The forgettable quest
In mythology a quest is about as large a task as you can undertake. We are talking Homer’s great Odyssey, Jason and his Argonauts struggling to retrieve the legendary golden fleece, or Bilbo’s epic trek to the Lonely Mountain and back again. Warhammer Quest, originally released for iOS, is less extraordinary journey and more the arduous repetition of a single task; dungeon crawling. Based upon Games Workshop’s classic 1995 board game of the same name, you control four warriors – a barbarian, dwarf, elf and wizard – fighting your way through monsters in a series of randomly generated, gridded halls and rooms.
Like the board game, digital Warhammer Quest includes plenty of light roleplaying elements to make things feel slightly more involved. There is loot that your heroes can equip to improve themselves, as well as towns to travel between, within which you can visit the market or level up your characters. The towns act as tiny hubs that you progress through, whilst hoovering (vacuuming) the map up of dungeons. You can make out the faint foundations of a quest in the proper sense here; heroes, travel, obstacles, but there is nothing to tie it all together. There are surprisingly well-written text pop-ups that try to weave some context into your random dungeon trips, but ultimately they are far too generic and massively disconnected from what is really going on.
Trudging through dungeons
The core of the game is fighting through dungeons. They are randomly generated from a set of flat two-dimensional tiles, with each tile laid down having a grid which monsters and heroes come to occupy and move about. Whilst on the mobile platform the tiles no doubt look crisp, some of the detail is lost blown up onto larger monitors. You can zoom further out so that the dungeon doesn’t look quite as blurred or smudged, but then you will have to put up with the huge ugly swathes of dead space.
For relatively long dungeoneering periods you will be moving your four heroes down an empty hallway (using up all their action points) and then clicking the “next turn” button. There is a chance nothing at all will happen and so you will have to continue on playing with yourself until something significant occurs. Eventually you will be randomly attacked; bats, rats and goblins will suddenly appear in tiles next to your heroes, which can be particularly frustrating when it happens back to back. You are also likely to be attacked when entering into new rooms (tiles). Combat is simple and streamlined, with dice rolls and statistics hidden, it only really involves clicking on the enemies in range of your attacks. Sometimes your hero will land a “deathblow” allowing them to strike again, other time’s they will repeatedly “miss”. As your heroes level up they will unlock a small selection of abilities, but it’s hard to really speak of increasing depth when the dungeon tiles are so claustrophobic and which monster you can hit is always limited by what’s in range.
Lost in translation
Warhammer Quest offers you miniature tasks, quick 10-15 minute excursions into dungeons you are unlikely to remember for long. The small insular nature of the game makes more sense when you realise that Warhammer Quest was initially developed and released for mobile/tablets. Questing on your bathroom break may be oxymoronic but it’s also practical given the situation. People like fantasy quests, people go to the toilet.
The problem is in Warhammer Quest’s translation; it doesn’t work as well up close and the dungeons become a complete slog through sustained play. It also drags with it from the land of mobile micro transactions that mean you will have to pay more for additional heroes and monsters. This isn’t a game that can afford to holdback variety! Warhammer Quest began life as a multiplayer board game; four friends around a table rolling dice. Whilst the systems of the original game largely lie intact, the soul is missing. There is no accounting for this Quest’s missing element – company. Even bad games can be fun alongside the right sort of people.
Some solid writing tries hard to make things more flavoursome, randomness means that sometimes you can roll successive sixes on the die. OK for 5-10 minute sessions.
Repetitive, lonely, simplified and streamlined to the point there isn’t much left, microtransactions.