Warhammer Quest / 14th of February 2015
I've been looking at Warhammer Quest, Rodeo Games' fancy new(ish) electronic computer game version of the classic (but not classic enough to receive the frequent updates that Games Workshop give their other games) dungeon crawler table top game. Being best described as Games Workshop's take on Dungeons and Dragons with a few unique elements and for the most part, the computerised version is a fairly straight port but with the addition of a few new features. However, these embellishments can come at a rather substantial cost…
To take it from the top, many of those new features are only there if you pay for the £20 version of the game, Chilled Mouse, the game's publisher on PC were kind enough to furnish us with the Deluxe Edition and I gave the game a go, both refusing to use the Deluxe Edition's add-ons (where possible, they integrate fairly seamlessly), and then again using them. I'm talking about this right at the start because this is honestly my biggest gripe with the game, £11 is about reasonable for what I got, yet, if you want to, you can pay £20 outright....or £11 with a further £30 in in-app purchases. This is a port from iPad after all, and a basically unchanged port too for that matter.
In fairness though, it's certainly not actually an awful port, it plays happily in 4k, and every other resolution between that and “my computer was built in 1995”, which is rather handy, because the game does maintain some of the pleasant charm of a 90’s PC game. Of course, I really hope that this was intentional, because it is very charming in that sort of 90s way, look at the title screen! I feel like I'm playing a very early 2000s DVD game looking at it, it's glorious!
Naturally though, the port is still far from perfect; the controls are basically unchanged from its original iOS iteration, one mouse click, either left or right correlates to one tap of the touch screen, and it's not even a very good touch interface. I found it extremely frustrating not being able to tap escape to back out of menus (the only key utilised is escape, this brings up the options menu, yet pressing it again does NOT close the options menu?!), or deselect my characters (given that you have to deselect everyone to end your turn). It's a very lazy control scheme that honestly felt clunky even when I chucked the game over to my touch screen monitor, there were far too many cases where two touches were required instead of one, or needing to click things then click buttons to confirm where a double click have sufficed. It's really not what you'd expect of a modern PC game, it feels very archaic, as though the developers refused to utilise the medium to its full potential.
Moving on from the title screen, the game is graphically a straight port of the original iOS version, it looks very nice for a tablet game, that's the best compliment I can give it apart from saying it has a similar charm to Runic Games' Torchlight, it's a simple but clear visual design. There's even some low resolution FMV to introduce you to the towns in the game's quest mode.
The quest mode - this is the major feature that differentiates the original board game from the electronic game - you're given a small world map to wander around doing quests, it's full of little niggles that again make no sense for people who have more than one finger but never mind. It's quite fun, travelling from town to town helping peasants with various odds and ends, and the writing is packed full of charm and a few pleasant surprises. It's the kind of fluff that's written in the sidebar in a Warhammer rule book and it avoids becoming po-faced nonsense well.
When you're sent on a quest you'll hit the dungeon itself, your four chosen warriors (or your only four warriors if you don't buy the Ultimate edition) progress into what the board game featured so well; tight corridors that you move through square by square, with the contents of rooms only being revealed as you cross the threshold into them. Though, after the first few dungeons I felt a bit sick of it, there isn't a great deal of strategy to start with, the cramped confines frequently make it far too difficult to actually set up a strategy and there's rarely a need to do so anyway, the game comes across as being a bit simplistic, there's really no need to think ahead like last year's square tile hopping strategy du jour The Banner Saga. I bring this up purely because Stoic's game is a rare example of how to do turn based small scale strategy beautifully, but in fairness, this is honestly a flaw with the original table top game, it's a table top game for beginners, and a near twenty year old one at that.
However, I was surprised to find that after a few more dungeons I actually started enjoying myself, the amount of depth does grow a bit as your heroes level up and start to learn new abilities and resources, it does become a bit more strategic and complex, it's still not The Banner Saga but there's certainly a lot of fun to be gleaned from this, and I did find myself wanting to do just one more dungeon. The only problem after that, really, is that it is just quite repetitive and everything moves at a snail's pace, you find yourself waiting an eternity for your wizard to move just four squares. Outside of the charm of the writing and the skinner box-like reward system of knowing what loot comes from a dungeon before you even start it, every oubliette is completely interchangeable, and sadly when your party gets a bit too powerful it simply descends into something of a mindless clicker.
It's definitely a game that will bring you more joy if you play it for 30 minutes at a time on a train, rather than sat at your desk, and no, there's no controller support if you wanted to use your trusty Xbox 360 pad and kick back on the sofa, but the reality of the situation is that Warhammer Quest's core gameplay simply isn't intended for video games, it's intended for your bedroom, or the dining room table, with three friends, a dungeon master and crisps lovingly put into a bowl by your mum.
It may be lovely, charming and there is a lot of fun to be had with it, but Warhammer Quest is simply a game that it is far too easy to get bored with, and let's nip back to pricing for a moment. The game is pretty hamstrung if you only pay £11 (you don't even get to pick which classes you bring to the dungeon), but it's hard to justify this as a £20 product, especially given that it's a fairly lazy port of an iPhone game that costs £4 (though again, in-app purchases). If you're a huge Warhammer fan, or if you fondly remember those hazy days of the mid-late 90’s spent arguing over confusing rules and talking about which girl well fancied you, then I'd probably recommend the £20 version, because the cost to upgrade from the normal to deluxe via in-app purchases is downright astronomical.