First Impressions of… Heroes of Hammerwatch

The adventuring life.

One of being eviscerated by traps, stabbed by skeletons, poisoned by giant maggots, and tormented by ghastly apparitions. One of climbing a tower to rid the nearby town of the evils that plague it, but having to pay an absurd amount of tax on any riches found within. And one of never being appreciated, despite all
that you’ve done for the benefit of others. Making it fairly analogous to every other career path. Heroes of Hammerwatch is a challenging journey through devilish dungeons, treacherous traps, perplexing puzzles, and brutal bosses.

Not that regular enemies are any less threatening.

Those can just as easily- and as abruptly- end an attempt, as became painfully apparent on many different occasions. Those failures weren’t as detrimental to my efforts as they could’ve been, though. As there were numerous forms of incremental progression that I was contributing to.

Progression that often involves The Outlook, as any resources that are recovered from expeditions can be invested into the town. Most buildings require rather costly upgrades to the Town Hall, but some only become available once an NPC has been rescued. New character classes are also unlocked in a similar fashion. With most requiring you to rescue an NPC and then unlock their associated building. Be it the Apothecary, the Tavern, the Chapel, the Guild Hall, or the Blacksmith these buildings are crucial to your eventual success. With some providing temporary buffs which last as long as the current attempt, others permanently strengthening your characters, and others unlocking entirely new progression mechanics. Exponentially increasing the chances that the next attempt won’t be an utter failure. Just a regular failure.

Be cleansed by fire!

There are a total of nine character classes, with seven available in the base game, and two available in
their respective DLC, of which five are unlocked by default and four are unlocked during your adventures. Along with the aforementioned mechanics, this results in a ludicrously content-dense experience that is enjoyable throughout. It is, however, one that requires a significant investment of time, but one that boasts considerable longevity for that investment. Progress is made slowly and steadily, but is always meaningful when it is made.

And is often immensely satisfying to witness.

Even if you’re immediately slain by something on the next floor. Knowing that you’ve made that progress is fulfilling enough. Especially when defeating a boss for the first time awards that character with a title related to their character class, which benefits every character under that profile.

Which does encourage you to invest time into building one of every character class, but that doesn’t become necessary as the passive benefits afforded by them might not be worth that investment. Such as the +% Gold Bonus from the Thief titles. You can attain similar (or better) benefits elsewhere, and those don’t require you to conceive an entirely new character build. One that you might not even enjoy playing. Or one that you might struggle to defeat bosses with. These mechanics do reward those who do build one of each character class, though. Which is great for me. I’m always doing that. But these unusual mechanics are what define Heroes of Hammerwatch as an experience, as they affect progression in ways that you might not expect. And that’s why I highly recommend it to those wishing to embrace their failures on a regular basis.

Have a nice weekend, all!


Frigid Fusillade

Rain arrows down upon thee.

Following a rather successful poison Warlock build during its time in Early Access, and both a lightning Berserker and holy Templar build after its full release, it was finally time to revisit Chronicon with a Warden. The one character class that I know absolutely nothing about. I don’t think that I’ve ever built one, even during Early Access, prior to the conception of this build, and that’s not hard to believe. Seeing as I’d sprint into the fray ignoring my bow (and ranged skills) circled by my wolves, rather than taking calculated shots from a distance to decimate my enemies.

I’ve become too accustomed to close quarters builds.

And I’m sure that, were you to invest in Evasion and Damage Reduction, you could fashion a reasonably decent close quarters Warden. And that’s possibly what I should have done when considering this build. But I’ve made this awkwardly cumbersome bed, so I’m going to die in it.

A death wrought from hubris and aggressively increasing the difficulty level. The first for some time, too. However, not the first on my account, as I had to earn that achievement to spend crystals on resurrection somehow. It was a refreshing moment, though. One that I’ve anticipated for a while, as I’ve been too cautious when making the leap between difficulty levels prior to this build. This time I was purposefully making things more difficult for myself. Which probably wasn’t the best idea with a class that I’m wholly unfamiliar with, but I digress. Besides a single death, which haunts me even now, despite my protest to the contrary, this build has developed in interesting ways. I’ve been investing in different statistical bonuses such as +%Critical Hit Damage, +%Companion Damage, and +%Companion Health to name but a few.

Wardens aren’t supposed to be next to their enemies…

I’ve also been exclusively relying on enchanting and transmutation to acquire an equipment set that has persisted throughout her adventures. Instead of acquiring an entirely new equipment set at Lvl 100, I’ve been using the abundance of Legendary and True Legendary equipment to empower her existing set, which has exponentially hastened her development towards Anomalies. I’ve also been focusing on Critical Hit Damage. It’s fairly easy to guarantee critical hits, and to bolster those with Frost Damage, or Overpower, so I’ve been favouring higher multiplications for them.

Progression has definitely been smoother for it.

The Warden is a surprisingly diverse character class, and they’re afforded unexpected versatility through their skill trees. Notably, they could be a capable summoner, which I’d briefly tinkered with, but I’m not overly fond of having pets fight for me. I’d rather be dealing damage myself.

I’ve always enjoyed the complexity and diversity of the character classes (and skill trees) present in Chronicon, and the Warden, along with this build, is no exception. It’s delightfully malleable. Able to adapt to challenges and overcome them with relative competency, especially when I remember to avoid being hit by keeping my distance. Given the continued investment into +%Critical Hit Damage, it’s not dealing as much damage as I’d hoped that it would, but that might be due to how I’m playing this build. Now that Wolfpack can taunt I’m slightly safer than I was. Not that I’m able to completely avoid taking damage, but I’m able to funnel enemies into convenient bottlenecks and pelt them from afar. Which is what a Warden should be doing, right? Serious question. I have no idea what I’m doing. Please send help.

Have a nice weekend, all!


Burdened By Sin

Past misdeeds reveal themselves.

Much like the innumerable secrets of the Well of Khalaza do as you traverse its poisonous miasma and delve deep into its many labyrinthine realms. Seeking great treasures but usually encountering great dangers. Or trolls who like to throw their faeces at you. That was arguably the most unpleasant realm of them all. Being shrouded in suffocating miasma is expected, but being plastered in poop isn’t. Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a delightfully enjoyable dungeon crawler in which you explore a mysterious well with a brigade of puppets and a curious book.

A curious book with a soul.

Where that soul came from and how it ended up in a book is eventually explained. But what’s important is that we’re exploring myriad dungeons. True adventuring spirit needs no form of exposition whatsoever, as we’d only ignore those directions and stumble upon mysteries of our own.

I hadn’t anticipated that there would be so many mysteries to uncover, but that’s how Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk creates such an enrapturing adventure. There’s always something new to discover or a new challenge to overcome. There are few things that I enjoy more than encountering a boss that feels insurmountable only to eventually defeat it, either by utilising different Pacts or employing different Facets. Pacts are interesting as you don’t typically have any that represent traditional archetypes, as most are thematic, and grant a handful of abilities, but rarely feel truly powerful. I’ve mostly made my decisions based on how many puppets they allow me to use and how they fit into my current formation. You could have up to fifteen active puppets were you to use five three puppet Pacts.

It did become tiresome relying on certain Pacts to defeat certain bosses, though. The majority of these bosses were optional, and all required powerful puppets, so you’d need to invest heavily in the Soul Transfer mechanics to be able fight them, but it wasn’t fun having my progress halted due to an arbitrary requirement. I don’t know if it’s even possible to defeat them without those Pacts. I don’t think that you could, as they usually deal ridiculous damage to the entire brigade on the first turn and it’s unlikely that you’d be able to recover on subsequent turns.

It’s a fairly trivial criticism.

And I don’t have any other issues with the combat (or character development) mechanics, but it does considerably diminish your efforts when you simply can’t fight something. Especially when spending hours grinding through Soul Transfer mechanics is a significant part of the experience.

It is, as a whole, a uniquely bizarre dungeon crawler that has engaging exploration mechanics, but does require the aforementioned hours of grinding to experience all of the content. Which doesn’t necessarily bother me. And it might not be required should you ignore the optional bosses, whereby Soul Transfer might never be used, especially if you’ve not altered the difficulty level via Witch Petitions. Not that I regret raising the difficulty level. It’s an actual challenge and (the majority of) bosses are a threat, which resulted in utilising numerous mechanics just to survive encounters. For those reasons, I highly recommend Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk to those who enjoy dungeon crawlers and/or JRPGs. It’s an unconventional but incredibly satisfying dungeon crawling adventure.

Have a nice week, all!


Wading Through Miasma

Where no puppet has gone before.

We’ve ventured through a vast underground expanse, a whimsical kingdom of wonder, the ruins of a civilisation with an absurd troll infestation, and a wondrous garden teeming with giant insects while exploring this bizarre dimension and we’ve got more to discover yet. I’m still not sure where we’re supposed to be going, though. Or why we’re supposed to be going there. But that’s a trivial concern. Objectives are for those who don’t have a true adventuring spirit, and would prefer to follow quest markers to their destinations rather than wandering aimlessly for hours.

I don’t need to be told where to go next.

I wouldn’t go there anyway. I’d break through a wall and discover hordes of dangerous slimes who halt my progression, only to find an alternative route (avoiding the slimes) by falling down several floors, and then encounter poisonous miasma that I can’t walk through without taking damage.

Making the entire expedition (mostly) pointless. But then I’d return, able to traverse the poisonous miasma unharmed, and with significantly stronger puppets, only to be slapped senseless by an incredibly aggressive fish. And then I’d do the same elsewhere. But that’s what makes the exploration in Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk so exciting. You’re given vague hints about your next objective and where you should go to complete it, but you’re encouraged to thoroughly explore each floor and to discover your own pursuits. Including, but not limited, to: defeating optional bosses, searching for keys, opening countless chests with those keys, solving puzzling events, breaking through walls (or falling down holes) to uncover secrets, stumbling upon new realms, or simply trying to uncover the entire map.

I didn’t listen to their warning…

There are surprisingly comprehensive and meaningful character development mechanics, too. Each puppet is assigned a Facet (its character class), a Nature (which defines its base statistics), and a Growth style (which affects the statistics gained each level) at creation. You can alter its growth at any time, but other aspects of its creation are fixed. However, through Soul Transfer, you can rebuild every aspect of a puppet by reverting it to Lvl 1, with its accumulated experience heightening its Soul Clarity. Resulting in a far stronger puppet with each reincarnation cycle.

It’s a complex but satisfying process.

One that could result in ridiculously powerful puppets if I understand the mechanics correctly. I’m not sure how much they retain of their prior incarnations, besides chosen skills, or how greatly Soul Clarity affects their growth, but my recent attempts have yielded favourable results.

Party-based dungeon crawlers can be fairly bland if the character development mechanics are unexciting, but Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk has surprising depth to its party management and allows you to build a roster of characters to be utilised with specialised Pacts. I’ve only seen something similar with Infinite Adventures. But the party compositions are much more interesting here, and encourage the creation (and use) of numerous characters with different Facets. Conversely, the individual Facets are less interesting (and varied) than the character classes in Infinite Adventures. They’re more reliant on being paired with other puppets and being stronger together. But both have presented interesting concepts for those who enjoy party-based grid-movement dungeon crawling experiences.

Have a nice week, all!


Valorous Vindication

Bathed in purifying light.

Unholy creatures shy away from her dazzling radiance, stunned by her zealous assault, while those who stray too close only harm themselves, as her faith pierces their blasphemous flesh. Following the full release of Chronicon, and after much deliberation, I settled on a lightning Berserker build, and most recently I’ve built a holy Templar. Hence the flowery exposition above. Originally I’d intended for it to be a fairly typical holy Templar build, but the acquisition of a legendary shield, Vindicator, fundamentally redefined the build and encouraged its reliance on thorns damage.

Which then encouraged the use of multiple auras.

Reprisal (despite being in a different skill tree) is arguably the most beneficial, as it massively increases her thorns damage, while the damage multiplication (and radial burst) afforded by Vindicator allows Salvation (also in a different skill tree) to consistently regenerate health and mana.

It’s a somewhat unconventional- but surprisingly effective- build that doesn’t have the raw damage of the aforementioned lightning Berserker build, but does have heightened survivability. Heightened survivability that ensures that she can inflict excessive damage to those around her. Prior to this I’d never been entirely sure what thorns damage was, and believed it to function as damage reflection, when it’s actually retaliation damage, which is only slightly less absurd. Were you able to reflect damage on the higher Mythic difficulty levels the challenge would be lessened greatly. Unfortunately, by relying on thorns damage this build has low direct damage potential, as Holy Bolt and Holy Nova are her only direct damage skills. But she can deal ludicrous amounts of retaliation damage when surrounded.

Blood soaks the scorching desert sands.

Her direct damage skills were slightly bolstered by shuffling the gems in Vindicator to guarantee critical hits, but continued investment into various Mastery trees is required to improve her meagre offensive capabilities. It’s a wholly defensive build. One that, through Grace, and her multiple auras, is impressively hard to kill. But it feels unusually slow. Which is understandable as I’m basically relying on enemies to hit her for her to be able to damage them. But I’m glad that I built around thorns damage, as I’ve never done so before and every new experience is appreciated.

They’re exceedingly rare nowadays.

Chronicon has always been outstanding because of the diversity (and creativity) of its character classes and resulting builds. Regardless of whether they’re viable at the highest Mythic difficulty levels or not, the opportunity exists to build towards something that best suits your intentions.

I’ve enjoyed building this character and consider the experience to be a pleasant one, which I hope to repeat in the coming months when I inevitably revisit Chronicon to build a Warden. I’ve not built one of those before. I’d also like to build another Warlock, as I’m curious about how they’ve changed (if at all) since Early Access. I’ll likely build another Templar, too. One that relies on direct damage more than this build did. I’ve got far too many ideas and not nearly enough time left to do them all. Which is exactly the kind of existential commentary that you’ve come to expect from my posts, as I begin to question my sincerity towards things. That and chocolate gateaux analogies. These posts are sprinkled with moments of wisdom much like sesame seeds on a burger bun. Delicious and nutty. Just like me.

Have a nice week, all!