Mordheim: City of the Damned Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD



For many players of the tabletop Warhammer Fantasy game Mordheim, the mystery of what happened once the mysterious twin-tailed comet fell remained mostly unresolved, annoyingly so. Even though the city popped up on an ocassional map or two, little was known of what exactly remained of the once-illustrious town of Mordheim. At long last, Mordheim: City of the Damned resolves that curiosity in a way that’s sure to be long remembered, if the quality of the developer’s work is anything to go by.


Atmospheric little bugger. Don’t get too close to the growths of flesh though!

Basically, once the comet plopped into the center of the city, large batches of Wyrdstone – a resource otherwise known as Warpstone – started appearing around Mordheim. This crystal is extremely important for virtually every faction out there, so it’s only natural for them to start killing each other over the vast repositories of Wyrdstone present in Mordheim. City of the Damned sees the player taking control over a Warband responsible for maintaining a steady supply of Wyrdstone to their respective faction, and forces them to face the many horrors roaming the streets of the former civilian settlement.

There are four different types of Warbands to choose from, and even though the factions seem like a standard fare in one such fantasy game, there’s an abundance of options to be found in each army. Sisters of Sigmar are an order of combat nuns, in essence, who rely on heavy tank units and blunt weaponry for the most part. Their squads will usually be tight-knit and difficult to pierce through, making them the heaviest of the factions. Cult of the Possessed are just about the polar opposite of them, I would say. These Chaos-infused, daemon-ridden former humans are little more than vessels for their true masters, whose forms are best not discussed much. Their units offer unique mutations which further define their already specific skill sets. They’re also big fans of all the lumps of disgusting flesh lying around Mordheim, in contexts that are too disgusting to refer to. The Skaven are Warpstone-mutated rats who have now formed entire armies of stealthy, crit-dealing critters who are a force to be reckoned with. Expect them to evade all of your attacks, and then some. Finally, there are the human mercenaries who are just as standard as one would expect them to be.

Now, before we start getting into the mechanics of the game, I should warn you that Mordheim: City of the Damned is Hardcore, with a capital H. This is a game in which, should your mercenary get downed in combat, he/she/it may well lose a limb – for good! Upon forming a new Warband of your choosing, you’ll read up on some lore and receive some exposition on what you’re currently tasked to do. It’s all fairly standard fare, but works well in the wider context of the storyline. Before departing on your first raid, you’ll have to employ some troops to go along with your Commander. Each mercenary in your Warband has to receive payment after each mission, which means you’ll always be hard-pressed for money and Wyrdstone, which you have to ship every once in a while. Miss a shipment – game-over. This is a stressful experience all in all, one that demands absolute control over your troops and resources, which sometimes simply isn’t possible. All in all – Mordheim: City of the Damned wants you to fail, and will do everything in its power to achieve that goal. Strangely enough, this isn’t bad in and of itself, but rather an impressive, if horribly steep challenge that is surely going to entice those of you who are looking for a game to kick their hinds.


Overhead view will be your best friend in this game

City of the Damned is, at its core, a turn-based strategy, albeit one that has more of an actioney focus than most of its kind usually do. Players control their troops in randomly generated maps via the usual mouse/WASD combo, and have to keep note of their action points, rationing them depending on the given situation. There’s an awful lot of interaction locations spread around the levels, with the vertical movement nodes being the personally most interesting ones. All units can climb to an extent, but all can also fail that roll, which results in them falling miserably and is as funny as Mordheim ever gets. Which brings me to the one thing I dread about Mordheim – the RNG. Whenever you complete an action, dice are rolled in the background so that the game knows what actually happened and how. Everything is based on these rolls, including but not limited to map interaction, attacks, evades, parries and defenses. Remember what used to happen in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, when you had 80% chance of successfully hitting an alien, only for it to evade three of your shots like they were nothing? Yeah, expect so, so many instances of that in City of the Damned. In that respect, it’s fairly loyal to the concepts the original tabletop game set up back in the day.

Mordheim is all about micromanagement, from what I figured out. Your Warband which can consist of up to ten mercenaries, all of whom have their skills, stats, weaponry, armour and lots of other stuff to keep track of. There are shops in which you can invest in new armaments for your troops, plus the game features a looting mechanic where you’ll find the best items… should the RNG gods favour you. I mentioned the possible loss of limbs, but there’s an abundance of possible diseases and afflictions for your troops to be riddled with, depending on their racial affiliation, and you will have to have it all under control if you want to survive long enough to send at least one shipment of Wyrdstone back to headquarters.

As far as technicalities go, I can’t say I’m too impressed by what’s on offer here. The game looks pretty good, has a phenomenal atmosphere to it and great sound design, but the frame rate is awfully inconsistent from my experience. The antialiasing doesn’t seem to smooth out the edges well enough either, so you may want to use other means to get rid of the jaggies in Mordheim. Then again, the machine I had the chance to review it on is mediocre at best, so that may be the cause, but it’s worth noting that I’ve had few issues running Hard West and Life is Feudal more or less maxed out on the same computer.

There are so many systems to be fiddled with in City of the Damned that it’s not even funny. To delve into each and every gameplay mechanic I would have to write at least three times as much as I did here, but I don’t think many readers would find that to be a pleasurable read. What I can say is this: don’t go playing this game if you want a strategy-lite title to breeze through. Mordheim will break you, allow you to get back up without your left arm and half-blinded, then throw a cultist at you to carve you up once again. It’s a difficult game that demands absolute attention and lots of time, but is definitely worth it in the end, especially in the multiplayer component, where things are even more brutal and heartless than they are offline, and that’s quite telling. A phenomenal strategy game, albeit perhaps just a tiny bit too demanding, courtesy of the RNG.