Mordheim: City of the Damned is a turn-based squad game, a la XCOM, with a 3rd person over the shoulder perspective similar to the popular MOBA Smite. All the classics of turn based squad strategy are present: highly satisfying squad positioning, inexplicably terrible soldier aim, consumables you hoard out of fear you’ll never have them when you really need them, customisable squads that produce tears with the inevitable perma-death and a monetary budget that’s never quite high enough.
For those fans of Warhammer out there, I apologise for my utter ignorance of the fictional world, lore or events of Mordheim. For those of you who, like me, know nothing about this whole ‘end-times’ malarkey, you can be relieved to learn that it has in no way impeded my enjoyment of the game.
“It’s almost Lovecraftian in its horror, its bleakness and its sense of utter ruin, heightened further by an incredibly fitting soundtrack”
he game features a campaign where you choose from one of four factions: the rather mundane and run of the mill Human Mercenaries, the crafty ratmen of the Scaven, the holy and tank-like Sisters of Sigmar, and the rather weird and disturbing Cult of the Possessed. Having four factions gives the game a significant amount of content for additional playthroughs, as each faction has its relative strengths and weaknesses. This is implemented alongside a system entitled ‘Veteran Skills’, which recognises success in previous playthroughs with passive bonuses for each following game.
So far so good, but you might be wondering what sets it apart from other games of this genre; and my response can be summed up in a single word: Atmosphere. Whereas other squad games like XCOM or Wasteland 2 do create an effective aesthetic, it’s nothing compared to the desolate, crumbling gothic masterpiece that is the City of Mordhiem. It’s almost Lovecraftian in its horror, its bleakness and its sense of utter ruin, heightened further by an incredibly fitting soundtrack.
The game also has squad progression with individual soldiers levelling up stats. These such as strength, leadership or perception in a manner more reminiscent of a traditional RPG than a squad turn based strategy. Characters knocked down in combat aren’t necessarily dead, instead they are simply removed from combat, with the chance of losing equipment, developing a mental condition, losing a limb or, of course, dying. If you’re lucky, they might actually come back perfectly fine.
“You’re not attempting to save the world: the world’s already ended. You’re just attempting to profit from it, while not dying or going insane”
There are set missions with specific objectives, but they’re merely distractions from the majority of the game, the randomly generated skirmishes between your warband and an opposing warband, which are chosen from a map each campaign day. The main purpose of each random mission is attainment of gold and Wyrdstone. Wyrdstone is collected for quests that, if consistently failed end the campaign, Wyrdstone quests (and non-quest deliveries of Wyrdstone) are the main means of attaining gold, supplemented by looting within missions. Managing funds is important, your squad requires wages, medical fees, equipment, and skill training.
All in all, the game is a very enjoyable and atmospheric take on the squad based tactical game and this time is entirely mercenary you’re not attempting to save the world: the world’s already ended. You’re just attempting to profit from it, while not dying or going insane. It’s a nice change of pace from most games of the genre.
Mordheim: City of the Damned is now out of Early Access, and is available on Steam.