It's said a man in possession of a hammer sees the world as a problem to be solved by nails and brute force. So it was with Thor, the Viking god, whose default action was to smite everything hard with his divine mallet.
The same rigidity of thinking is often also practised by the creators of turn-based role-playing games; their entire gameplay universe condensed down to the management of hit points, experience points, and inventory.
Hammer of Thor, the first in a planned series set in the Rimelands steampunk world beset by a rumbling conflict between men and faerie, fits neatly into this conventional reading of genre.Be the best
Progression through its 8-10 hours of turn-based action is linear in terms of the mildly engaging story arc.
The real variation comes from the way you upgrades your heroine - a young woman called Rose Cristo - through the skill tree, which consists of traditional melee, ranged and magic character classes.
In this way, your biggest decision is whether to specialise in one discipline or become a generalist. This matters because as you level up, you're rewarded with talent points used to unlock new powers. Some are active battle skills, requiring the use of mana, while others are passive boosts, triggered by circumstance.
Using a simple branching system, the more talents you unlock within one class the more advanced abilities that become available. As such, the game implicitly encourages specialism, which, to my mind at least, encourages you choose the melee class, as most battles end up in an exchange of blows with blunt objects.
Still, with three save slots available, you can experiment, which is worthwhile in the early stages of the game if only to experience the way the three classes can vary play. Either way, you have access to melee, ranged and magic actions and weapons throughout.Don't think, do
That said, as with all grid and turn-based games, Rimelands isn't fast, frantic or particularly well-suited for casual pick-up-and-play. Instead, its pleasures are slowly earned.
Fighting your way through dozen of dungeons, fulfilling various missions and overcoming hundreds of enemies; all the time gradually levelling up, distributing skill points, collecting gold, and equipping various types of weapons and armour.
The battle system is dice-based - far too complex to explain to explain in depth - boils down to an intuitive mixture of action selection and resource management. Basically, your limited supplies of mana are required for any advanced moves. You have to keep an eye on your health too, although this regenerates when you're not fighting.
Combat never proves particularly challenging, but I assume this was partly due to my completionist collect-everything-kill-everything strategy.
Less successful, although still interesting, is the engineering option, in which items can be dismantled for parts used to build new equipment from blueprints. That it had little impact is due to the extensive range of items you could find normally, but with some tweaking, no doubt, it could work better in future episodes.Pushing the envelope
Developed using the Unity engine, Rimelands boasts impressive graphics, audio and music, with the environments, such as snowy wastelands and dark dungeons, suitably atmospheric.
The lighting and particle effects are good as well, although you can switch off the high end graphics if your device chugs.
Overall, Rimelands: Hammer of Thor is an enjoyable first attempt to do something a bit different in a genre where it's easy to stick to the tired-and-tested. It doesn't offer anything revolutionary, but there are enough small innovations to ensure the experience is compelling, while the gameplay provides sufficient options to keep you engaged.
Think of it as less of a hammer, and more a small toolbox.