Hammer of the Gods

2Hammers of Might and Magic

So what exactly is Hammer of the Gods and what do you do in it? Well, you explore its fantasy world, you complete a lot of godly quests, you sort-of build an empire in a turn-based fashion, and you kind-of compete with three other warlords – sound familiar yet? Although you can, and even if you’re technically at peace, none of the other warlords seem to get angry if you mount an occasional raid on their settlements.

Whichever of the myriad available paths you take through this Dark Ages world of hairy men and long-necked sea serpents, your ultimate goal is to become Odin’s most favored Viking, earning for yourself the title Hammer of the Gods – and, presumably, a seat near the fire in Valhalla. To achieve this legendary rank, you must complete a long string of tasks, starting with some simple, even silly ones that could be out-takes from a Monty Python sketch, and gradually working up to heroic, Beowulfian deeds of valor.

Depending on which Viking tribe you choose to lead (humans, elves, trolls, or dwarves), you’ll serve a different hierarchy of gods and goddesses and quirky in their demands. Each variety has different priorities: humans must accumulate magic items, trolls go for military victories, elves for colonization, dwarves for treasure. One thing that makes the game click so well, however, is that there is plenty of overlap — your fighting, exploring, colonizing, and diplomacy all contribute toward advancing your status on the diagrammatic “god tree,” a symbolic representation of Yggdrasil which shows you, at a glance, how many quests you’ve completed and how far you have to go.

11Even if you opt for a relatively peaceful strategy, there’s still plenty of fighting to do. Given the primitive state of trade and agriculture, plunder is the economic fuel that drives the whole game. When you attack a town, you get to duke it out on colorful animated screens where berserkers rampage, swordsmen hack, trolls bash with giant clubs, and hapless peasants do the best they can with pitchforks. In more dangerous quests, you will also have to do battle with frost giants, dragons, and sea serpents.

Among the game’s most tempting targets are monasteries, which are usually poorly defended and always have a pretty good hoard of gold (unless, of course, one of your rivals has already raided them). In this detail, as in many others, the designers show how deeply they have studied the history of the actual Viking age.

10Graphically, the exploration screens are nothing special –about on par with Civilization — but the animated battle screens are a delight, and the heart of the game. When one of your heroes dies in battle, a Valkyrie on a horse descends, to the strains of Wagner, to carry him away to Valhalla. It should be apparent from the foregoing description that Hammer of the Gods is neither a conventional role-playing game nor a conventional turn-based strategy game, but somewhere in the middle. Much like New World’s fabled Heroes of Might and Magic series!

System Requirements: 386/33 MHz, 4 MB RAM, DOS

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