Hammerting takes upon itself a noble and grand aspiration – to be a great dwarven kingdom simulator. It is a lofty goal, to be sure – it has at least one established competitor in Dwarf Fortress, but it looks at the dwarven kingdom in a closer and more narrow scope. Other differences emerge rather quickly, at least in terms of the graphical style (in that there are graphics in Hammerting) and plot (There is a more established plot to Hammerting), but the two are close enough that I would venter to say that fans of all things Dwarf will probably appreciate Hammerting at the outset. One wonders, though – is Hammerting worthy of comparison to such a classic? Find out below – this is our Hammerting review!
With regards to the visuals, the backgrounds are charming and well designed. The dwarves themselves are largely generic two-dimensional sprites that lack the character exuded by their character portraits. Enemy models range from nifty to cartoony to bland, as do their personalities at this stage – more on character and enemy behavior later. The background music is similarly void of character, but it doesn’t annoy me, which is a plus. I would much rather the music be lackluster than an ear-buster.
One area where the developers have done a splendid job, so far, is in world-building. Hammerting appears to have a world history and thought out, well-written entries on various Dwarven clans, city histories, etc. I would love to see this fleshed out even more so that one might discover elements of the world’s history as one delves deeper into the mountain, but Hammerting is not yet at that stage. Similarly, though, characters feel like they have some personality when I review their character portraits. At the end of the day, they are a collection of stats and act almost the same when I’m watching them work, but they really shine when I’m up close and personal with them.
As alluded to, however, the reality is that AI really needs a boost. Some monsters don’t attack when I expect they should, others attack when I expect they shouldn’t, and the Dwarves occasionally get stuck in movement loops that render the game unplayable. Unfortunately, if there is a way to stop the Dwarves from doing something (like fleeing until they’re out of a monster’s reach, then trying to return so they can eat some fungus to heal – that happens to be right next to the monster that sends them packing), I haven’t discovered it. That exact problem has ended two of my runs and it’s getting old, fast.
Speaking of which, documentation is in Hammerting, but there have been some niche events or actions I needed information on (like assigning careers to dwarves) that I just couldn’t find. Accordingly, I think it’s fair to say that the learning curve is somewhat steep, at least at first. It took me a few tries to really sus out how the systems work before I could start a successful run. Overcoming that initial learning barrier, though, has been instrumental in exploring the deeper reaches of the mountain.
The mountain hold that the dwarves inhabit appears to have been used in ages past, meaning the player’s exploration of Hammerting’s procedurally generated mountain is both in-game discovery and rediscovery. Minor quests guide the player through actions which encourage further growth and development (e.g., discover different underground biomes, build certain structures, and craft their associated products, etc.), but quests driven by the overworld’s stereotypical good guys vs. bad guys war are where Hammerting’s bread and butter come from.
The current story and goals for Hammerting center on the dwarves and their role in supporting an army of good as they combat the forces of evil. Both factions start (good and evil) start with a given number of cities. Over time, the dwarves will receive notice that a battle will soon happen and are given an opportunity to contribute resources to tip the scales in favor of one side or the other. In practice, what this means is that I can generally provide three copper ingots to a side and it wins. I’m not sure how – maybe the good guys hurl the three copper bricks at the roving hordes of orcs and undead, but that’s too much for a lowly dwarf to understand. The good guys have it well in hand.
I would guess that requirements for such quests are supposed to increase over time, but the reality is that at the present stage of development, there is very little variation in requests for resources from the powers of good. Perhaps that’s because the developers are still in the process of determining pacing, balance, and so on, but that still leaves me scrambling to make yet another batch of copper ingots that will be instrumental in defeating the Demon King. That said, the crafting does work, and I like it. It’s not particularly complex, but I like that one can select different handles/heads for weapons or tools that might provide their own advantages or disadvantages.
Hammerting sorely lacks random events, monster attacks on the dwarven hold, and other content. It is worth noting that the developers are keen to increase the amount of content, and patches have been paced, but present since early access release. Moreover, the devs are very active on their discord server and have been more than happy to assist those who have had crash-to-desktop crashes and other bugs.
I really want to stress that Hammerting is still in early access. It is, expectedly, hamstrung by a lack of content and polish and underdevelopment of character and monster AI. That said, Hammerting’s bones – its systems and concept – are good. If you are looking for a great, well-developed dwarf settlement simulator, you may want to wait a while on this one. If you anticipate Hammerting as being a great game in the future and want to support the developers, it may be worthwhile to do that. Either way, my score is based on Hammerting in its current state and may not reflect the game as it evolves.
A game key was provided for this review.
COMPARE TO: Dwarf Fortress, Dungeon Keeper, Settlers