Mordheim: City of the Damned is a turn based strategy game in the Warhammer universe that puts a lot of emphasis on tactical depth and teamplay while also offering quite a few RPG elements. The game spent about a year in early access, and was recently released – our moment to start exploring the world of Mordheim.
Playing Mordheim immediately filled us with a sense of deja vu. In hindsight, this shouldn’t have been a big surprise, because we recently reviewed Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide, and both games share a lot of the same source material. So we saw a similar dark and medieval backdrop to the action, and encountered some of the same rat-like foes we had before – but that is where the similarities quickly end. Mordheim: City of the Damned is a completely different game. So while the setting is instantly familiar, this is a game that will appeal much more to fans of something like Space Hulk, rather than the team-based shooter that is Vermintide.
In Mordheim, you’ll play story-related missions as well as battles that are the result of random encounters on the map. The basic gameplay is akin to that which nearly every turn-based strategy title has – action points that you can spend when it’s your turn, on either movement, attack or defense/healing. While a game like Skyshine’s Bedlam takes a very fast-paced, relatively basic approach to this, Mordheim: City of the Damned piles layer upon layer of depth on top of this. This starts with the City of the Damned itself – Mordheim is not your typical isometric grid-based battle arena, but a real city in which the environments lends themselves to climbing up and jumping down, adding a sense of verticality to most battles.
The city (or terrain) becomes a character in and of itself, with dozens of options to trap and ambush enemies, but the same can be said of your squad members. In RPG fashion, you can upgrade them, but death is permanent and you lose what you invested in the character. This is also partly true when a character is injured, because injuries (that can include the loss of an arm!) also carry over into future skirmishes. Adding to the complexity of things, there is a tremendous amount of weaponry available, and the same can be said for your magic and healing skills. If you’re a fan of deep turn-based strategy this is a dream come true, but unless you’re an experienced player and/or have a lot of knowledge of the board game, Mordheim offers a steep learning curve.
The game looks very atmospheric, though the dark setting doesn’t allow for too much detail. The game performs fine during most battles (because units move one at a time), but we did see a few frame rate drops during busier scenes – nothing a little optimizing can’t fix though. Don’t let that hold you back though – when it comes to turn-based strategy and rich, rewarding gameplay, this is one of the best we’ve played. It might take a little too long before you have things under control, but stick with and you’ll find that Mordheim is an extremely satisfying experience.