Hands-on with Warhammer Quest - swords, sorcery, and Snotlings
By Peter Willington 06 May 2013
Game Name: Warhammer Quest | Publisher: Rodeo Games | Format: iPhone, iPad | Genre: Card/ board game, Strategy
It can be depressing when a developer is entrusted with a franchise that he doesn't seem to fully appreciate.

There are only so many times that your favourite films, boardgames, or whatever are going to be turned into video games, so it's heartbreaking when an opportunity is squandered.

By the same token, it can be very exciting indeed when a developer buys into a franchise as much as you do. Rodeo Games wasn't lying when it said it loved Warhammer Quest - the love shows in this upcoming release.

I mentioned in my interview with Rodeo Games that I spent a lot of time with the game back in the day, and I'm happy to report that this iOS adaptation captures the boardgame's spirit incredibly well.

You have a number of heroes in your party made up of various character classes. The game will come with the Wood Elf Waywatcher, Grey Wizard, Dwarf Ironbreaker, and Marauder, with additional characters the Dwarf Trollslayer, Archmage, and Warrior Priest at an additional cost.

With your team formed, you engage in a series of dungeon runs for loot, experience, and fame. The couple of quests I embarked on weren't particularly long, but they weren't over in a few minutes either. They straddle a satisfying line between depth and accessibility.

There's a comprehensive tutorial before you start the game proper, and it teaches you the ins and outs of real combat situations - though it won't teach the tactics you'll need to ensure that your members survive.

Warhammer Quest was always unforgiving for new players, and it's the same with this digital edition. But unlike the card and plastic version's, Warhammer Quest's difficulty is of a tactical nature, rather than a level-based one.

Here's an example: if you waddle your Grey Wizard into the next room of a dungeon without backup close by, the sheer number of enemies in the space ahead of you could see your magic man murdered.

You quickly learn that close combat fighters like the Marauder are better suited for the task of exploration, with ranged weapons a little way behind and magic wielders further back still.

The stages of a turn are regimented so that a character cannot fight and then move, though you can move characters independently of one another.

It's an important rule to take note of, as there are often times where you'll want to clear the path for another character by killing the foe standing in his way, so that the pair of them can work together more effectively on clearing a room.

Clearing rooms is what you'll want to be doing, too, for the dungeons are cramped and claustrophobic, and having too many enemies on top of you at once is only going to end in disaster.

It's tactics and scenarios and limitations like these that you'll need to keep in mind throughout your time with the game, to ensure you don't fall foul of what awaits you. It's consequently incredibly satisfying to reach the end of a dungeon - it can be a real accomplishment.

Dungeons are filled with small critters and large monsters. Rats and spiders don't pose too much of a threat by themselves, but in large numbers they do have the potential to overrun a character.

Bigger creatures, such as River Trolls, are formidable beasts to find in the caverns of a dungeon, and you'll feel genuine concern for your party when you run into these hulking baddies.

Despite the top-down viewpoint of the action, Warhammer Quest is no slouch in the visual department. Rodeo Games is made up of ex-AAA developers and it shows in almost every aspect of the presentation.

The filth and dirt gives you the sense that you're heading farther down into these rank dungeons. Signs of battle litter the hallways, and light reflects off of the glistening pools of crimson left by your vanquished foes.

Your characters look great when not in motion, being suitably chunky in their design and - crucially for tactics on the fly - immediately identifiable.

It's a different story when things start moving. Characters will slowly plod across the tiled maps of the dungeon, sidle up to an enemy, and rigidly begin their attack animations. This animation doesn't make contact with the opponent, and there's no feeling of power behind the sword strikes and arrow impacts.

At the moment it's the weakest area of an otherwise impressively presented package, as the atmospheric and high-energy orchestral soundtrack complements the visual design perfectly.

Moving out into the sunlight, when you're not fighting tooth and nail in a rank pit you're travelling between quest locations and townships. If you've played the boardgame as a campaign, you'll no doubt be excited by this news.

Towns are where you level-up, sell items, and buy new ones, giving the game an RPG flavour, but between locations you can witness all sorts of events.

On the way from a town to a dungeon, my entire party apparently became lost, and though a member of a small village offered to help me find my way back to the right path he charged me Gold - the game's single currency - for doing so.

This sort of interaction further adds personality and flavour to the world of Warhammer Quest - something that was crucial to the original. To see it return here is encouraging.

Warhammer Quest has promise in all its minutiae. Structural things, like iCloud support and an easily manipulable camera, are two great examples, as is the thoughtful and clearly laid out UI. So is the journal that fills with additional information on the game and its universe as you encounter it, and the fact that you gain access to your inventory by simply holding the device sideways.

Rodeo Games even went so far as to include the option to "retire" characters, should you grow too fond of them and decide they should live out their existence - after umpteen quests - in a peaceful village. It was an option in an obscure extension to the original game, and I adore the fact that it's here.

As a fan of the original, I'm really excited about the full release of Warhammer Quest after this promising opening. If you're a fan of strategy and role-playing games, I suspect you won't be disappointed when it comes out on iOS in the next month or so.
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