Card games and Warhammer. Were I thirteen again, the premise alone of Warhammer Underworlds Online would have warranted a “best game ever” title from me. Luckily, my old age has made me callous and jaded enough to see through lofty premises and get down to the meat beneath. Luckier still, Warhammer Underworld Online delivers a pretty solid package with only a few rough edges.
The gameplay is pretty simple, you move units on a board that is constructed by you and your opponent at the beginning of the match and you enhance those units or score points using cards from your race-specific deck. That’s not to say that it is simplistic, there is a lot of depth here in combining unit moves with cards to create devastating combos that allow you to quickly push for victory. The game has four races going into early access; Empire, Chaos, Dwarves, and Greenskin. I mostly played Empire and Greenskins in my playtime and both factions felt suitably different thanks to unique cards and victory conditions. I had a lot of extra slots for decks, so more races could be in the cards for the future.
Deckbuilding was what you’d expect. You have a limited number of cards you can bring into a match and those cards are split into units, gear, special abilities, and victory cards (cards that are played when certain objectives are achieved to provide you victory points). I didn’t touch the default decks much and I’m not sure if there will be a mechanic to unlock new cards at some point, but the customization is enough for anyone looking to tailor their deck to a specific strategy.
Visually, the game is a little rough. Nothing looks bad and everything looks suitably Warhammer-y, but visual fidelity is definitely more indie than AAA. Animations are a little stiff, movement can look a bit slidey at times, and the colour palette of the whole game is very grim; usually something I wouldn’t complain about, but it just looks a lot muddier in this game than other similarly grim Warhammer games. The sound is a lot better, with the music and ambient sounds making you feel like you’re fighting for your life in some long forgotten crypt.
I enjoyed my time with Warhammer Underworlds Online. I didn’t get much of a chance to play online due to scheduling issues, but the strategic and slow-paced nature of the game meant that AI opponents were able to provide me with a half-decent challenge until I really started understanding how to properly exploit the mechanics of the game. The longevity of this game is really going to come down to the online community. Most players will find the AI only challenging for a short period and will want to move on to human opponents quickly and a robust player base will be required to ensure those players find opponents of similar skill level.
Warhammer Underworld Online is a good entry into the quickly expanding card game genre. It has interesting mechanics, strategic depth, and all the Warhammer flavouring one could want. The visuals are nothing to write home about, but those could improve over the course of early access.