For those unfamiliar with the subject material, please allow me to explain the nuances and subtleties of my titular fart joke: Warhammer Quest, being the port of an iOS ported board game, is amusing, slightly stinky and stays true to the original source material in that whenever you roll a zero in your Winds of Magic phase all sorts of bad things are bound to happen. (Incidentally the game is also flammable, but that property doesn’t suit the metaphor.) Unlike noxious backside vapors, Warhammer Quest is a pleasant enough game to look at, and requires an approach of thought, strategy and perseverance instead of juvenile humor. But intrusive bugs and oddly-included micro-transactions prevent players from becoming completely engrossed in the experience.
The issue of purchasable gold in the game is a strange subject, considering that the package is parceled out as a sort of “base game” much like the old school WhQ board game was; you can buy other heroes, items and races of enemies to dungeoneer against here in the digital “deluxe” version, much as you could in reality. And while ponying up to buy the full version feels like a great idea, how those extra items and enemies alter your perception of the gameplay can be quite damaging. You see, if you start out dungeon delving with masterwork swords the game will seem easy (assuming you didn’t turn perma-death on); until about six hours in, when that illusion shatters.
Purists may take issue with the fact that experience for your group of four heroes is allocated on a per-kill basis (as has become the standard with most RPGs), where the original board game simply awarded the party with gold, to be subsequently spent in town “training” to gain levels. Here trainers are still present, but their services can only be purchased once you’ve killed a requisite number of baddies, meaning that your weaker wizard standing in the back of the pack may consistently lag behind your warriors when it comes to battle prowess. I suppose it only makes sense to employ that change, because otherwise the ability to purchase in-game gold with real world money would then mean you could literally “pay to win.” (As it stands now, pay all you want — good luck winning.)
So while you might spend a few extra dollars initially to make your life a little easier, after awhile the level of the enemies catches up to (and quickly exceeds) not only your characters’ abilities, but the damage potential of your top-tier weapons. While finding random masterwork (i.e. valuable) loot after fighting a room full of enemies is wonderful, once the game gets rolling you’ll have an increasingly difficult time keeping your head above dirt. The turn-based combat means you ought to be surviving encounters based on the strength of your tactics, but sadly it is the random and invisible roll of the dice that ultimately determines your fate.
The most prominent feature of the game is the Winds of Magic phase, where the random number generated is what determines how many spell points your wizard/healer will have to use on the next turn. The problem with this mechanic is that rolling a zero not only means your primary healer is effectively useless for a round, but it also means that you will have a random (almost always unpleasant) encounter. And this chance of doom happens every single turn, meaning the more turns it takes you to defeat a tough monster, the more chances there are that the room you’re in will flood with other equally tough monsters. The game could salvage itself here if there were either more positive random encounters, or negative encounters occurred when you rolled the maximum Winds of Magic number (sort of a means of off-setting your good luck). Inequitably, though your random zero means being surrounded by monsters, if enemy spell casters have zero Winds of Magic no group of mercenaries comes to your aid; as my dungeon master said of the original board game (which sadly applies here as well) this game is “designed to kill you, not help you.”
When fighting monsters you may have all the opportunities in the world to swing your sword, but misses occur so frequently that you’ll sometimes wonder whether you’re capable of causing damage at all. And in those instances where you do strike an enemy, they may just as easily shrug off the damage with little floating unexplained text like “Deflect,” “Chaos Armor,” or “Tattoos.” I’d love to know exactly what all those mean (especially that last one) but the overly-simplistic user interface provides no means of discovering that information. (Literally, if you long-left-click “Chaos Armor” under an enemy portrait, the description of the ability honestly says: “Chance for Chaos Armor.”) After a point, combat effectively feels like fighting a fantasy battle against a three year old who shouts “Shield of Invincibility!” every time things don’t go his way. (But that’s okay, because I have an axe that says, “rewards 2x gold. If” (sic). “If what,” I don’t know because no other words follow, but… 2x gold!
Throughout this whole experience there are other random bugs which mostly act as a nuisance, and although developers Chilled Mouse are working ardently to squash each and every instance (I have seen at least four separate updates since release one week ago), all that time spent putting out fires means less time is being dedicated to refining the rest of the experience. As of this writing, the game stands out starkly as an iOS port, where no keyboard keys are functioning and everything is manipulated by a left mouse click (even scrolling the dungeon map). Additionally, what could have been a really great opportunity to reconnect with old friends turns into a solitary experience; Warhammer Quest missed a huge opportunity in being a single-player only experience. I loved Games Workshop’s original, and really picked up this title wanting to love this version as well. But as difficult, frustrating and solitary as the experience is, I can hardly stand to play with myself. The game, I mean; I can hardly stand to play the game with myself. And that’s really saying something. About the game, I mean, not about my personal life. (Hey you read the title, did you think I was going to end this quoting Ghandi?)
SCORE: 5.5 out of 10
A code for Warhammer Quest was provided to Pixel Related for review.