Review: Mordheim: City of the Damned

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80%
80
Addicting

This game is not for everyone, but for those who want to try something a little different or who love a challenge, this game is an addictive stand out.

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Unlike previous iterations of various table-top games to make their move into virtual gaming, Mordheim refuses to shy away from its complexity and difficulty, and instead uses it as a flagship statement. Given its emergence from the greater Warhammer Fantasy universe the intricate lore-heavy story is guaranteed and delivered satisfyingly from the get-go. The immediate cut scene utilises animated illustration in dark, fire-lit lighting, to foreshadow the primeval, territorial tug-of-war gameplay. The brief discourse of the city of Mordheim’s full backstory leads to its first video game iteration title: The City of the Damned, giving little allowance for the player to drift off, lest they will be bumbling through the game’s story with little clue as to how this scenario came about.

Similarly, on an attempt to access the game immediately through beginning, a ‘New Warband’ the player is prompted with a warning that to proceed without completing the extensive number of tutorials is at the player’s own peril. Though playing through and completing the twelve separate tutorials, all of a substantial length, may seem a daunting task in of its own in the current climate of straight-to-play games, this is a small hint of the intensity of the game to follow.

As a hint from me to you, play the tutorials; a little bit of patience can go a long way.

The tutorials introduce a huge aspect of the game which players may or may not be familiar with; stats and stat tests. Every action performed is hugely dependant on the statistics of each particular character. Their ability to perform an action is dictated by the relationship between the stats. In traditional table-top games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, a dice is often rolled to determine the outcome of a desired action, with a range of possibilities depending on the roll’s result. Mordheim’s transfiguration to a console format also transmutes aspects of the table-top game into a more console friendly form without losing details which are so integral to the turn-based original, offering percentages as a clear indication of an action’s success.

Whilst turn-based action is not unheard of in the realm of video games, it is a rare commodity which often needs to be handled well to avoid the game becoming slow paced and stagnant. Whilst movement of the warriors within combat zones is freely decided within a certain distance by the player this movement comes at the cost of Strategy Points, retaining the feel of free-will under the watchful gaze of a dungeon master. The player must learn hard and fast that strategy is of the upmost importance. Similarly, a limited amount of Action Points dictate the player’s attacks against the opposing factions’ warriors, with successive attacks in one round costing increasing amounts of points. Failure to measure these attacks will lead to an absence of points during the enemy faction or player’s turn, leaving the warrior unable to counter attack and thus entirely vulnerable to the whims of the enemy.

The main gameplay consists of establishing a Warband, which is hugely dependant on the initial choice of faction. The player is given five different factions to align with; each faction is stylistically distinct despite four of them being human and the remaining faction a humanoid hybrid race. Each faction’s unique look reflects their nature and prerogative in taking the city for their own, and so helps determine the player’s ultimate fate. Character design is often of the upmost importance in games which do not focus on a main protagonist. Non-distinct characters can leave players unable to identify with characters. Mordheim does this exceedingly well as this choice leaves the character staring at members of their chosen faction for as long as they maintain one Warband, and the designs cease to become boring. The intricacies of the character design is reflected in the design of the surroundings; the decrepit decay of Mordheim reflects the overarching figure of Chaos which reduced the city to its current war-torn state.

The large focus of the game, aside from the active action phases, is maintaining and improving one’s Warband through gaining experience and levelling up, recruiting and the open customization of equipment and members of the Warband. Though it may seem unnoticeable at first, the player can quickly grow to become attached to their Warband as they battle for domination of the city, favouring certain warriors and growing to know their stats and advantages in the various clashes between the Warband and other factions. Unlike other games which utilise ‘faction’ or ‘group’ mechanics, such as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, if the player gives little attention to strategy and prioritises success at the risk of their warriors survival, warriors can die and be lost permanently, ultimately reducing the efforts that were spent to build up the warrior. This is one of the various ways the game punishes the player for being reckless, making it clear that this is not a game which caters to the player’s failures or shortcomings, but will consistently challenge and push the player competitively.

Ultimately, Mordheim earnestly presents itself in line with its history without presumptions of being a total console cross-over. Whilst being formatted for play on the PlayStation, Mordheim largely retains the aspects of table-top gaming which made them such a hit to begin with, and unapologetically enforces why these games are so beloved and long-lasting in the face of AAA title domination. This game is not for everyone, but for those who want to try something a little different or who love a challenge, this game is an addictive stand out.

Mordheim: City of the Damned is available on Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One now.

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