Full Disclosure: Early Access key for this review was provided by Hammerhelm’s publisher, SOEDESCO. 

Today’s Play Around will be all about an early access game available on Steam called Hammerhelm. This preview will be based on beta 9.7.1, the game’s current version as of this posting. Since the game is still in constant development under early access, there might be changes in the game not found in this article.

Developed by SuperSixStudios and published by SOEDESCO, Hammerhelm is a blend of action RPG and city management simulator rolled into one. The premise is simple: you play as a dwarf fed up with living underground, which becomes your main motivation to develop a settlement on the surface for you and other dwarfs wanting to relocate. As the defacto town leader, it’s up to you to gather resources, plan out your settlement, and get rid of monsters.

Settling down

Hammerhelm is an open world, sandbox game. At the onset, the island can be explored from end to end without even doing anything. There are a few key areas and structures located in set places around the island, which will eventually be relevant to your quests and overall progress. A large chunk of land is automatically given to the you for the construction of the new town, and its development will depend on gathering resources and completing quests.

The humble beginnings of your town is done through a series of guided quests. It’ll introduce most of the base building, resource harvesting, city management, and combat. Once those are done, the game leaves you fairly well alone in developing your city. Tutorials are scant, and it’s almost always up to you to figure out the needs of your townspeople as the days go by. Notifications do popup on the side to notify you of the town’s needs, like the lack of food or the townspeople’s mood for the day; while other quests to unlock new structures also come your way. You are left to explore the city-building options to resolve the problems as they come. But eventually, the game will gradually compel you to build other structures, like the cookhouse for your food needs or the stonemason shop to build your perimeter wall. The choices for town facilities are also robust, ranging from the necessary (like storehouses and lodging) to the aesthetic (like fountains and gazebos). The build menu handles all of your city building needs, which includes the list of available buildings, a handy control guide, and an overhead map that lets you plot out and rearrange your structures. Meanwhile, “attacking” the rocks and trees littered around the land will net you your primary wood and stone resource, with the rest of the materials only lootable through quests.

As the game progresses, more quests will come your way, often in the form of clearing out enemies in the open field or dungeons, or fetch quests from the townspeople. Quests also serve as the game’s primary source of income, which is needed in base building apart from the necessary materials. Exploring the land without a quest only shows an island with no inhabitants except the dwarves in town, since mobs of monsters are extremely scant and only appear around quest markers. Hopefully, this will be addressed in a later update, but it would be nice to have enemies roaming freely in the map. That being said, obtaining gold early on will be quite a chore, albeit easily resolved by rushing through quests in quick succession.

Most of the quests involve a certain amount of combat. Suffice to say, Hammerhelm has a simple, hack-and-slash combat in place. Dodge and block movements are in place, but most monsters can be easily dealt with just by spamming attack. However, it does need a little work, especially with its pacing and variety. At its current state, combat is slow-paced, and monsters pose relatively little challenge. The player is also limited to one power move and one kick to deal with mobs, which is also rarely used since attack-spamming gets the job done quicker.

City Building Simplicity

Hammerhelm is no GPU-breaking graphics giant, but the efforts to create this world is not to be scoffed at either. The game is built to present cartoonish-style graphics presented in vibrant colors that’s easy to run on any capable PC, and also easy on the eyes. Added touches include day and night features, simple tweaks like leaves falling off trees, flowing water, and different terrains across the whole island. While the whole island is empty save for the town and a few quest-related stragglers, this can hopefully improve in future updates with a bit more population and life on the island.

Given that Hammerhelm is the made by just one person, the effort and progress towards a working game with complex city-building elements is extremely impressive work. Hammerhelm is the work of one brilliant mind trying to break ground in the indie game scene. While the game is still in Early Access, it’s worth checking out for a no-frills city-building sim that’s easy to get in to without the steep learning curves. SuperSixStudios also provides constant updates like bug fixes and game improvements, so the game’s surely in good hands. If you’re in the market for an indie game fix, take Hammerhelm for a spin.