Hammerting out now

Hammerting – It’s (still) 3 dwarfs… they (still) go to the mine

Hammerting is a game from Warpzone studio published by Team 17 and it was officially released a few weeks ago. It’s time for us to take a look at the final release of the title and to review its general evolution.

 

As a reminder, Hammerting is a dwarf colony management game that has to develop in a mountain by exploring it and trading with the beings of the surface, in order to fill the pockets and coffers of the nascent dwarf kingdom. The dwarves, who live well sheltered in their mountain, take advantage of the incessant wars of the people above to sell them all kinds of goods, at prices that can fluctuate from one moment to the next. Like what, the war always profits to somebody. It might as well be us!

At the beginning of the game, you invest in a cave that you have to set up in order to create some logistics. You start the adventure with 3 dwarves, which you don’t have direct control over (or not quite), who carry out your orders according to a certain priority and depending on the available raw materials. We could take as a reference “Rimworld” or “Dwarf Fortress” to quote two of the most famous of the genre, although it is a scale of lower population level, but that would be wrong. So yes, the reference is clear with these titles, but you will see in my conclusion that it is not quite that.

Let’s get back to the game.

Hammerting cavesYou clear the first room to dig your first industry, the stone quarry, the foundation of your future kingdom. From there, you go exploring to make room for your future constructions.
The game takes place on a 2D profile map and the mountain is rather vast, it will take a lot of time to explore it. Some parts are only accessible through constructions. Also, despite your desire to explore (when you more or less direct your dwarves by clicking on the place to reach), the dwarves can also decide other priorities to accomplish in their logistics. Each industry you start needs manpower. Each trade with a surface kingdom requires one of your dwarves to transport the goods; in short, as you can see, 3 dwarves is not much… very little. You can recruit two more very quickly, but you will always be limited in your actions, because, from my point of view, this population limitation, even if it increases as you progress, is always frustrating because of its under-capacity. This makes the game move quite slowly. Moreover, some things vital to the survival of your dwarves only arrive after some time of play, like medicine or food, for example. You can get them quickly enough, but not enough until you need them. And when your dwarves are in bad shape, well… they’re also less effective.

Your exploration and your trade give you two resources necessary to your progression with the points of knowledge of the mountain on one hand and the points of trade on the other. The two together allow you to unlock different technologies, themselves divided into different levels as you progress through the game. However, it is possible to search for advanced technologies by skipping a level, as long as you have the necessary prerequisites to find them. Each search unlocks new possibilities (industry, construction, manufacturing, raw material, etc.) which are necessary to advance in other things.

Let’s talk about the dwarves themselves. I said earlier that you don’t control them directly. They move around the mountain on their own, going about their business and carrying out, more or less quickly, the tasks you ask of them. An evolution that I have noticed since the preview is that they now have a social life. They talk (and therefore they still waste time), get to know each other, develop relationships with each other. I haven’t yet seen any change in efficiency or anything that would result from that (other than wasting time, that is), but it’s definitely there.

Hammerting skillsYour dwarves also have different characteristics contained in character sheets worthy of the hairiest role playing games. They have general statistics with six basic characteristics plus a huge list of skills. The former evolve through the level evolution of your dwarves, levels they gain by completing tasks. Each level allows you to unlock “gifts” to stay in the jeuderolic vocabulary which allow you to gain points in these basic characteristics. Skill points, on the other hand, are earned directly by completing tasks, each 100 points giving 1 point in the related characteristic. For example, a dwarf working in the quarry collecting granite will earn a certain number of points in the skill “mining” and when he reaches 100 points, he will earn 1 level in this skill. And so on. There are a lot of skills and your dwarves can never be effective everywhere. So you have to orient your dwarves in specializations to be efficient.

This way, with experience, you can prioritize the tasks they need to do. And it’s best if you want your colony to run smoothly. It’s terribly frustrating to find that you have everything you need to feed your dwarves, but they’re starving because none of them decide to do the cooking for the others…

Well, unfortunately,the AI has not evolved too much since the preview. Nothing catastrophic, but it could have been more polished at release than at the beginning of the early access. It’s not. Also, the learning and evolution curve hasn’t really changed. Some players were hoping for some smoothing out so that the evolution would be more continuous, but it is not the case. It’s even the opposite with the addition of new search possibilities. So yes, of course, it makes the game virtually less linear and more random, but it’s also terribly frustrating not to be able to do what you want, or even to see your game blocked because of a stupid AI, like the looped movements of dwarves who are split between “fight the slime that’s close” and “eat a mushroom to heal yourself”. And there’s no way to break this move other than to go around the slime with another dwarf and attack it. This is easily identifiable at the beginning of the game, but becomes much more complicated as you have more subjects and your kingdom expands.

However, there are more progression quests than before, trying to get the player “on track” to find a logical order in their overall progression. Discovering this or that biome in the mountain, selling this or that merchandise to a neighbor, etc., but it’s still pretty forced and we shouldn’t pay too much attention to it. If a quest is solved, so much the better. But for example, if you have a quest to sell goods since the beginning, you might not be aware of where the necessary goods are after several hours of play.

Each game is different from another, as the mountain is created procedurally each time. However, it has always been inhabited before and has some points of interest, as well as things that we can collect for our own activities (an old abandoned wagon with some goods in it, for example). However, what the game lacks in comparison to Rimworld, for example, are random events. So yes, these can sometimes ruin a game that lasts several dozen hours, but that’s kind of the point of this kind of games. If the only interest is to keep developing, lassitude quickly sets in.

However, let’s be clear: Hammerting is not a game in the same vein as the games I mentioned in this review, namely Rimworld or Dwarf Fortress. No, it is much lighter than those, but above all it is at the crossroads of genres. It is as much a management game as a city builder because of its logistic requirements, but also an RPG in itself with the development of its dwarves, exploration and survival in the mountains, etc. And it’s when you understand this that the game reveals a very different interest from the others and becomes terribly enjoyable.

There is a multiplayer mode. It allows several people to give tasks in the same colony, in a cooperative mode. It’s not bad, even if it adds a bit of complication, even frustration, when you’re waiting for a dwarf to come and build that damn ladder and they don’t want to, because they’re working on tasks given by another player.

On the general atmosphere level, the game is visually pleasant, it gives off a nice atmosphere and the music does not overpower the system. The cave atmosphere is also well reproduced, with very characteristic noises.

The game was released last November and is available on Steam for 24.99 €, so it’s not stolen in itself and, out of curiosity, don’t hesitate to take a look at it.

 

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