PREVIEW: Warhammer Underworlds: Online

Feb
02

PREVIEW: Warhammer Underworlds: Online

Dice for the dice god!

Released: Steam Early Access
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Genre: Strategy, Card game
Developer: Steel Sky Productions
Publisher: Steel Sky Productions
Release Date: 28 Jan, 2020

Overview

Warhammer Underworlds: Online is the transposition of the homonym tabletop hybrid arena combat game set in the Warhammer fantasy universe, where different warbands fight each other in small hexagon-based battlefields. In addition to each warband, the player has a deck of cards which can be used to power-up allied characters, disadvantage the enemy or get glory-points.

A lot of tactical options

Warhammer Underworlds, as a tabletop game, is an incredibly tactical game in which the two players have to constantly think ahead of the opponent. There are many variables to account for, like the cards in the enemy’s hand, objectives, positioning of the characters and their roles. The objective of the game is to gain glory points, either by killing enemy characters (1 glory point) or completing objectives: these are cards in our hand (and thus hidden from the enemies) that tell us what to do and give us glory points on completion. This makes deckbuilding particularly important, since there are a lot of possibilities regarding the strategies that can be taken on the battlefield: will you build a deck that focuses on killing the enemy squad, or will you play more defensively and hold down your territory?

On the left side of our hand there are the power cards, which can be activated for effects or power-ups. On the right side there are instead the objective cards, that can be activated after completing objectives and are then discarded, giving us glory points.

At the start of each game, there is also the possibility to choose the battlefield: unlike other games, though, you only get to choose your half of the battlefield, while your enemy will choose his. This again adds to the possible strategies that can be undertaken.

A mighty swing with a mighty hammer

Combat in Warhammer Underworlds features dice, whenever one character attacks another, dice get thrown according to the attack used, both in order to hit (for the attacker) and in order to defend (for the attacked). While this system using dice AND cards could seem like too much RNG-based, it’s fundamental to also note that a proper positioning, use of the cards and powers allows for great control over the RNG portion of the game: yes, unlucky throws can happen, but are also usually the result of the lack of a clear strategy on the field.

One of my friendly skeletons attacking an enemy ork.

As I already stated, our warband members can also be upgraded during the course of the game: this is done using cards and the effect range from additional health points to more dice for attacks/defences. These power-ups should not be given lightly, since a character can pass to full hp to zero during the course of a single round, if not enough care is put into the positioning.

Warbands

Currently the game features four warbands, with their specific cards, plus a number of universal cards, which can be added to every deck. The warbands actually implemented are the Steelheart’s Champions, Magore’s Fiends, Sepulchral Guard and Ironskull’s Boyz. Each warband can be customized via the cards of its deck, but NOT in the characters, like in the tabletop game.

The starter deck for Magore’s Fiends.

Additional warbands will be sold as DLCs after the full release, along with their warband-specific cards, while universal cards will be constantly added to the game for free during both the early access period and after the full release of the game.

Minor technicalities

While the game works in its gameplay (mainly because the tabletop games works in the same regard), Warhammer Underworlds: Online suffers some technical problems: graphically, even at a 2560×1440 resolution, the game looks a little blurry and animations look a bit laggy. Overall, performance aren’t that great either, but considering that the game will release in just a few days in Early Access makes it comprehensible.

Warbands can also differ in size.

Future developments

The Early Access period of this game will last only two to three months: an appropriate period for a game that already has its core built and working. This small time window will probably see the game graphics enhanced, some optimization and, like I said before, more cards and game content.

Verdict

Warhammer Underworlds: Online is a true to the original transposition from the tabletop game. While players not accustomed to the Warhammer universe could find the game unappealing, Warhammer fans should at least give it a go. If you’re a tabletop player and you’re searching for a similar videogame, then this is the game for you. For turn-based tactical-combat players, the cards-and-dice system could be unsettling at the start, but after the tutorials and a few games, you’ll find yourself playing complex yet rewarding games with your favourite warband more than you think.

About texdade

I'm a master Computer Science student and passionate gamer, always looking for games that bring something new to the table. Normally an FPS/RPG person, but also play a lot of strategy and management games. I just can't play TPS or sport games. Oh, and I can't stop dumping money on MTG cards, for some reason.

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