I poured over 100 hours into XCOM: Enemy Unknown over multiple platforms when it came out. It was a superb tactical, turn-based game that married its core mechanics with a man-management sim that crucially made you care about the grunts in your team. Why make this reference? Well, Mordheim: City of the Damned has the potential of XCOM with its own solid turn-based tactical combat, but it’s crucially lacking the elements in Early Access that give its systems a compelling reason to play.
First Impressions Video
Mordheim: City of the Damned
City of no-consequence combat.
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Based on the Mordheim tabletop game, which in itself is a skirmish variety of the main Warhammer Fantasy game, Mordheim: City of the Damned takes place in the semi-destroyed titular city with ragged warbands fighting over a gem called the Wyrdstone. None of that I really grasped from the game itself but from the board game’s Wikipedia entry. Such is the scarcity of context at this stage - a campaign mode will be added in later alongside ongoing fixes for multiplayer skirmishes. For now, the only option is to play skirmish battles as either Human or Skaven against the CPU to get a feel of what Mordheim may have to offer later.
Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of it. As this is a turn-based combat system each of your characters can be moved around like an action game but they’re actually drawing on a turn-based pool of moving and action resources. Highlighted circles show how far you can go before using up a move and other actions take away turns from a different pool. Some of those actions are reloading or attacking whereas others take away a point immediately if you try to climb up or down a wall.
Some brief class information is given but that's about it for context
It’s not unlike a zoomed-in XCOM Enemy Unknown or Valkyria Chronicles formula, but it lacks the polish of those as yet. The chances of succeeding or failing an action are shown when attacking or attempting a climb, though the frequency and penalty for failing to jump down a level successfully seems far too skewed towards failure for my liking. Besides, what kind of ruffian falls on his arse constantly in the middle of a battle?
The AI seems pretty competent though the CPUs characters at the moment appear underpowered and each match I played was easy to win. I expect that to change and it’s difficult to place where the map you play is in the wider context of the full game. It could well be the tutorial map for all I know.
The dark environments are wonderfully moody
Just like in XCOM, the Overwatch ability is king for ranged classes allowing for a quick counter attack if an enemies wanders into your view during their turn. Other abilities for each character and class are on display though the UI conveying this information is confusing and a bit too complex to take in at first or second glance. Again, this may be resolved with a proper tutorial but right now it’s a little off putting and you can get away by just blithely walking up to most enemies and slapping them with your bog-standard weapon.
The UI isn’t my major gripe though, it’s the fact there’s no context to your actions in the game which left me pretty cold to the experience as a whole. I know these issues will likely be fixed in subsequent updates but right now there’s no ownership or feeling of attachment to my troops or as to why I’m fighting. Though in Warhammer there’s little excuse needed for killing to be honest.
Yep, flat on his arse. Failure indeed
The beauty of the environments is in no doubt with the size of the map being an impressive and complex sight with many small hiding places combined with large open spaces. It’s ideal for a tactical skirmish environment and bodes well for future battles. The several maps included so far capture the gritty atmosphere the Warhammer universe thrives on though they are all similar in style and setting.
If Mordheim can add a decent campaign mode then it has the gameplay engine and map structure to make that experience rewarding. It’s not filled out enough for me to recommend it in this Early Access state but I’m excited for the XCOM-like experience Mordheim is shaping up to be.
Top Game Moment: Having a character die because he couldn’t scale a wall successfully.
+ Atmospheric maps
+ Solid turn-based combat mechanics
- No campaign yet
- No attachment to your units