by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
What's in a name?
Mordheim is such a depressing name for a city. Perhaps the reason why the city was full of the damned, dying and diseased was because they derived the name from the Danish word for murder (It also means grim in Hungarian). Why would anyone name a city that? Perhaps the world of Warhammer Fantasy places a different meaning on the word, one that equates to ‘sunshine’ or ‘bunnies’. Regardless, it evokes a sense of evil and despair that is suitably fitting for Mordheim: City of the Damned.
It’s appropriate that the name of the city evokes negative emotions, because whenever I think of Mordheim the game, I sigh in frustration. Here is a game with an evocative location and an interesting progression system brought down by bland, uninspiring gameplay and problematic technical issues which hamper the overall experience.
In Mordheim, you play as one of four different mercenary bands trying to hunt for treasure and loot amidst the decaying city, fighting off other like-minded groups as you progress. The mercenaries you command are green to begin with, but over time evolve into capable warriors, with their own personalities and skills developing depending on your actions in game. Apart from levelling up skills the traditional RPG way, including advancing skills for your warband as a whole, your mercenaries will suffer injuries, curses and several other options that will define them for the remainder of your playthrough. It's a very well thought out system for the main campaign. One of my soldiers was cursed by a magical attack, lost his right arm and still charged into battle armed only with a longsword. I admit, I was starting to hope he would keel over after the injuries began to pile up.
That moment never came, because of Mordheim’s biggest problem - its combat system. Most skirmishes or fights, whether they are in the main story or side quests, will feature between four and ten of your soldiers versus roughly the same number of enemies. The first problem lies in the stupidity of the AI opponents, who move towards you two, or if you’re lucky three, at a time while the rest bugger off to either wait their turn or search for whatever shiny object their poor minds saw somewhere. This means that you only have to surround and deal with the first crop of enemies before your opponent routs, allowing you to finish off the stragglers without much of a hassle. The soldier I mentioned above never died because of the enemies’ tendency to rout, though I did suffer a few other casualties whilst playing. They were few and far between, but they were welcome reminders that the game can be challenging and rewarding. But those moments were overshadowed by the ease in which routs were achieved.
Getting a bit samey
Nearly every fight played out this way, with no compelling reason on my part to switch up tactics if the same thing worked so well. Even the attacks themselves are boring, with each swing of a sword or mace lacking any sense of impact or deadliness. There’s not much in the way of attacks to choose from either. Eventually it all becomes tedious after a while, slowly ruining the small sense of enjoyment I gathered from the game initially. The dark, grimy corridors of Mordheim blurred together, with few interesting variations in locale to differentiate one battle from another. The enemies look the same. Your mercenaries look the same, unless you try very hard to make all of your characters gear different. Everything starts to look the same.
The load times even end up being the same: long. The load times in Mordheim are awful, no matter if the game is running on the highest or lowest graphical settings. And the frame rate frequently stutters and jumps about regardless of any changes made.
Mordheim: City of the Damned had the potential to be an interesting and challenging game. The progression system is deep and filled with interesting choices and options, and the Warhammer Fantasy Universe provides sturdy groundwork to create your own tale on top of. But the gameplay is monotonous, the technical issues are annoying and the game is among the most frustrating I’ve played in some time. It’s not an experience I would recommend.
Interesting progression system, great setting
Monotonous and uninspiring gameplay, technical issues