Hammerwatch II – Review
Follow Genre: Rogue-lite, dungeon crawler
Developer: Crackshell
Publisher: Modus Games
Platform: PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: PC

Hammerwatch II – Review

Site Score
Good: A massive open world to explore
Bad: Time cycle negatively affects gameplay
User Score
(1 votes)
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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

While half the world is busy playing Baldur’s Gate 3, which is apparently pretty good, we’ve cast our gaze on a game that offers a more old-school take on high fantasy video games. Hammerwatch II is the sequel to Crackshell’s rogue-lite dungeon-crawler Heroes of Hammerwatch, and although it’s not an official Dungeons & Dragons game, it’s clear that Hammerwatch II takes at least some inspiration from D&D in terms of setting and atmosphere. We’ll end the comparison between Hammerwatch II and Larian’s masterpiece here because they offer completely different experiences, but given the timing of the release, it’s difficult to not at least mention Baldur’s Gate 3. Is Hammerwatch II the sequel Hammerwatch fans have been clamoring for?


As Hammerwatch II is a direct sequel, returning players will undoubtedly enjoy the story more than newcomers, as it picks up straight after the good ending from the previous game. However, it’s not absolutely essential to have played the predecessor to be able to follow the story. What you’re getting here is typical fantasy fluff: the main takeaway is that your character saved the world last time around, but the big bad has returned for another round, this time riding atop a mighty dragon. Given your track record, the world is now counting on you to take on the dastardly villain once again. Unfortunately, you find yourself stuck in a derelict jail cell, and you’ll need to escape before you are able to take on this arduous task. That jail cell acts as the tutorial area, of course, and after you break out, you are pretty much forging your own story in the open world.


Visually, Hammerwatch II is a bit of a mixed bag. The game makes use of an 8-bit art style, which looks absolutely lovely. The lighting effects really bring the world to life, from glowing torches to the day/night cycle which shifts the overworld’s gorgeous colors palette to match the time of day. In addition, you get to customize your character’s sprite and portrait. So, why would we then describe Hammerwatch II’s visuals as a mixed bag instead of praising them? Well, the world itself can be difficult to navigate and difficult to read at a glance. It’s not always easy to identify destructible objects, and there were some times when we got stuck because we couldn’t see where to go next, instead blindly flailing our sword to find the right collapsible wall or pile of rubble.


While Hammerwatch II’s visuals are admittedly above average, the same can’t be said for its soundscape. The music is repetitive and even gets annoying to listen to after a while, and while there is some voice acting in the game, this is limited to a handful of phrases that are repeated ad nauseam.


With its old-school approach to dungeon crawling, Hammerwatch II’s core gameplay loop feels deceptively simplistic. After creating your character, which boils down to picking a class and a color scheme, you are thrust into an open world, where dozens upon dozens of quests await. As you take on more of these, you’ll venture out further into the wilds surrounding the initial settlement. Dungeons litter your surroundings, and you’ll have your work cut out for you if you want to explore them all. Completing a dungeon sees you gain experience and loot, which means you’re better equipped to take on more challenging quests. Rinse and repeat. Hammerwatch II doesn’t do anything new for the genre, but the core experience is streamlined and addictive enough.

There are a handful of classes to choose from for your protagonist, and these largely dictate your playstyle. If you prefer ranged attacks, your best bets would be the Ranger or Warlock, while those that have a penchant for getting stuck in combat would probably prefer the Paladin. Controlling your character is simple enough: your character will always face your cursor, so when you are fighting enemies, you’ll need to rotate your mouse accordingly. The left mouse button unleashes your melee attack, and the right mouse button lets you use ranged attacks, provided you have enough arrows or mana. Navigating and interacting with the world is done using the keyboard, although if you happen to use a French or Belgian keyboard, be aware that the on-screen keys will correspond with a QWERTY layout, which can be a bit confusing. This is of course a corner case that will only affect a minority of players, but given how snappy and more responsive the keyboard inputs are compared to playing with a controller, this is still worth mentioning.

Perhaps Hammerwatch II’s most unique feature is that day/night cycle we mentioned in passing when we were talking about the visuals. It’s an interesting idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The issue here is that NPCs live according to the rhythm of the days, so shops are closed and characters are asleep at night. However, the game has no way to pass the time apart from sleeping at an inn, which costs gold. If you’re running low on funds, that means you’ll just sit around waiting for the sun to rise. In addition, certain side quests are timed, meaning that if you don’t complete them within a specific time frame, you’ll permanently fail them and are unable to complete them. That in itself would be fine if the game told you this when you accepted the quest, but unfortunately, there is no way to know how long you have to complete a quest. You’ll either return victorious, or the quest giver will tell you that you took too long and your efforts are wasted. This is definitely the one area that we are hoping will be reworked in a future update.

We were surprised how much content was crammed in such a deceptively tiny package, given that Hammerwatch II’s download size is under 600 MB.  Even so, you can potentially spend dozens of hours in this world without seeing everything, and that’s without taking modded content into account -which the game supports straight out of the box. The open world is vast, and there are loads of dungeons to explore, which is something you will have to commit to if you’re going to clear the main story. Your character starts out fairly weak, and while there is definitely a sense of progress as you unlock new abilities and pick up better gear, Hammerwatch II can feel a bit grindy at times. Especially early on, resources are hard to come by and death can come unexpectedly. We didn’t expect a swarm of beetles to kill us pretty much instantly when we had just beaten up a pack of wolves a few minutes earlier, for example. It can take a while to find your footing here, and everything has a cost, even respawning after death, so you’ll really need to persevere for Hammerwatch II to show its full potential.

Allegedly, that full potential comes a lot quicker when playing Hammerwatch II as a co-op title, where you assemble a party of like-minded players rather than taking on the adventure solo. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to try out this feature, but we can imagine this dungeon crawler can be a lot of fun if you have a balanced party of murder hobos ready to tackle whatever the world throws at you. This probably rings especially true for the boss fights, some of which seemed to be designed with co-op in mind, given specific attack patterns. The game doesn’t really lend itself to precision maneuvers, and in solo play, that means that your best shot at taking down bosses involves grinding and over-levelling rather than employing tactics and strategy. That said, there are quite a few accessibility options that can make the game easier on the fly, which can avoid unnecessary frustration.


As a solo experience, Hammerwatch II entertains but doesn’t impress. Your mileage may vary if you can team up with a party of friends. Don’t let that deter you from giving the game a try on your own, because there is still a lot of fun to be had here, even if the core loop can get grindy at times. We could do with a rework of the game’s day/night mechanics, but apart from that, Hammerwatch II offers a solid take on the genre, despite not bringing anything new to the table.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Hammerwatch II - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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