In addition to the main campaign, an easy to miss defense mode is also available for both single and multiplayer rounds. This drops you in a maze-like level where enemies come at you in waves, crawling around the path as you attempt to defeat them before they reach the innocent citizens at the center. It's simple but very effective and highlights the challenge and combat components of the game quite well.
As if all the adventuring weren't enough, Hammerwatch ships with a level editor that gives you full control over creating new floors to adventure through. It can be confusing and clunky at first, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to share levels beyond e-mailing files back and forth. But the tools are there, and with any luck the community will pick them up and roll with it.
Co-op play builds teamwork through the simple concept of sticking together to help each other survive. Players can go their own way and wander through the dungeons on their own, but it makes a lot more sense to work as a group, especially later in the game and on higher difficulty levels. Some of the puzzles also work better with a teammate to communicate with, so even though Hammerwatch doesn't force you to work together, you should do it anyway.
Hammerwatch offers a minimalistic interface that stays out of your way so the combat and loot hunting can take center stage. Beyond your battery of attacks and a few simple potions, the only other feature is an overlay map that helps you keep track of player and item locations in an expanded vicinity. In addition to a three tiered difficulty selector, modifiers let you customize certain elements of gameplay to create a challenge that suits your playing style. Modifiers include switching extra lives on or off, sharing the hit point pool amongst all the players, or switching the classic Gauntlet-style reverse HP regen on so you're constantly losing life. Crutches can be switched on as well, letting you deal double damage, giving you infinite lives, and turning on hit point regeneration. Easy mode with the crutches on isn't much of a cakewalk, so you can imagine how scarce both cake and walking are in hard mode.
Shortcomings with Hammerwatch are largely preference-based. The game plays much better with a controller than a keyboard, but it supports gamepad setups out of the box, so the inconvenience is at a minimum. Players who enjoy high difficulty games of this nature will find all the necessary elements for a lasting challenge. The modifiers go a long way to make things accessible for more casual players, but the challenge is always present, no matter how "cheaty" you get. Some players will cry out for full levels maps in the overlay view so they don't get lost, but Hammerwatch doesn't want to hand you the keys to uncovering all of its secrets without any effort. It's one of those games that will inspire you to check every corner of every wall, smacking it with your melee weapon just in case there's a breakable tile nearby. No matter how many times you die or how unfair that maggot boss seems, you and your friends will keep trying again and again and again.
The Co-Op Experience: Solo or cooperate in this adventure from bottom to top of Castle Hammerwatch. Kill hordes of enemies with varied looks and features through four unique enviroments with traps, hidden secrets and puzzles.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.