Warhammer Quest Review
iPadAlso available on iPhone
The mobile platform has had its share of fantasy RPGs to date, even some good ones, and PC owners have the futuristic fun of the Dawn Of War series, but this is the first mobile offering to fall under the umbrella of Games Workshop's weighty Warhammer legacy. Warhammer Quest (from Hunters developers Rodeo) is the digital version of the board game of the same name, itself a successor to Hero Quest, a simplified take in association with board-game magnate Milton Bradley on the classic dungeon crawler. Four archetypal adventurer types (barbarian, dwarf, elven archer and wizard) are guided through crypts filled with monsters and goblins in search of vast treasure. Just looking at the box-art induces waves of nostalgia.
Upon entering the dank depths of a new tomb, each character can move a certain number of spaces per turn to venture forward literally into the unknown, as each new room is hidden from view until one character enters, sometimes triggering an attack. The quartet of fantasy friends must then use their various abilities to defeat the forces of darkness that crawl out of the crevices, each playing to their unique advantages e.g. in addition to issuing forth an arrow from her bow, the archer can also attack one adjacent target with her dagger per turn. Not all characteristics are favourable however, like the barbarian's weak will which results in the possibility each turn he will go berserk, lashing out at his compatriots. Good tactics and planning are essential for victory; wise players will keep their weaker, ranged characters behind the warriors for safety. Several players taking turns using once device is technically possible, but no real multiplayer option is built in. Some might find the combat slow and plodding, but this is less a flaw than it is an accuracy in depicting the game as it was played originally. Heroes and enemies alike do seem to miss rather more of their attacks than you would expect would be attributed to chance; some would argue it would be nice to see the rolls behind the scenes and be assured why you actually missed.
The attention to detail in the graphics really has to be commended; the game board for each dungeon is impeccably digitally rendered, while still retaining the feel of the real board it is based on. The stained parchment of the world map and the towns manifesting themselves in pop-up book form when visited are equally entrancing and authentic. The board can be pinched to resize and rotate freely, and your party's appearance changes as they equip bigger and better gear. Although available on iPhone also, the experience is much better suited to the larger iPad, with the fonts a little bit teeny to squint at if relegated to playing on your phone. The inventory is accessed in a very cool, tactile fashion, by the simple act of holding the iPad/iPhone in portrait mode instead of landscape. Each character can carry four each of common, uncommon and rare items, so balancing and optimising your party's loadout is always something to consider. A well-documented journal is regularly added to upon the discovery of a new place, item or character, and provides much insight into the Old World you find yourself in. The music is equally impressive; the sonorous harpsichord, plangent violins and ethereal choirs in the towns and urgent war-drum filled battle-hymns in the thrill of conflict really anchors you securely in this fantastical world.
As with all classic D&D related RPGs such as Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate there’s a lot of virtual dice-rolling and game mechanics happening under the hood, but the game never bothers you with the specifics unless it’s relevant. Random encounters can occur at almost any time, even outside the dungeons in the perceived safety of a town, leading to possible good fortune or rotten luck. The verbal descriptions setting the scene for each new adventure are evocative and detailed, and serve to enhance the story and mask the underlying randomness. There are seven towns, each acting as a hub with several errands to run and nearby dungeons to be explored. A Torchlight-esque focus on loot is abound, with magnificent bounty up for grabs for those brave warriors willing to go above and beyond the call of duty and tackle some side-quests.
Sadly not even the finest mobile game is safe from the scourge of in-app purchases. There are seven characters in total but three of them have to be purchased if you want the full set, and the in-game currency of gold can be replenished for real money if you really can’t wait to level up or buy more gear. Quests can be reset so you're never stuck for a way to earn more gold, but you may find yourself with a lot of grinding to do to reach the upper echelons of power without spending real dough, and even if you do so there's no guarantee that you won't have your stockpile taken from you in an damnably unlucky random encounter. It's not all play-to-win though, there is a DLC expansion pack which adds a new area and enemy type.
Overall this is a near-impeccable recreation of a well-loved tabletop gaming experience which remains a compelling introduction to fantasy RPGs in general and Warhammer in particular. Despite the game's relatively low complexity, the difficulty curve is sound and veteran adventurers looking to raise the stakes can play a mode where character death is permanent, XCOM-style. Whether you're a seasoned Warhammer vet with figure-paint on your fingernails, or just taking your first steps into classic turn-based fantasy, you won't be disappointed. Besides, it's always a pleasure to slay a bunch of creeps for a brand-spanking new +6 axe.