Games Workshop’s Warhammer franchise has rooted itself in every entertainment medium and virtual reality (VR) gaming is no different. It’s a universe that fits well in VR, where you become a god-like warrior defeating hordes of horrifying enemies. While Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister took you to the more modern equivalent of Games Workshop’s war-filled universe, Carbon Studio’s Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall takes place in an era without all that technology, where knights fought ghastly ghouls to ensure the protection of mankind. Which all sounds awesome doesn’t it? Yet the final delivery just doesn’t quite live up to the potential.
Ever since Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall was revealed in October 2020, each drop of information bathed the experience in deep, rich lore that you just couldn’t wait to be part of. All of that lore is there if you wish to delve into the menu and extract it, which is why it’s such a shame that all the surface level stuff – i.e. the main storyline itself – lacks delivery and a real sense that you’re embodying this epic Stormcast Eternal warrior come to vanquish the plague of Nighthaunt forces.
So some context. As the name implies the videogame is set within Warhammer’s Age of Sigma universe, where a devastating Necroquake wakes up all these horrible forces who go on to attack the mortal realms. As Lord-Arcanum Castor Stormscryer, an all-round badass and leader of the Stormcast Eternals you have to cleanse the world using your superhuman skills, some rather brutal melee weapons and a suitable amount of magical abilities.
Starting in a city ravaged by Nighthaunt forces, Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall is mostly a linear adventure that takes around 7-8 hours if you don’t get lost or delve into all the side missions. Lost you may be wondering? Carbon Studios has created an intricate city where the narrative will simply move you forward as intended but with a bit of exploration, you’ll find plenty of hidden secrets including Sigmarite and ancient scrolls (vital for upgrades) and doors unlock that provide handy shortcuts later on. Alas, these are useful but other gameplay elements hamper that usefulness, more on that later.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall is in no way subtle about its gameplay style, you’re a massive warrior who smashes through everything to get the job done. In your inventory are three weapons ranging from the really close combat sword to the long staff. These can be dual-wielded so you can mix and match depending on your preferred strategy and the magical abilities of each weapon. They all have three castable spells, performed by holding the trigger and either lunging forward, swiping horizontally, or lifting the weapon skyward He-Man style. Fairly simple yet they’re all effective in different circumstances and are suitably fun to unleash.
However, even though combat is the core of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall, it also becomes one of the titles weakest facets. To begin with, smashing Deathrattle Skeletons apart – you can just rip them apart with your hands – or unleashing magical bolts of lightning at Nighthaunts is a blast until it becomes clear that the collision detection isn’t that great. There were numerous times when slashing at an enemy produced no result, and the same goes for the magic casting. It was erratic enough that it took a lot of the joy out of battles, especially when surrounded.
And you’ll get surrounded a fair bit as the enemy AI is set on grunt default of charging straight at you. You’d kind of expect it from the skeletons but you’d hope for a bit more from the Nighthaunt that float menacingly around. Fights then become a real close quarter hack ‘n’ slash affair instead of intense sword fights. Elements such as being able to block and parry are there, alas they fail to properly solidify the battles as they’re not easy to read when toe to toe with multiple enemies. And when waving both weapons around does just as good a job why bother?
On the subject of opponents, there’s also a lack of variety, Deathrattle Skeletons and Nighthaunt come in several flavours but you have to wait until the latter half of the campaign that some new enemies actually appear, at which point you’ll miss the ghostly foes. Running the Steam version of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall at full resolution the enemies are incredibly well designed and intricately detailed, they do look the part, but after continually fighting so many the repetition quickly sinks in.
That’s made all the worse by the spawning layout. Basic enemies like the skeletons appear in packs during the city level, making for nice natural fights as you turn a corner and suddenly spot a group. It’s when you come across a wide-open area that you know Nighthaunts will appear and quite often you’ll be locked in an arena battle, over and over again. You’ll feel that inevitable sigh building as you walk into another grand area to fight the same enemies. Remember that mention of opening up handy shortcuts, they’re all well and good but the spawns happen in the same spots so wandering back over an area looking for secrets will trigger them again.
It must be said Carbon Studio has done well with the level layouts, they twist and wrap around one another to simulate multiple paths and there are plenty of sneaky hidden areas to find. This is vital if you want to upgrade that equipment of yours. Weapons can have their base stats improved followed by each magical spell, so there’s plenty of reason to hunt down elusive chests. As you might have guessed by now there is a but, a big but. There’s no easy way to access your main base to incrementally add these upgrades unless you want to keep walking through the city fighting the same opponents again and again. There really needed to be more anvil placements or a quick return feature.
If that wasn’t enough Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall has some annoying mechanics that hampered the general gameplay. It was little things like picking up a Spirit Flask or using the Gravesand Hourglass. Weapons instantly appear in hand when pressing grip so you can get right into a fight, that’s perfectly fine. Pick up an empty Spirit Flask – used as a grenade when full – and it automatically equips, the Hourglass is two-handed but with the same effect. Thus, every time either of these items are used you have to reequip your weapons again. After several hours of this, you’ll understand the annoyance.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall offered the prospect for the sort of adventure Games Workshop’s brutal universe is renowned for, and the history and narrative is certainly there. Yet there’s no connection to or development of the main character, the action is mostly forgettable and there are just too many little glitches and inconsistencies to create a world Warhammer fans can really immerse themselves in. Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall isn’t a bad VR game, there were enjoyable moments and with a bit of refinement it could be a decent game; at the moment being a Stormcast Eternal just isn’t a blockbuster experience.