Back in 2017, Hammerwatch released on Switch, and we thought it was pretty darn good. It delivered accessible combat and progression that anybody could jump into whilst also catering to those who were after a bit more of a challenge. Heroes of Hammerwatch is set in the same universe, and sees you scale the Forsaken Spire, battling waves of creatures and gathering up loot with up to three online co-op partners. Its overall gameplay is very typical of the rogue-lite genre, but it's implemented in a way that’s instantly appealing and gratifying.
What immediately stands out with Heroes of Hammerwatch is just how pretty it looks. The pixel art style might not be to everybody’s taste, but the game’s use of colour and special effects really raises the overall visual fidelity. Our jaws dropped to the floor the first time we ventured out into the world when it was snowing; it’s a wonderful example of a game that utilises a retro art style while simultaneously modernising it with spectacular flair. The only disappointment in terms of the graphics is that everything seems just a tad too small when playing in handheld mode or on Switch Lite; this is exacerbated when the action ramps up, causing a bit of a mish-mash of colours and pixels.
Progression is the name of the game in Heroes of Hammerwatch. In classic rogue-lite fashion, you’ll start off with the very basics of weapons and abilities, and you’ll need to revisit the procedurally generated dungeons and arenas often, slowing building up your collection of loot. As you use this loot to purchase new items and upgrades, you’ll in turn be able to travel further into dangerous territory, gaining more distance and experience with each subsequent journey. Progression is slow at first, but soon ramps up as you get further into the game; you’ll be spending money left, right and centre before you know it, and it’s an incredibly satisfying experience to see your characters build in strength.
The game offers up a variety of characters to choose from at the start, with clear differences between them; the paladin is very much a melee-based build, and the ranger prefers long-range attacks. More can be unlocked as you progress, and it’s well worth trying out as many as you can. Of course, you can play the game on your own if you wish; this is perfectly valid and we think you’d have a lot of fun with it. However, Heroes of Hammerwatch really shines when you get together with friends online; it turns the experience into a more ‘arcade-y’ affair, and it’s great fun watching your different character builds unleash their own unique attacks upon waves of enemies at the same time.
Heroes of Hammerwatch is a great culmination of everything developer Crackshell started with Hammerwatch. It contains 3 additional DLCs to sink your teeth into, along with a New Game+ mode if you’ve exhausted everything else from the experience (you can effectively keep playing indefinitely, if you wish). It’s best played with friends if you’re able, but however you choose to engage with Heroes of Hammerwatch, it proves to be a fine addition to the rogue-lite catalogue on Switch.