Hammerwatch 2 PC Preview: High fantasy meets pixel art in this Diablo-like co-op RPG

Hammerwatch 2 screenshots from preview
(Image credit: Modus Games)

 There has been no shortage of game announcements, reveals, and demos lately and nobody would blame you if you happened to miss any of them. With a lack of E3 keeping everything tucked together neatly, showcases are spread across a variety of platforms throughout the month of June. The Guerilla Collective was one of the first showcases to kick off 2023’s NotE3 season, which is where Hammerwatch developers Crackshell decided to show off their upcoming title in partnership with publisher Modus Games. 

Hammerwatch 2 just so happens to be the third title in the Hammerwatch series, following up the well-received Heroes of Hammerwatch that was released in 2018. Crackshell has been willing to play it a little fast and loose with the genres with which the Hammerwatch games fit into, with the first title having been dubbed a hack and slash while Heroes of Hammerwatch was labeled a roguelite. For Hammerwatch 2, Crackshell have clearly taken elements from their previous 2 releases but have settled squarely on the title being an action RPG.

I was given the opportunity to go hands-on with Hammerwatch 2, and I was pleasantly surprised by what this Diablo-lite RPG had to offer. Our story begins with a little exposition over some fantastic pixel art detailing how Blight the Horrible has gathered a dragon army and overthrown good King Roland in the lovely Kingdom of Herian. However, resistance is inevitable and so it is up to you to band together with your best dragon-slaying buddies thanks to the power of online co-op to destroy the beasts that have disturbed your home.

Hammerwatch 2 screenshots from preview

(Image credit: Modus Games)

Players are given the option to create their character via a surprisingly robust character select screen where they choose one of the 5 available classes including rangers, paladins, and warlocks. Choose your character’s voice, hair style, skin tone and even the colors of their clothing so that you can stand out among your friends. Once you and your plucky team of cohorts are ready to go, you can start your journey in the sewers of Hammer Island. From the sewers you’ll need to find your way to the surface by unlocking doors and discovering secret rooms thanks to cracks in the walls.

Once topside on the beautiful Hammer Island you’ll have the chance to explore at your leisure, where you’ll find packs of roving wolves to the north, brutal pirates to the south, and a lovely village near the center full of NPCs who have no shortage of quests to offer you. Hammerwatch 2 gives you the freedom to explore as you please, although for the sake of our preview demo we weren’t allowed to leave the island. There were still plenty of dungeon crawling opportunities to explore however, and a beefy quest list to get us started. 

The dungeons of Hammerwatch 2 somehow manage to be the game’s strong point and weak point at the same time. Of the caves I was able to explore during the preview, they were sprawling, and interconnected caverns filled with plenty of loot and a healthy variety of enemy encounters. The sprawl of the dungeons made navigating without a map next to impossible, however, and I was frequently lost and looping back through areas I had been in until I accidentally stumbled upon an area that I had missed despite taking the exact same route I had 4 times previously. There is no way to set a waypoint marker in the game, which can make communicating with online parties a little more difficult, as well.

While getting lost in a dungeon is not exactly an ideal situation, it did prove useful for gathering large amounts of crafting items, valuables and loot while also generating XP for some impressive equipment upgrades. Doubling down on the full-scale RPG nature of Hammerwatch 2, players are able to gain experience points which eventually leads to skill points which players can spend on sweet, sweet abilities like multiple-arrow shots from a bow or increased sword strength, better dodge rolls, and upgraded magic spells. 

Aside from hacking and slashing your way through dungeons for god-tier loot, there’s also a robust crafting system. Finding metal ore lets you craft a frying pan which lets you cook fish and vegetables that improve health and movement speed when consumed. You can even craft a handy dandy fishing pole which you can then use at designated fishing spots. Every game should have fishing, and while Hammerwatch 2’s fishing is a little on the bare bones side (you simply tap A when prompted to catch fish, keys or whatever else is floating around down there) I appreciate the effort was made to include it. Fishing also opens the player up to be roasted by the game, as sometimes when you approach a fishing hole the fish will scatter, and a quick little alert will pop up that says something to the effect of “Your foul appearance has scared away all the fish.” Thanks, Crackshell.

Hammerwatch 2 will be available on PC via Steam with full mod support upon release. Console players can rejoice as they'll be able to jump into the Kingdom of Herian and defeat Blight the Horrible, as well. There is no official release date just yet.

Cole Martin

Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.