I consider myself a relatively patient person. I rarely get exasperated when gaming, although when a title manages to frustrate beyond reason, I step away, take a deep breath and revisit the tough area from a fresh perspective. There were only a few instances when I nearly lost my cool. One time was during The Dam section of the 1989 NES Ninja Turtles game, and more recently during my play test of Mordheim: City of The Damned. The problem with games like TMNT and Mordheim is that despite all the aggravation, they’re impossible to put down. Fortunately, Mordheim: City of The Damned is still in Early Access, and considering the developer’s passion and commitment to the project, it’s hopefully only a matter of time before the issues are ironed out.
City of The Damned is a virtual extension of Games Workshop’s 1999 Mordheim tabletop game. My perspective is that of an outsider. I’ve never played the original game, nor am I particularly familiar with the Warhammer universe. Having said that, City of The Damned is surprisingly immersive, even for newcomers. From the superbly crafted environments to the mind-bogglingly complex gameplay, Mordheim: City of The Damned is a gem for hardcore RPG and strategy enthusiasts.
"From the superbly crafted environments to the mind-bogglingly complex gameplay, Mordheim: City of The Damned is a gem for hardcore RPG and strategy enthusiasts."
Analyzing Early Access titles is tough, mainly because a developer’s intentions, or rather goals, aren’t always clear during early builds. Mordheim finds itself in a finicky stage at the moment. It has the potential of being something truly special, but it also risks the possibility of getting lost in its ambition. Its core mechanics are strong, and the complexity and depth are admirable. On the flipside, Mordheim struggles to maintain a fair balance when facing AI opponents. Strategy is hampered by a heavy emphasis on luck, which I understand is meant to imitate the dice-rolling aspect of tabletop gaming. As a result, victories and losses oftentimes feel like products of randomness, instead of strategy.
On the surface, Mordheim: City of The Damned appears like a traditional turn-based RPG with strategy thrown in for variety. In reality, Mordheim is a playground for masochists with RPG and strategy mechanics serving as tools for self-mutilation. Well, it may not be all that extreme. But joking aside, Mordheim is a tough venture. It requires commitment and patience. The tutorial alone takes more than one playthrough to fully grasp the game’s intricate mechanics. The training mode is divided into several chapters, each throwing countless stats and rules at players. This isn’t a bad thing by any means. In fact, I miss games with steep learning curves and complex systems. Mordheim is undoubtedly rich in ideas unique concepts.
"In reality, Mordheim is a playground for masochists with RPG and strategy mechanics serving as tools for self-mutilation."
Mordheim’s complexity relies too much on complicated stat management that’s presented by convoluted UI. While micro management is clearly one of Mordheim’s appeals, it overshadows its strategy elements too often. To make matters worse, the aforementioned balancing tilts battles towards unfairness. For example, even after perfectly planning my moves and placing my archer in the sweet spot behind an enemy, my shots misfired three times in a row, and the enemy was able to club my warrior to death in only a few strikes. Another time, attempts at climbing a wall continually resulted in falling, exposing my warrior to attacks. With “chance” being so detrimental to success, it’s hard to play strategically. To Mordheim’s credit, the interactive environments provide interesting combat possibilities. Scouting vantage points, planning flanking maneuvers and collecting valuable loot all add countless opportunities.
"The art direction is gorgeous, and the macabre tone gives each level a sense of uneasiness and trepidation."
The world of Mordheim is beautifully presented. The art direction is gorgeous, and the macabre tone gives each level a sense of uneasiness and trepidation. Characters are well designed and move fluidly, although there’s not much creative variety within each faction. This makes things a little confusing when two identical looking warriors are on opposite sides of the map. Because of the game’s poor map overview, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of who’s doing what.
Mordheim: City of The Damned is brimming with potential. If developer Rogue Factor can dedicate the rest of the development time to fixing the balancing issues, Mordheim may end up a true masterpiece. As it stands, it feels like a unique experiment that’s not quite there yet. Its superb presentation is alluring, and Warhammer fans will undoubtedly appreciate what the game has to offer, but it’s hard to recommend to players unfamiliar with the original board game, despite its great value and replayability. Keep an eye out on this one. A lot can change in the last months before the official launch.
Preview by: Tin Salamunic | Previewed on: PC