will be repeated and can be quite repetitive, but also ruthless as you make up axe heads for the twentieth time, only to find you have no more copper and therefore have to scavenge the mines for more.

Time Underground

I’m quite torn with Hammerting as it isn’t intuitive and could do with a lot more tooltips or tutorials. As I look back at my progress and what I’ve since learned, some of it makes sense, but it will cause a lot of frustration.

Hammerting - Dig Deep
Dig deep. Source: Screen capture

To confirm my interest in the game, I had a ‘quick go’ to build up my impressions of this game, only to realise I almost wrote off the working day and clocked in five hours solid playing. It’s incredibly alluring with all the things going on at the same time, but it’s equally brutal with frequent deaths of your ‘staff’.

Deaths occur from being overworked, no dwellings or being attacked by the evil forces underground. Other than building an infirmary and ensuring there’s lots of beer available, you’re at the mercy of the game as unable to select a dwarf to go rest. I’m hoping this is an oversight on my part as not having the control of individuals is hard work.

I could start Hammerting up now to revisit a few things and could guarantee I’d play for hours. The visuals are ok, the atmosphere is alright, but the gameplay (other than the learning curve), is excellent – especially if you’re a fan of resource management games and multitasking.

Hammerting is currently in Early Access stage on Steam.

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