As a rule, I restrict myself to reviews of tabletop RPG products, but I’m making an exception for this one as it looks likely to kill my solo tabletop games and take their stuff. It hasn’t been this hard to stop playing a video game since Diablo II.
In a Nutshell: Warhammer Quest for iPad is a pretty faithful adaptation of the classic Games Workshop dungeon crawling boardgame, the final iteration of a series of games including HeroQuest and Advanced HeroQuest. The developers are Rodeo Games, who previously did a similar science fiction game called Hunters; the app is available for iPhone or iPad on iTunes for the princely sum of £2.99 at the time of writing (which I suppose is $5 US).
In the game, you control a party of up to four adventurers, who go into dungeons, kill monsters, and steal their treasure. Each dungeon has a quest, providing an in-game reason for the expedition; these generally revolve around finding something or killing a specific monster. As time goes on, the heroes level up and get cool magic items, and the monsters get nastier to compensate.
Each party member must be of a different character class; the four provided in the game are the Marauder (formerly known as the Barbarian), who occasionally goes berserk; the Wizard, who casts spells; the Elf, who is an archer; and the Dwarf, who is a basic fighter type. Going berserk is a mixed blessing, which may result in extra attacks, standing around doing nothing, or attacking your mates by mistake. The Wizard fills both the "magic-user" and "cleric" roles, since he can both heal and blast (and you need to be careful with area effect spells, as you can blast your buddies too); he can also teleport, which if you have enough power points allows you to jump in, stab people, and jump away again. Much like Tau battlesuits in W40K.
Dungeons are created and stocked randomly, in the boardgame by drawing from card decks and on the iPad by the app itself. There are three levels of difficulty; easy with no permanent death, hard with no permanent death, hard with permanent death (and the consequent need to recruit replacements).
There is some overland travel between dungeons, and there are settlements where your heroes can train, pray, or shop; random events occur from time to time, which are amusing but generally detrimental to your health and wallet. As in the boardgame, though, these exist only to support the dungeon crawling which is the game’s raison d’etre.
The party has a shared stash, which simplifies moving gear between them. Character equipment slots are a bit unusual, in that you have four basic, four uncommon, and four rare slots; if you find a rare item, it can only be carried in a rare slot. There’s no button to access your inventory, you get at it by turning the iPad to portrait mode (the game is played in landscape).
Expansion packs for the original 1995 WHQ were mostly new character classes, and the iPad version looks set to follow that route, with in-app purchase of three extra heroes already available. You can also buy game currency with real money, which doesn’t appeal to me, especially since random events can then take it away from you again.
It’s very pretty. Lots of eye-candy based on GW Warhammer setting, the miniatures and the original battlemats. The items etc. appear in-game as the cards used by the boardgame, although since the app generates and keeps track of figures, the NPC and monster cards from the original are not present – instead, you tap and hold on a figure to access its details.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
This is pretty much perfect at what it sets out to do, but I would like to see some kind of multiplayer option for the iPad equivalent of a LAN party. (Do people still do those, or has always-on internet overtaken them?) I was initially surprised to see that while I can name my party, I can’t rename the individual adventurers, but I got over it quickly enough.
I hope that other GW classics get the same treatment in future; I’d love to see Space Hulk, Necromunda and Mordheim done like this. In fact, if W40K or WHFB were done as iPad apps I might get back into those, too.
And reaching beyond GW’s intellectual property, how about All Things Zombie?
Although until recently I would have said Advanced HeroQuest was better, I’ve come to think of WHQ as the best of the GW dungeon crawlers, and it’s even better as an app.
Where the app scores over the boardgame is convenience; no huge box of bits to lug around, no painting the figures, less time to set up, easy to pause a game without hogging the dining room table for days, and the app takes care of all the fiddly bits about levelling up (and the game seems to choose upgrades for you, including new spells and feats/advantages/edges, which is actually fine by me).
There are a few grumbles on the internet about price, especially the price of the extra character classes, but given what you’ve paid for the iPad or iPhone in the first place, £3 for the game and a pound or two for each additional class is not too shabby. Do what I do, skip a couple of designer coffees that week to fund it.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5.