Mordheim: City Of The Damned Review – A Tough Fantasy Campaign

We take a look at Rogue Factor’s turn based role playing game Mordheim: City Of The Damned on PC which has just come out of Steam Early Access as a full release. With a game based on the Games Workshop fantasy universe and with an increasing number of turn based games hitting the markets, is this a game worthy of your time and the £29.99 price of entry. Take a look at our Mordheim: City Of The Damned review for the full picture.

Mordheim: City Of The Damned Review:

To begin I have a kind of love hate relationship with turn based role playing games because on one hand I really enjoy what they can offer in that there’s time to think carefully before wading in and where mistakes are made it’s through one’s own fault rather than being skill based. On the other hand, the style is very much a game of chance in some instances and so the lack of direct control means there’s breeding grounds for much pad throwing and frustration. Where Mordheim: City Of The Damned sits is somewhere in the middle of these two opposites because developer Rogue Factor has finally got a fairly decent game for PC gamers and for one I’ve enjoyed playing it. It’s not been an easy ride though and in a way I feel there’s perhaps a bit too much of a nerdy approach here to validate recommending this game to anyone but the die-hard fanatics out there which is a shame. As a game to enlighten any sceptics, this isn’t it due to its unforgiving nature and the fact players can be on the receiving end of some really brutal battles which leave your squad in a shambles.

Let’s recap for a little first. Basically at the start you can choose from one of four starting races or Warbands who are tasked with entertaining several underlying factions by jumping into the damned city of Mordheim to gather a material called Wyrdstones. The idea is to keep pumping the factions with the precious green stone to raise your favour with them and net the just rewards which in turn make your crew of fighters all the more stronger. You’re tasked with hiring and firing various troop types and have the option to upgrade and equip them with a plentiful supply of weapons, armour, skills and spells. There’s even the option to customize their looks to a degree which adds a personal touch although the options here are quite limited. So whilst there’s a lot of fighting, between rounds a managerial aspect comes into play. Essentially you’re building up a squad of faithful combatants of various classes but the spanner in the works comes from actually fighting…well duh.

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I like the fighting, it’s pretty neat as you select campaign missions of varying difficulty across a map per day. Each day yields a selection of mission types so you can choose to sit out (or send scouts to find more if none are suitable) and wait for the next challenge to come your way. The levels are randomly generated which means you’ve got a wide selection of map layouts to fight in. What I like the most about the maps is the option to enter buildings or raised areas for tactical advantage, explore a little and ambush the enemy – although the same can happen in reverse. It’s dangerous out there though and being a turn based game means you’re limited by moves per turn and attack points per action. Things like scaling walls or even dropping down from ledges uses your potential moves and unless there’s a direct line of sight with the enemy, you could stumble into something big and ugly before you get your bearings. I used various tactics against the AI opposition such as sticking close by in a tight-nit group and waiting for the enemy to come into range, or sending out smaller scout groups to suss out the lay of the land or gather resource. There’s a neat element of nicking the opposition’s idol from their starting base which dramatically lowers their morale and can turn the tides of battle pretty quickly as an option. There’s quite a bit you can do and that’s just by using basic melee attackers. If you develop ranged fighters who use guns or bows, then making good use of the height advantage is a viable option as well.

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I’ve had plenty of fun here although there’s a big white elephant in the room which is the game’s randomness, difficulty and non user friendly interface. Part of me really loves the idea of battles that are fought and won can have dire consequences where it’s not always a total whitewash in favour of the victor. In this instance your troops can become injured to the point of losing eyes and limbs which greatly affects their ability for future skirmishes let alone handling two handed weapons. And when losing, there can be even more injuries or death even across the squad which to a point can make one give up and start over especially if your prized fighters you’ve built up become…disabled, putting it bluntly. Regular injuries can be healed with some gold and rest for a few days which isn’t so bad if you’ve got a large roster of standby fighters on hand. But the game forces you to collect the Wrydstones under a time limit which adds a bit more pressure alongside having to pay for troops wages, medical expenses and equipment. For me all of this management wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact of lousy rolls of the dice. In some instances it just felt to me like it was very much weighted in favour of the AI at times where you were destined to lose no matter what. Having two 90 per cent hit chances dodged in succession sucks and when it’s at a crucial point in the battle can be quite hard to swallow. These weren’t isolated cases either for me as often the enemy would come in with massively overpowered attacks from no-where leaving my forces taking an age to wear them down. This is not an easy game in some instances, whereas at other times the AI was way too forgiving making for a really unbalanced game of chance. I think this approach isn’t going to suit everyone and because there’s no reloading saves as well means each event is permanent. This is a hardcore game at heart even if it does offer a friendly exhibition mode to mess around with housing none of the progression or consequences but to me this felt like it was just an extension of tutorial play at best.

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Mordheim: City Of The Damned offers some pleasant grimy visuals and audio as you would expect from the title “City of the Damned” enough said really. It’s not the most visually impressive game but does look reasonable despite basic looking characters and cheesy voice overs. I really hated the long loading times though which are understandable if the game is creating procedurally generated levels but it’s still uninspiring to have to sit there twiddling one’s thumbs waiting for hell to freeze over. This also extends to waiting for the AI to make its moves which can be annoying if you’re just wanting to crack on and the AI takes its sweet old time. On my PC the game ran pretty smoothly cranked up to maximum although some stuttering occurred for seemingly no reason at all during various moments. Due to the sparse nature of the game I don’t think this pushes the hardware that much and probably needs some more optimization. Still, there’s plenty of options to tinker with to suit whatever set up your running the game on such is the beauty of PC gaming.

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So, I continue my love hate relationship with turn based role playing games and to be frank I’ve been spoilt of late with a pleasant mix to choose from. Where does Mordheim: City Of The Damned fit in? Well, it’s a decent game that could do with a little more refinement in some areas; it requires quite a bit of patience and an understanding that you’ve got some mountains to climb along the path of redemption. There’s a handy online multiplayer if you’ve got friends willing to part with £30 quid with you, and to be fair there’s quite a few options when creating games. For a single player experience it’s got balls, and if you have then like two peas in a pod you’ll get along just fine. Newcomers into the turn based genre will have a hard time to get into the swing and possibly be overwhelmed pretty quick, but if you can stick with it and maybe loosen the shackles of preconception from other games then you might just find a gem of a game that you never knew you loved. Me I’ll just continue loving and hating in equal measure.

Score 7.5/10

Written by: Andrew Banks

Andrew loves all genres of video games and has been playing them since he was 5 years old. Many years later and the passion is still there.

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