MICROTRANSACTIONS! Did you just spontaneously vomit everywhere at the sight of that word? If so, you might not be a good fit for Warhammer Quest, a turn-based strategy game from Rodeo Games that’s as much about accruing debt as killing orcs. This is based on Games Workshop’s Warhammer franchise, of course, so you shouldn’t be surprised. Hell, I can’t even fault the game for it – the warning’s right in the title!
So here’s the take-home lesson from this review right at the start: if you’re going to buy this, you’re going to buy the Deluxe Edition. At $30, it costs twice as much as the standard edition, but it’s vastly less of a rip-off than the standard edition because it comes with all the currently available DLC. If you foolishly decide to get the standard edition instead, then find you like the game and buy the DLC piecemeal, you’re going to pay around $60 to eventually have it all. Just rip the band-aid off and shell out upfront. You’ll feel better, it’ll look good on Games Workshop’s balance sheet, everyone wins.
But what’s this game for which you’ll be paying all this cash money? Well, Warhammer Quest is a turn-based dungeon crawler based on a Games Workshop board game by the same name. It’s a pretty exact conversion of the board game, so if you’re of the right age and interests to have played it you’re going to love Warhammer Quest by default. For the rest of us, this is basically a simplified version of something like X-Com where you take a squad of adventurers through a set of randomly-generated quests in search of experience and loot.
Along with being a port of a board game, this is also a port of a mobile game as is the norm on Steam these days. Said mobile game cost $5 on iOS and now costs $15 on Steam, for the record, but like I said you should be buying the $30 version with all the DLC if you’re getting this game. Anyway, this means it works absolutely great if you’ve got a touchscreen monitor, a Windows tablet that can run the game or if you really like using a mouse. It doesn’t work so great if you don’t have a mouse or any arms with which to use one, so if that’s an issue you might want to skip this one. The controls are very simple and easy to use and the game, while seemingly complex at first, is actually really easy to grasp and enjoy.
Here’s the lowdown: you’ve got four adventurers chosen from your selection of purchased microtransaction dudes. These four heroes are going to tromp through a dungeon, kill everything in their way while dealing with both scripted and random battles, then reach the end and kill everything in there too. You’ve got three basic adventurer archetypes to work with. Warriors are great at killing baddies with cutlery, archers can shoot bows at baddies for long-ranged kills and mages…er. Mages have to deal with the “Winds of Magic,” the constantly fluctuating levels of arcane power in the dungeon. The long and short of this is that it’s up to chance whether a mage will get to cast anything useful on a given turn. Fortunately, all the characters are at least marginally decent at smacking things with swords, so a mage on a bad turn can still chop somebody up.
At the end of a quest, everyone gains experience based on how many kills they got, you’re showered with loot based on how lucky you are and the process repeats. This might sound repetitive…and, er, it kind of is, but it’s also a great choice for 15-20 minute play sessions where you can pop in, get a couple quests done and go about your day.
Your heroes are varied and interesting enough that they’re the highlight of the game. Your starter set includes a couple standard warriors, an archer and a badass shadow mage. You can then purchase more heroes as you’d like. The DLC heroes are all interesting but they tend to vary a little in effectiveness. On the one hand, the Dwarven Trollslayer is great at murdering things like warriors should and gets all kind of fun bonuses for doing so. On the other, the Elven Archmage is a ridiculous fop who can’t decide if he wants to cast defensive or offensive magic; this, combined with the Winds of Magic system, means that his effectiveness on any given turn is a bit of a gamble. Either way, playing with different heroes and trying to find the ideal team composition is a good time.
The monsters you fight and dungeons you explore aren’t quite as varied, though. They’re generally broken down into “melee baddies,” “ranged baddies” and “caster baddies.” Sure, there’s different flavors of those groups like orcs, spiders and undead (and you can buy more as DLC, of course) but aside from remembering if a given foe has a special move to deal with, there’s not a lot of variation outside of that. Again, this is really meant to be a “coffee break” sort of game so this isn’t a dealbreaker, but it’s another reason you shouldn’t come into Warhammer Quest expecting a 60-hour RPG epic.
All in all it’s a pretty solid game. I didn’t run into any bugs, the graphics and sound are decent enough if kind of sparse and the gameplay works for what it is. My primary complaints were the microtransaction-focused model (which you can bypass as mentioned) and some quirks with the progression system. As mentioned, characters gain experience based on kills; early on, this is easy for your warriors, but your mages are going to struggle a little unless you finagle things so they score some killing blows. Also, you need to pay gold to level up characters and it’s not cheap, which makes sense given the ability to buy gold as DLC. I didn’t find this necessary as the dungeons are fairly generous, but it did stymie my urge to buy weapons and items a little.
If you’re willing to pay the extra cash for the Deluxe Edition then Warhammer Quest makes a fantastic laptop or Windows tablet game. It’s not Dragon Age: Inquisition or anything, but it doesn’t really market itself that way. Instead, it’s a nice, bite-sized chunk of adventuring goodness.