I have incredibly fond memories of my childhood Summers spent wandering dark forests and exploring endless dungeons in the imaginary worlds created by Gary Gygax, co-creator and oft referred to “father” of Dungeons & Dragons. It was a magical period in my life and one that I will forever be grateful experiencing. The rules, character creation, and storytelling have clearly become the foundation of so many of our beloved videogames. Obvious titles such as Skyrim, Mass Effect, and Dragon’s Dogma would not be what they are had it not been for the creative geniuses behind the Role Playing Games of my youth. Gamma World, Call of Cthulhu, and the previously mentioned D&D (which was quickly transformed into the superior AD&D), set the stage for the videogame hobby and passion that I continue to grow with today. Although the depth and style of videogame RPGs continue to evolve, I always appreciate those that capture the feeling I used to get 30 years ago when a controller was nothing more than a handful of dice, the console was the all-knowing dungeon master, and the television was replaced by the greatest visual aid of all . . . your imagination. Warhammer Quest on iOS is just such a game.
Developed by the team at Rodeo Games, Warhammer Quest is a love letter to the original 1996 board game published by Games Workshop. Where the original can be a 4 player co-op game, the iOS version has been adapted to focus on a single player experience, allowing the player to control all four of the individual characters: Marauder, Dwarf, Grey Wizard, and Wood Elf. Each character has his own set of fighting skills, and can be customized with three different levels of character appropriate items.
The world map that your band of adventurers traverse is comprised of seven settlements and nine main quests, with triple the amount of side quests added to help reach your maximum character level. As you enter, the town and it’s inhabitants are described for you in text form (no voice acting) much like a Dungeon Master may describe the continuation of your story. You’ll be presented with the main quest for that settlement: a variety of rescuing the constable’s daughter, recovering a long lost chalice, or saving the town’s only mule. Although none of these adventures come across as being any more important than the rest, they all provide you with the real joy of playing Warhammer Quest . . . dungeon crawling.
From a top-down perspective, controlling the four characters as they explore the dungeon or confront the inhabitants from the darkest corners is very much in the style of a turn-based strategy game. Each character has their limitations with movement, weapons and gear they can carry, and style and number of attacks they may perform while in battle. All control has been intuitively set to simple taps and swipes on the iPad. Item management, character positioning, and attack selections are extremely easy to manage.
Stages always begin with a warrior phase. Once the warriors have finished their movements and/or attacks their turn has ended and the monsters get a chance to do some damage of their own. Much like my RPG adventures as a young boy, every weapon strike, parry, dodge, and damage effect are all the random result of a behind-the-scenes “dice roll.” Certain items may be equipped that help stack the results more in your favor, but ultimately the chance of striking your target, the damage you deal, or the items you discover, are out of your control.
As simple as the game is to play, and as random as the encounters and results may be, there is still a high level of strategy that comes into play. When entering a room filled with Orcs, Giant Spiders, Venomous Bats, and Hulking Trolls, you accustom yourself to reading the layout of the battle set before you. In that first round you analyze and strategically place your adventurers. Your wizard may be powerful, but a few solid blows and he’ll no longer be available to cast a necessary healing spell. The Elf is wonderful with a bow, but can’t shoot around corners. Your Marauder and Dwarf are the heavy hitters of the group, but moving them too far into battle may leave the others unprotected when an unexpected 2nd (or 3rd) group of monsters has decided to enter the fray. Strategy, strategy, strategy. Think before you act because a wrong move may end poorly for everyone.
Thankfully, the few times I’ve lost a member of my team – or I underestimated my opponents and lost all 4 – the consequences were nothing more than returning to the last town visited with no experience. And while experience is gained based on the number of enemies you’ve slain, being able to level up requires gold. Referred to as training, this can be accomplished in any town, as can the purchasing or selling of items for the next adventure. Each warrior also has the option to pray to their respective deities. Sometimes they listen and reward, other times your prayers go unanswered. Either way, it all costs money. Early on in the game you may feel that this heavy emphasis on gold is counter-intuitive, especially when considering random events can separate you from your treasure when you least expect it. But take solace in knowing that before long you’ll have all the gold you’ll ever need. More importantly, Warhammer Quest is so much fun you’ll never feel like it’s a chore to explore the next dungeon on your quest for fame and riches.
Playing just about any game on a 3rd generation iPad is typically a visual treat. The retina display is crisp, clear, and stunningly beautiful. The developers at Rodeo Games took full advantage of the iPad’s graphical capabilities and crafted the world of Warhammer Quest with great care and detail. Although the map of this fantastical world is somewhat plain, the settlements are beautifully rendered and literally open up before you in a pop-up-book style of artwork; each with its own unique arrangement and flavor. Some include weather elements while others display nice lighting and creature interaction. Birds fly overhead in one settlement while giant spiders crawl into view in another, giving a sense of doom and foreboding.
As the majority of the gameplay exists within a variety of underground dungeons it goes without saying that Rodeo Games developed Warhammer Quest with a high level of detail, authenticity, and polish: floors are cracked or intricately carved, torches burn and cast mysterious shadows, the remnants of battle leave pools of blood. As impressive as the dungeon crawling images are, a better variety would have been appreciated as many of the visuals are re-used based on the high number of quests available.
Although the majority of gameplay is from a top-down perspective, the individual adventurers are presented as colorful facial drawings that can be viewed when managing their inventory, training to level up, or praying to their gods. I would have preferred a full body visual representation but it was still a nice alternate view (and glimpse of your characters) other than the tops of their heads.
Exploring the world and questing your way through the endless dungeons provides for a nice mix of musical scores; whether a mild fantasy background as you navigate the dungeon, or an intense fight-or-flight sequence when faced with the underground dwellers. There isn’t much in the way of variety, but what is used provides just the right amount of added atmosphere, tension, and wonder.
I’m somewhat torn on the fact that all story elements of Warhammer Quest ignored voice acting in favor of written text. On the one hand, it would have added a higher level of polish to the overall game, but on the other, reading through the quests laid out before you further immersed me into the world I was so fond of as a child.
Sadly, the sound effects used during the combat sequences are the weakest link. They are repetitive and unoriginal. Every sword strike, cast spell, and death throe are identical – leaving no room for originality. I got the feeling, after playing the first few hours, that either the budget for sound effects dried up or the sound engineers simply did not have the necessary equipment. It was an unfortunate, and glaring, oversight by Rodeo Games, but one that I was willing to overlook in favor of an incredibly solid iPad gaming experience.
I’ve been an iPad owner now for a few years. I’ve tried numerous games on the tablet. Some have been great, others not so much. Warhammer Quest is hands down the best iPad game I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing so far. The visuals are beautiful, the controls are simplistic, the storytelling is short, yet engaging, and after nearly 20 hours I have no desire to stop playing anytime soon. Considering this was a $4.99 purchase from the App store, I’ve played it longer and have enjoyed it more than some of the other AAA full-priced $60 console games I’ve purchased in the last six months. Fans of Role Playing Games, fans of Turn-Based Strategy, fans of incredible board games need look no further than Warhammer Quest.