Hammerfight is the latest game published by Russian developer Kranx Productions and it is set in a world of frantic aerial melee battles between various tribes, giant sized fauna and rogue flying machines. Making this all viable is a nice physics engine and an intuitive control interface using the mouse to steer your helicopter and beat several different type of stuffing out of your opponents. This is explained in a clear but brief tutorial, but doesn’t go into specifics about using some of the powerups and throwing weapons. It is however very clear about how to ruin someone else’s day and my, there are so many different ways to do that.
From such humble beginnings
There are over 50 different weapons, from lumps of rock on a chain, swords, maces, even rudimentary firearms and which weapon you choose will affect how you play the game. Using maces means that you have to build up momentum in large loops before slamming the weapon into your foe. Using swords means that you have to move in an ellipse, slicing past your enemies to inflict damage to your opponent. If you get bored with one weapon layout, changing between weapon types is very easy and requires only the very briefest periods of acclimatization, which is incredibly useful as the level design varies from large, flat deserts to narrow, cramp tunnels. If you fail at a level, you are given the option either to retry the level or return to the Hall (a cross between inventory and shopping district) and select a new weapon layout.
Gameplay is slick, fluid and very fun. The story starts slow with intertribal squabbling but soon escalates, with loss of honour and other standard heroic trials and tribulations. One nice touch is allowing the player to have some input in the tale, selecting between 2 possible events at several points in the storyline. This can be frustrating as you can’t replay levels again unless you get up a completely new character profile.
Combat has a wonderful weight to it, with bits of opponent or player flying across the screen. This debris can make it rather confusing, especially if you are fighting several opponents in one of the smaller levels. Another problem is the backgrounds have a nasty habit of blurring rather vaguely with the level limits and this can be infuriating especially when half a dozen enemies pile on top of you and kill you with 2 seconds to go because you clipped a brick wall that was only half visible. And if you play with rather more enthusiasm that skill, like I do, that it will happen a lot. But if you become too fed up to carry on with the story, there are several other ways to keep you occupied.
Someone is about to have a very bad day. . .
There are 3 other gameplay modes: Arena, where you can just sate any violent cravings for cash. These fights take place in one of 3 or 4 randomly selected maps, ranging from a wide open Colosseum to a small library. This uncertainty about which map you will play sometimes injects a surprising element of challenge, especially if you brought some very ill suited weapons. Tribal Wars, where you can unlock some of the more oversized weapons as a reward for fighting off a raid from one of the areas less friendly neighbours. Finally, you have Hammerball, which is a exercise in frustration as you are pitted against ever more unbalanced opponents in a game of polo rather than football. The one gameplay mode that is unfortunately absent is online multiplayer and there has been no plans to include it, but if you have a 32 bit system, you can use a duel mouse setup for local multiplayer between 2 players.
To put it simply, Hamerfight is a fun but not very demanding game. If you want to play it as a mindless hack and slash you can, but if you want there is a wide range of potential tactics for you to use. And I love it for that choice.