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Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Carbon Studio
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2021

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PC VR Review - 'Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - Tempestfall'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 29, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall is a VR-only Warhammer action/adventure RPG game.

The Warhammer franchise hasn't always hit the mark with its video game adaptations, but there are some rare exceptions. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - Tempestfall seems relatively unfazed by that history. Early gameplay and trailer footage seemed to treat the IP with care and respect. Now that we've had some time with the PCVR version of the game — a Quest 2 version is lined up for 2022 — we can confirm that Tempestfall is quite impressive in some areas but falls short in others.

While I've played some video games set in the varied Warhammer worlds, I'm not overly familiar with it. My perspective is that of someone who's enjoying Tempestfall without prior knowledge of its lore or setting. Thankfully, that was only a minor hurdle. The story is constructed in a way that even those unfamiliar with the source material will get a decent narrative, but it uses terminology and lore from the world often enough without explaining its exact background, so fans will get more out of it.

In Tempestfall, we control a Lord-Arcanum, a warrior who can wield weapons imbued with storm magic, to investigate the realm of Shyish following a Necrioquake that seems to have left the city walls deserted — but filled with undead skeletons and wraiths. Our first order of business is to contact our warriors within the city and fight the undead menace that lurks in the tombs and catacombs. The campaign can take 6-8 hours, and it mostly consists of wandering through the city or its catacombs, facing hordes of enemies in direct combat, opening doors, opening chests, collecting keys and using levers to progress. The experience is relatively linear, but some areas include side-quests or hidden paths that circle back to previous areas. It's generally fun to explore the world, with some basic climbing sections (which can be skipped), vines that can be burned to uncover hidden passages, and a few elaborate levers to open new pathways.

Due to its linearity, Tempestfall can pull off some great set-pieces and environmental designs. The world looks breathtaking most of the time. We are regularly dwarfed by huge structures and walls, whether we're out in the open or down in the crypts and sewers. The gray-green color palette captures the downtrodden and grim Warhammer atmosphere quite well. At the beginning of our adventure, we witness a towering statue exploding into pieces in the distance, and it looks impressive. The game showcases several similar areas and events to keep you immersed in the world; this probably did a better job of motivating me to progress through the game than the story itself.

The environments and atmosphere are easily the game's strongest feature. Tempestfall encourages you to look around in its environments, as each location is littered with hidden chests to gain upgrade materials for weapons and collectibles for additional lore. Disappointingly, the environments are largely static. Except for predetermined items, there are no physics or collisions baked into the game, so there is no way to interact with any object in the environment except those that you're meant to pick up. Since the game has skulls and other things lying around, that is a letdown. The general tone of the environments does not change significantly throughout the game, so some fatigue sets in as you walk through similar-looking hallways.

Exploration isn't all there is to the adventure. Tempestfall leans heavily into combat, and that's the source of most of my gripes. Tempestfall offers three weapons to fight with, all of which are available from the start; a sword and two different staffs are at your disposal and can be double-wielded and switched between on the fly. Each can be used in close combat. Weapons appear in your hand when pressing a button so you don't have to sheathe them, and the game has a parry system that shows you on-screen prompts that you must follow to block.

Regardless of how many matches I play, I cannot warm up to the combat system. I eventually got the hang of blocking, but it feels very floaty. The game tends to pit increasingly large waves of enemies against you, and when you're surrounded, it's quite difficult to consciously block and swing at enemies. You'll blindly swing at anything that moves in the hopes of hitting something. Additionally, it's sometimes difficult to tell whether your hit landed, since hit animations are inconsistent. Thankfully, you have magic at your disposal to wreak proper havoc during an altercation.

At the start of the game, each of your three weapons has one spell unlocked, with two more accessible via upgrades. During combat, pressing the shoulder button and making a specific motion triggers that spell, which can be hit-and-miss. When it works, combat can feel awesome. It's epic to raise your staff to trigger an electric bolt that can pass through several enemies, stab your sword forward for a devastating leap forward, or slash your sword sideways for an electric wave.

Combat can be fun when you combine several skills, but it's regularly hampered in several ways. Some inputs register inconsistently, leading you to sway your sword through the sky trying to perform a spell that won't fire even though you have enough energy accumulated. Other times, using the stabbing spell led our character to move to the edge of an abyss, which caused us to be permanently stuck there until we reloaded a checkpoint. These occurrences were rare, but they did hamper the experience.

Aside from these issues, which could be fixed in future updates, combat still doesn't come together that well. While close combat is underwhelming, using spells makes many fights rather easy by requiring you to keep your distance as you spam spell attacks. It's not challenging enough to carry the experience, and it's not varied enough to retain your interest. There's only a handful of enemy type variations, and although there are some different combinations toward the latter half of the game, it's never significant enough to make combat compelling.

I enjoyed navigating the world that Carbon Studio created, but I did not enjoy fighting hordes of enemies at every turn and then using my rewards to get more powerful so I could battle even more of them — especially since all encounters respawn when you revisit an area. I appreciate that the game lets you physically upgrade weapons with a hammer on an anvil, but that felt like a gimmick, especially since combat didn't make me feel like I desperately needed to upgrade my gear.

What's more concerning is that Tempestfall doesn't quite feel finished. Apart from the technical issues I've described, I frequently got stuck in the scenery because the game does not allow you to fall down a certain distance. Once you reach the edge of something you cannot go on, it caused me to get stuck on small ramps when trying to go up or down in some areas with a slight height difference. The game prevents you from falling from objects most of the time, but other times, if needed for progression, it has no issue letting you drop for three meters (approximately three yards or nine feet). It's a minor thing, but it made navigation more tedious than it needed to be.

Inventory management and switching weapons also created intermittent issues, leading me to select incorrect items or not letting me select certain items without reason. Tempestfall also had the habit of incorrectly recognizing my height. This once caused me to get stuck in an area after climbing a ladder, since I could not reach it to climb back down; the "skip climb" button also did not appear to teleport down. It blocked me from falling/jumping, forcing me to reload a checkpoint. All of these issues happened after applying the day-one patch.

Tempestfall is a decent VR game. It's a linear, single-player action title that excels in its environment and atmosphere but drops the ball in combat and technical inconsistencies. It looks and runs wonderfully, although one can see that the game was designed with the Quest in mind based on the rather low-resolution and smudgy textures. This doesn't hamper the overall look, and the environments and character models look great from afar and up close. We had no issues in terms of performance on our machine with a 3070 and 5600X to push consistent high frames to our VR headset with maxed-out settings and a slightly elevated resolution scale.

Comfort options are present, including blinders, turning options, and teleportation movement. The latter seemed inconsistent when I tested it, with some issues detecting certain areas to teleport to, but that may be ironed out with future updates. Otherwise, I enjoyed the voice acting and soundtrack, which fit well into the world and on-screen actions and were of high quality to round out the experience.

Overall, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - Tempestfall feels a bit rough around the edges. Technical issues and a shallow and repetitive combat system keep it from being a standout VR title. Tempestfall's visuals and environments are often breathtaking and a joy to explore, especially if you are a fan of the franchise. It feels like Tempestfall could have used another year of development time to iron out some of its technical difficulties and to make combat more engaging and deeper to carry the experience.

Score: 6.7/10

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