Mordheim: City of the Damned Review
You stand at the gates of Mordheim with your warband brothers and sisters next to you. Within Mordheim’s great walls stands the ever mysterious and priceless wyrdstone. You are unsure of why people seek this great treasure but they are paying big bucks for it and you want a slice of the action. With your first step into the damned city of Mordheim you feel the chill of death and decay. You push forward and step right into a trap. You have died. Welcome to Mordheim: City of the Damned.
Mordheim: City of the Damned is a tactical role playing game in the same style as Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown or Double Fine’s MASSIVE CHALICE. You will venture into the city of Mordheim, a city that once prospered but has now become corrupted by Chaos. When a comet fell on the city the spread of Chaos took over and now it is a place of corruption, greed and death. However a light has emerged from the darkness of Chaos. The mysterious wyrdstone grows rampant in the city streets and it has fallen on your warband to retrieve it for the good of your warband’s leader. The goal of the game is set up within the beautifully crafted introduction. It is an introduction that is not just stunningly animated but narrated perfectly. The choice of voice actor was perfect as he really draws you into the experience. The first time you hear him say “Welcome to Mordheim: City of the Damned” it will send chills down your spine.
The game lacks an overall story and chooses to focus on a player crafted story instead. A goal is set as you will be tasked with retrieving so much wyrdstone for your chosen warband’s leader in just a few days but the game lacks an overall story that follows your warband. At no time does the game drag you back with its story but it does give you plenty of opportunities to create great moments within the game. The warbands (Mordheims version of factions) are where you will begin your story. You have a choice between four warbands of partially different races that each have their own strengths and weaknesses. You can choose between the Human Mercenaries, the Skaven (rat people for the newcomers to the world of Warhammer), the Sisters of Sigmar or the Cult of the Possessed. Each warband has a different style but you can never mix and match them. That feels like a misstep but because of the lore of the Warhammer universe it has to limit warband customisation.
Gameplay has you battling different scenarios within Mordheim. From something as simple as defeat all enemies to something a little more complex such as guard the caravan. The scenarios only serve as a background mission to collecting as much wyrdstone as you can, wyrdstone really is the very backbone of the entire game. More often than not it serves to your advantage to collect as much wyrdstone on a mission and then leave the battle by retreating. This way you have minimal casualties and maximum profit from your mission. The game sometimes suffers from situations like this. That constant need to collect wyrdstone really outways all other goals Mordheim has set for you. In later missions where the difficulty starts to spike dramatically it often feels like the only option is to find as much wyrdstone that is needed and then just leave the mission. Exiting the mission via the main menu means you sacrifice all your collected wyrdstone but exiting via the retreat points within the level allows players to keep all the items and wyrdstone they collected on that mission. Although you lose out on experience you do however get to continue playing as the wyrdstone can be used to progress the game via the warband leaders. The combat within the game does however feel solid. You are given many different options on how to approach a situation and depending on your unit loadout you will have to really think about what units will fight the AI and what units will lead the AI into traps. Knowing when to fight and when to run is the key to having your warband survive in Mordheim.
Outside of combat you are given many different options on how to customise your warband. From simple visual changes such as your warband’s colour to changing the warband’s name to even adding an entire lore page about your warband. Mordheim really allows you to give your warband a legacy. Although spending a lot of time describing your warband’s favourite food and then having them die on the next mission would be a terrible waste of time. Apart from the visual customisation you can also have unit specialise in certain skills and spells. Each unit you recruit into your warband starts as a blank slate so it is completely up to you how you want to steer that units skills and spells. This allows for a high level of customisation within the game but it can also be a bit overwhelming as you are given so many options. However this is countered by the slow trickle of experience your units gain and with each skill not only costing skills points but also costing gold. This can often be frustrating as gold is hard to come by in Mordheim unless you are prepared to sell your precious supply of wyrdstone.
The final interesting mechanic within Mordheim is the veteran system. The veteran system allows you to complete certain goals within the game that unlock points you can assign to certain skills. These skills however are not tied to any warbands but are tied to the player’s progress. You unlock them in the background as you play the game. This allows you to somewhat control the difficulty as the skills can be used to make the game easier. Find that your units are costing too much to heal? Assign the reduced cost of healing skill and things will get a lot easier. It is an interesting way to allow the player to balance the difficulty not through a menu option but actually changing specific aspects of the game.
Mordheim: City of the Damned is a difficult game to sum up. Certain aspects are a lot of fun with a lot of good ideas. The veteran system, the overall bleak feel of the Mordheim city streets, the narrator and the deep level of customisation. However is does suffer from a lot of bad decisions. The game takes up to three to five minutes to load and the difficulty at the start is very intimidating. For veterans of the tactical role playing genre this is the perfect game for you. For newcomers to the genre it is best you start with something a little easier and then return to Mordheim.