Title: Mordheim – City of the Damned
Platform: Windows, Steam
Reviewed on: Windows
Players: Single player, Online Versus
Written by Whistler 28th November 2015
Well it seems we’ve went from barely any to a flood of Warhammer video games.
Some based off novels but many of them usually draw their influence from the plethora of tabletop board games that Games Workshop have released throughout the years.
So what better game to give the digital touch up than Mordheim – City of the Damned?
Within the powerful Empire of humans lies the sprawling metropolis of Mordheim where vast amounts of people flocked to upon hearing of a twin-
So of course hearing of such an epic event Mordheim became home for all sorts of peoples including the less-
This means one thing that any Warhammer fan is all too aware of; you see when such amounts of utter chaos is accumulated in a singular area then all manners of hellish nightmares can happen, Daemons walk the streets, madness spreads and even worse things can follow in their wake.
To top this all off the foretold return of Sigmar, what was supposed to usher in a golden age for the Empire was in fact nothing more than an omen of death as the comet crashes into Mordheim killing thousands and reducing the city to ruins that only the desperate or insane dare walk.
However many have seen opportunity in this tragic event.
As a result of being burned to ashes by the comet and likely thanks to the catalytic elements of chaos already accrued in vast amounts within the city; it was found that Mordheim (well what’s left of it) is now a grand paradise for those seeking Wyrdstone or Warpstone as it’s more commonly known as.
As chaos solidified, Wyrdstones are objects of immense value sought after by many for their tremendous magical, transmutatory and alchemic properties. These objects of concentrated dark magic are even worshipped by the cults of Chaos and are utilized as fuel and currency within the rat humanoid Skaven Kingdoms.
As a pretty faithful rendition of its tabletop namesake, Mordheim – City of the Dead is a turn based strategy with strong RPG elements à la XCOM: Enemy Unknown that emphasizes creating and customizing your own mercenary warband as you take on other groups in small scale skirmishes throughout the city as you strengthen your forces with bloodshed and riches.
The skirmishes are where the majority of your time will be spent, split between randomized battles with varying conditions and story based missions.
However while of course usually the main goal is to simply put the opposing warband to the sword preferably without losing any of your own, exploration also plays a vital role in lining your pockets with gold and further improving your merry band of mercs.
From your hideout acting as your base of operations for all things economical and planning you can interact with the merchant who brings in supplies and wares, assign stat points and skills to your warband members accrued from battle experience, customize and equip various gear, go online for versus matches, check your map for single player missions and make deals with the black markets.
The black markets are where you will spend your gathered Wyrdstone and is your largest source of income, some dealers offer better rates but others also offer better trait rewards depending on your reputation with them and then your main dealer will hand out timed requests. Should you be unsuccessful you’ll likely lose a substantial reward and after a certain amount of failed timed requests you will be punished with a game over, this adds a lot of tension when it comes to trying to maximise your Wyrdstone efficiency as you deal with opposing warbands but does also have a habit of feeling like busywork grinding and can sap your enjoyment at times.
A mechanic brought over from the tabletop, during skirmishes when either warband’s moral counter (displayed on the top left of the hud) dips below the numerical threshold the warband’s Leader or next in line of command will have to take the test based on their Leadership value. Should your leader pass the roll then you can continue to fight the good fight however should they fail then your warband will surrender (be thankful, those who surrender will be spared death’s embrace). This mechanic while equally frustrating either side of the roll adds depth to the gameplay and can also be a saving grace from losing an entire squad. Death is permanent in Mordheim after all and losing enough men or even just a select few to the grinder can cripple your warband (and your willingness to go on after you’ve shed a tear for that really powerful assassin you had). Honestly it’s punishing enough that you would be forgiven for restarting from scratch just to avoid the rough patch of building your guys back up.
While punishing and occasionally harsh though those who can deal with the lows will enjoy the little touches that just make plundering Mordheim special. Injures and battle experiences aside from accruing stats and levels can affect your mercs in interesting ways like losing stats in intelligence from some blunt force trauma, suffer a broken jaw, a nervous twitch or even loss of a limb, (forcing the poor blighter to only wield single handed weapons but on the bright side gaining 10% to their dodge chance). While I haven’t experienced many of them some of these effects can really add to the depth and tension as the damage sustained is represented on the models (I was rather shocked when my Skaven henchman came back without his bloomin’ arm!).
I digress, during skirmishes when it’s your mercenaries’ time to shine the camera snaps into a third person view around that character. The amount of actions that warrior can carry out that turn are determined by strategic points; discarding the true and tested tile based movement, each SP allows for a certain amount of movement with a circular ring around your character making you feel closer to the action and adding some real time dynamics to the gameplay. You’ll also find that the city of the damned is home to an impressive level of verticality for this style of game; something I had only seen in Xenonauts, the city has various ruined buildings, bridges and underground tunnels of which you can scale for treasures or a tactical viewpoint over your enemies. Of course being a brutal strategy Warhammer title no less this brings its own risks as failing jump/climb rolls can be perilous in more ways than one and the streets are littered with traps of man-
However while the gameplay can be incredibly enjoyable it is all too apparent that Mordheim – City of the Damned is lacking polish in areas. Some of these are largely small niggles like a rather repetitive soundtrack or a disappointing lack of visual variety with the unit customization but then there are more notable ones. Mordheim is currently plagued by awful load times and there are the times the ridiculous hit/miss chances that can result in a fatal loss are all too frequent. Whilst I can imagine perhaps it’s just down to preference I felt that the four warband factions on hand are rather underwhelming from a variety standpoint. Of the four warbands there are the Human mercenaries, the Sisters of Sigmar, the Cult of the Possessed and the Skaven Clan Eshin; despite Warhammer fantasy and the tabletop being home to a plethora of colourful races and factions, three of these warbands are essentially different types of humans (Chaos of course are populated by humans amongst other creatures). There are differences between the four factions and the variety is there but I just lost all interest in the three humankind warbands after a very short amount of time with each of them.
That being said there is an incredible amount of subtle and notable styles, build possibilities and variety on offer so much so that I could fill several articles solely covering one or two of the warband’s strengths, weaknesses and inner workings. There’s likely a warband to suit your needs playstyle wise, but it can be rather dull if it happens to be a warband that just doesn’t match your aesthetic wishes. Overall these issues might rub against potential players the wrong way however Mordheim: City of the Damned is more than worth a go.
While the initial learning experience can be rather punishing once you learn the mechanics and grasp the ebb and flow of battle you’ll likely bond with your chosen warband. The journey of your warband’s victories, defeats, close calls and feats will be a memorable story in of itself. The journey of blood and riches will be one that will stick with you as you plunder the ruins for those stones of solid chaos and certainly gets a recommendation for those of you looking for an impactful and challenging squad based strategy title even if you don’t fit the Warhammer niche fanbase.
Pros: Engaging strategic gameplay,
Impactful character effects,
In depth character management,
Faithful to the source material.
Long load times,
Sometimes unfair dice roll chances,
Can be harsh with its learning curve,
Rather limited story appeal,
Somewhat underwhelming choice of factions.
Mordheim – City of the Damned despite missing a limb scores a 8/10.