Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall Review: Immersive Warhammer Adaptation, Plagued By Technical Issues and Mediocre Combat
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall is the latest VR game in a flurry of Warhammer-licenced video games. It’s hot on the heels of Warhammer 40,000 Battle Sister, a VR title released in December 2020.
The game sees you take on the role of Lord Arcanum, a British-sounding fellow who has a thunderous axe to grind with some rather nasty undead folks. A Necroquake has taken place, and it’s your job to take the fight to the recently departed, as a Stormcast Eternal, with a suite of melee weapons and magical spells.
Unfortunately for Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall, its somewhat jargon-heavy and hazy plot is coupled with a combat system that doesn’t feel as precise and rewarding as other fantasy combat games.
Looking Good For The Most Part
You have to give credit to Carbon Studio for their work on bringing the Age of Sigmar universe to life. As soon as you load the game, you’re greeted with a statue of the deity Sigmar, who is enormous and imposing, reinforcing how grandiose a character he is. You really have to crane your neck to take in the view of the statue in full, which is only possible with the stereoscopic view and sense of scale afforded by VR headsets.
This attention to detail continues as you venture into the Mortal Realms. Stormcast soldiers are captured in loving detail, with their armour containing the intricacies and markings they should. As you venture further into the Realm of Shyish, you’ll explore dark catacombs, deep caves, and tight streets and alleyways. All of these are lit and rendered beautifully: especially the caves and catacombs. You get hold of a torch relatively early on in the game, and once you manage to equip it, it brightens up dark spaces beautifully and burns away vines promptly.
However, I did find the enemy design to be somewhat limited. You mainly fight skeletons and wraiths throughout the game, and after three or so hours of killing similar-looking enemies over and over again, it did feel quite dry.
Imprecise and Uninspiring Combat
I was pretty excited to hear that Carbon Games, developers of the really fun The Wizards, were making another fantasy-themed VR game. Despite a pretty average plot, the combat felt loads of fun and, most importantly, made me feel powerful as I flung a range of ice and fiery spells at my foes. Sadly, Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall has a subpar combat system.
You juggle melee attacks, with three distinct weapons, a sword, a short and long staff. Each of them has several magical abilities, which are triggered by making gestures. Make a horizontal sweep with the long staff, and you’ll summon a lightning storm; thrust forward with the shortsword, and you’ll drive enemies back with a thunderous charge, and raise the staff above your head to charge a lightning strike on your enemies.
It all sounds great, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, I found the gestures to be imprecise and prone to failure. This is despite playing in a well-lit room on the Quest 2, both seated and standing, with room-scale tracking on.
Also, the melee aspect of the combat doesn’t track well with your targets. I found myself, more frequently than not, thrusting through thin air. I ended up countering this by swinging wildly at targets until I hit them, and they just died. I found both these issues to be really immersion-breaking – you want your enemies to actually die when you hit them.
But by far, the biggest issue with combat in this game is just how dull it is. As I mentioned earlier, the enemy variety is pretty limited. You alternate between hordes of skeletons, wraiths, wraiths caught in a stockade, and goat-looking wraiths. Despite the hit-and-miss nature of the combat system, it’s actually quite easy to deal with them. You simply sidestep them as they come towards you, flail your arms around a bit and rinse and repeat.
Compared to Blade and Sorcery, or The Wizards, combat feels flat and monotonous.
Confusing Plot; Wonky Comfort Controls
It’s clear developer Carbon Studio has spent a great deal of time immersing itself in the Warhammer universe. Indeed, Tempestfall marks its first stab at the Warhammer licence. It’s worth noting here that they’ve done their due diligence on the lore behind the Age of Simar. It’s supposed to be a pretty dark and foreboding time, and I think the environments and look and feel reflect that.
Sadly though, as someone that has a passing interest in Warhammer, the lore and jargon felt pretty impenetrable. I had to enlist the services of an enthusiastic friend to help explain some of the central plot elements of the game. It’s a real shame, really, as I’m a fan of fantasy in general, and it may have been an opportunity to introduce me to the Warhammer universe. The game does have a lore tab, but it’s entirely reliant on finding collectibles throughout your time in Shyish. Some additional background reading here might have been helpful to contextualise much of what I was experiencing.
Finally, a note on comfort settings: there’s an array on offer. You can engage full-locomotion, for a more immersive experience, or use the teleportation system. Sadly though, the latter doesn’t work properly. There are parts of the game where you can’t transport yourself onto specific surfaces. This was a problem for me. It’s been a while since I’ve played a full-locomotion VR game, so I wanted to use teleportation to avoid headaches and motion sickness. I had to use the hybrid setting to walk around with my left stick and then teleport when I was able to again. I managed to avoid most motion sickness, but it did feel a bit funny at times, flipping between the two. Carbon Studio should really patch this issue in an upcoming release.
Hardcore Warhammer Fans Need Only Apply
It’s difficult to recommend Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall. While I’m confident comfort settings will be patched in upcoming releases, and the tracking issues with combat will be resolved, it’s more complicated to address some of my other concerns with the game.
A dull and impenetrable plot, coupled with uninspiring combat and limited enemy design, make for a fairly meaningless experience. You’d be better off playing The Wizards or Blade and Sorcery for your fix of fantasy VR hack and slash.
Final Verdict 2.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Carbon Studio; Developer: Carbon Studio; Players: 1; Released: November 17th, 2021
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.