Hammer of Virtue (PC) - ReviewStephen LaGioia , posted on 18 September 2023 / 1,559 Views
One of the most appealing aspects of gaming as a whole is the ability to cut loose and wreak havoc. Indie studio No Pest Productions taps into this primal desire overtly and unapologetically with its chaotic action romp, Hammer of Virtue. On the surface, smashing and bashing through just about any asset laid before your armored feet while wielding a large hammer would seem like pure, undiluted joy. And in the case of this zany game, it was — for roughly 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, after spending a few hours swinging away and collapsing yet another poorly cobbled-together structure, the exhilaration and mindless fun devolved into tedium and irritation. This was especially the case as the enemies suddenly become super-powered and unpredictable in the late stages. Even the sloppy and erratic physics ceased to be amusing after the first hour.
Hammer of Virtue's premise is about what you'd expect from an action-sci-fi romp whose tasks involve bashing robotic bears and dinosaurs. A terrorist group with the amusing name "Scientific Freedom" has unleashed a slew of these android foes and forged force fields around the planet. As the unnamed armored, hammer-wielding warrior of the Unified Realm, it's your job to stop them (of course!). At least early on, these various bots are easy fodder for your blunt weapon of choice, and I must admit, walloping smaller foes and seeing them fly like weak ragdolls across the screen was quite amusing. As was smashing my way through tall structures and seeing them implode and crumble like a house of cards. This was especially cool when I could get said building to rain down upon the defenseless bots.
But once this novelty wears off - and that doesn't take long - there's little else to reinforce the experience or incentivize you to play beyond a handful of the game's 20 maps (which are mostly variants of just a few forms). And while it adds a bit more fun and chaos to the experience, even the inclusion of split-screen co-op can't really add enough meat to this barebones romp.
The game taps into that mindless, pick-up-and-play arcade experience. Yet, even many arcade thrillers at least manage to bring some sort of real progression or point system or diversify your tasks. Without any real substance or goals outside of wiping out baddies, it tends to dampen the few cool features here, and you can’t help but wonder, what’s the point?
Hammer of Virtue essentially consists of running around some flat (albeit vibrant) outdoor or industrial locale, obliterating all things in your path, finding the handful of foes on screen (or evading the more aggressive ones), and ending them with your hammer. Rinse and repeat. Oh, and as the game tries to convey in its basic, clunky tutorial, you can (and often should) swing your hammer in a certain direction to avoid the enemy blocking from a given angle, or block their incoming strikes. This adds a smidgen of depth to the otherwise straightforward combat. Yet, implementing this brings mixed success to say the least, especially with the faster, tougher foes in later levels.
You can either overpower or easily counter some of the enemies early on. These include the sluggish armored troops and the flimsy katana-wielding bots. The annoying bears, however, grant about a second of leeway as far as reaction time, often prompting the wrong move and ending you in just a few hits. The game clearly wants you to use the highly destructible environment as on-the-fly projectiles on foes too. This can be especially helpful on the jarringly tough large dinos that charge you and fling you across the stage. But as a whole, this technique of rubble as a makeshift weapon is spotty and unpredictable. Using a controller makes the combat a bit more intuitive and less wonky, but it still yields more frustration than fun.
Other little details here and there allow the game to hold up a bit more, but they're often glossed over or else not crucial to progress. There is, for instance, a basic lock-on and parry mechanic, a health bar subtly displayed on your back, and the ability to launch yourself across the stage by slamming your hammer on the ground. The latter brought some more much-needed thrills, but they too were short-lived.
Hammer of Virtue’s saving grace, outside of a relative variety of foes, is decidedly the absurd physics and countless destructible assets. Both of these elements are almost certainly intended to be silly and cartoony on some level. Still, this hyper-unrealistic feel can only carry you so far, and its wacky, unpredictable nature provides a shaky foundation (if you will), that cheapens the whole experience.
For a title that emphasizes zany, over-the-top action, there can also be quite a bit of downtime. Searching for the passive foes scattered about the map can turn into a bland, extended scavenger hunt. This feeling is only magnified by the flat, uninspiring map design, and the lack of anything really happening around you. Even with so little occurring outside of combat and smashing structures, Hammer of Virtue managed to act strange and glitchy on more than a few occasions, as if it was struggling to hold itself together. Though admittedly with such wild mechanics and physics, it can be tough to differentiate between a built-in feature and a bug.
With so little in the way of content or progression, bland level design, awkward mechanics, and a generally cheap feel throughout, Hammer of Virtue feels more like a strange tech demo than a game. The software feels unfinished; not just unpolished, but truly incomplete. While there are grains of enjoyment to be had with this barrage of hammer-borne destruction at a core level, the concept is just not fleshed out, and the development was clearly rushed. Still, if you're looking for some brief entertainment on a lunch break, this robot-bashing demolition derby can bring a bit of amusement.
This review is based on a digital copy of Hammer of Virtue for the PC, provided by the publisher.
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