Hammerting Review

When frustration marries fun...

Developed By
Warpzone Studios
Published By
Team17 Digital
Our Score

Hammerting is a feast of dwarven economy building. As a dwarven colony sim, you are tasked with growing and building a dwarven kingdom while surface dwellers battle each other seeking your artisanship. Clearly a labor of love, Warpzone Studios has spent over 5 years bringing this delightful dwarven delicacy to life! Of course, simulation games are often difficult to get right. Amazingly, Hammerting manages to marry the frustration of commanding stubborn dwarves with fun in a way that is addictive. Great sim games are a time sink and Hammerting is no exception in that category. Still, how good is it and how good could it become? 

Beginning the game with three highly customizable dwarves, you are expected to micromanage your dwarven tasks. You must mine, build, fight, explore, farm, and craft your way into a sustainable dwarven city. As you can imagine, this requires you to be aware of and manage a LOT of menus and information. Your dwarves have experience levels, favorite jobs, traits, attributes and so much more that you must manage along with the progress of your overall clan. 

Progress is made by building rooms (XCOM style) that allow you to build and craft materials, tools, weapons, and food. You ‘earn’ more rooms by using a currency called mountain lore or trade lore (earned by overworld trade) to acquire higher ‘tech’ on the tech tree for the colony. For example, the quarry builds granite blocks, mortar, granite columns and so forth. The foundry forges ingots of various metals. The smithy makes tools and weapons. The farm gets water and other items needed for cooking. The brewery makes the beer. There are many different rooms to acquire and build that will be necessary to grow the colony.

Probably the closest comparison this game has to what is currently on the market is a game called Oxygen Not Included. In that game you manage clones who must build a colony within a hazardous space environment. As with Oxygen Not Included, in Hammerting you are expected to organize and craft your way into a sustainable dwarven community. One difference is that Hammerting feels like Oxygen Not Included-lite. You don’t have to worry about underground gasses poisoning your colony or making bathrooms. Instead, your focus is primarily on growth and trade. The biggest difference is merging all of this colony building with a 4X game playing in the background called the Overworld.

As you play Hammerting and get used to recognizing your kingdom’s needs, you realize that you need developed trade routes with the surface. Things that you don’t have you’ll need to buy. Money that you don’t have requires you to sell items you’ve built. So as you play around with buying and selling items, you reveal more and more of the overworld map.

This ‘fluid’ overworld situation is the 4X game in the background. As you sell building items to allies, they are able to strengthen their kingdoms, build their armies, and provide you with more items to buy. The problem with the way this aspect of the game is presented is that it is hard to know what is happening up there. Odd looking statues representing armies move back and forth as you watch your dwarves buy and sell goods but that is the extent of the overworld experience. There isn’t a discussion with a representative. In the time that I played, few ‘customers’ got upset that I sold or bought goods from others. Recognizing who was at war and who wasn’t honestly didn’t matter to me. I ended up just favoring whoever gave me the best price on the goods I needed. 

In a way, there felt like there should be more story or purpose behind the overworld and those relationships aside from it just being “the way you make money”. Still, the endgame is that you win when your ally dominates the overworld map. Of course, you lose when your dwarves all die. This would make me wonder if there are others that are mining and supplying the overworld too. However, this is not clear as you play. 

A part of me wished that these different nations came to me with requests to build and craft things that I had as well as didn’t have. Somewhere in that interaction, there could be a story or an opportunity to know who is winning and whether or not I want a certain nation to win. Instead, it came down to me selling to people who had no goods to sell in an effort to improve prices for stuff I needed.

Hammerting lives and dies on whether or not you understand what you should do or complete next. That means you should always know what you have, what is in process, and what your next goal is. Playing Hammerting requires both an intimate understanding of all information being presented as well as how to issue commands to your dwarven kingdom. This is where Hammerting could still use a little work.

As of release, in my opinion, Hammerting does a great job of making you feel just enough frustration that the dwarves aren’t doing what you want them to without wanting to stop playing. Maybe my experience missed the part where you can give individual orders to dwarves to make them stop and go build something. Either way, these little guys can be stubborn. 

A few times I would issue general build orders to only find a few minutes later that one or more dwarves are trapped in some impossible position. Not only that, the other dwarves seemingly wouldn’t care to dig them out or build towards them to save them. The same situation might be said of when a dwarf was ‘unconscious’. Despite giving healer jobs to those still alive, they oftentimes didn’t seem too pressed that a few of their companions were lying on the ground needing healing.  After dozens of hours of gameplay, however, I did learn that setting up tool upgrades along with jobs was the way to actually get things done. While I did see that mentioned in the “Book of Tings” tutorial, the explanation wasn’t quite clear enough to explain the importance or how to do this. 

Aside from merely surviving, there doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on directing the overworld affairs one way or another. As long as you don’t have dwarves falling out and upset, the game cruises along awaiting your next order. It would be more interesting if there was something pressing like an upcoming war against another underground foe, a lost civilization that must be found before someone else does, or some other race against time. Instead Hammerting pulls mercenary dwarves seemingly from the overworld to join your kingdom with only the promise of more riches.

The in game currency of mountain knowledge and trade lore gate-keep your colony’s technological upgrades forcing you to explore and trade constantly. As you explore further into the mountain’s darkness, you find foes here and there, but nothing overwhelming most times. Also, at a certain point, you’re able to grow most everything you need so the overworld ends up being more of a source for wealth. While that would seem important, again, there isn’t always something that HAS to be bought in the overworld. Somewhere in there, I would imagine there would be magical items or something but early gameplay suggests you have to get pretty far along it if is. 

Don’t get me wrong. Hammerting is a totally addictive timesuck, but a part of me began to wonder sometimes. In those quick moments of frustration where someone needed to be saved or a needed building wasn’t getting built, I wondered why I wasn’t too attached to the dwarves I had employed for those few hours. All I would see are discussion bubbles with emojis explaining what they were going to do.  Then I would have to build or dig out certain stranded dwarves and continue on my way. 

A part of me wished a dragon hoard was a possible find or some illithids or goblin kingdoms could be discovered. Then I could have a REAL reason to build up and assign dwarves to a militia. Instead, I just felt like I was a dwarf CEO that hired dwarves to build an artisan company in this mountain.

In the end, Hammerting totally sates that itch to manage a dwarven kingdom. While the tutorial could certainly use a bit more hand holding to explain menus and game structure, there is enough there to dive into for hours and hours and hours…

Hammerting Review
An addictive sim with room to grow
Hammerting meets the bar for a good colony sim but still has a few kinks to work out regarding the story and the overworld engagement.
Addictive gameplay
Multiplayer coop (not attempted for review)
A little buggy (dwarves get stuck in weird ways and places)
Tutorial is a bit lacking
Overworld gameplay could use a bit of tweaking