The souls of your fallen brethren are lost, summoned by Sigmar you must walk the lands of death and battle the legions of the Nighthaunt in VR action adventure — Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall is a first person action game in VR with RPG elements thrown in for good measure. It feels like this one’s been coming forever since its slated release earlier in 2021 and a fair amount of selective media doing the rounds from screenshots to cinematic trailers raising the hype level. Standing apart from the 40K universe, Age of Sigmar deals instead with magic and fantasy rather than technology, space and laser swords.
Entering the game it feels like this is going to pay off since the detail and grandeur presented in the opening menus isn’t something seen since Asgard’s Wrath, Lone Echo or Half Life Alyx. A grand statue of a dwarven-esque warrior king looms over you with detailed stonework surrounding it whilst you stand on a path scattered with bones and skulls. Torch light dances across the surfaces and the immersion at this point is pretty good. We haven’t even started yet…
Teleported into a massive, underground hall; reminiscent of the dwarven halls of Moria from Tolkien’s Middle Earth; an avatar of Sigmar explains the current predicament and your place in resolving it. This section, whilst grand, does have the problem of throwing a lot of Warhammer / Sigmar related terminology at you. Those with previous experience will know what all this means but to the average player it sounds very grand. With that done, you are transported into the mountains of Shyish to uncover the mystery surrounding the souls of your brethren.
Apart from the intricate, almost complicated lore associated with Warhammer and its various splinter stories; its known for legendary battles between its various factions. Tempestfall throws you in fairly quickly and its key to note that the mainstay of the title is combat, usually in the form of one vs many. Your avatar, Lord Arcanum Stormscryer, starts with all the weapons he needs and you can freely switch between them at any time via a small radial menu.
It’s easy to find yourself just swinging away with a single weapon but you’d be missing out on one of the more enjoyable qualities of Warhammer Age of Sigmar. Dual wielding can be carried out at any point with no sacrifice to either accuracy or damage and as a boon makes you feel like an absolute badass. Blocking an enemy blow with the staff in your left hand and following up with a counter strike on the right feels great but it’s the secondary abilities associated with each weapon which put icing on the cake.
Each weapon has a secondary attack which requires some fairly accurate hand movements. Initially I had thought this was poorly implemented but the more I experimented with it it’s clear that the game expects an accurate repeat of the combination of buttons and movements required to carry them out. It’s also super satisfying to face down a few enemies and raise the staff aloft to have magical lightning rain down from the heavens in a “By the power of Grayskull” moment.
At this point you’re going to be feeling quite powerful, especially after a short combat tutorial against some fairly lowly skeleton warriors. Spamming spells feels like a natural option moving forward since they are your only ranged attacks; but each weapon has a set of glowing runes inscribed on them which dull as you expend their magic meaning you’re gonna need to get close and personal with some of your enemies.
Given the many foes you come across, the ability to avoid damage is pretty important and Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall employs a nifty blocking and parrying mechanic to achieve that. When moving your equipped weapon (in either hand) with enough force into the path of an oncoming attack, the Lord Arcanum (You) will parry the attack and both avoid the potential damage whilst creating an opening for a follow up riposte.
Whilst blocking and parrying feels good and with a hefty, satisfying clank of metal on metal when it connects, combat feels a little weightless sometimes. It could be due to the fact you spend a lot of time fighting wraiths and the undead but the collision detection can be off sometimes and you can often whiff an epic strike rather than land a deathblow as expected.
There’s a good amount of collectable paraphernalia hidden within various caves, crypts and caverns as you explore the lands of death. A lot of it offers additional background information on the characters you come across, their roles and weapons as well as other information on Sigmar. Some materials can be used to upgrade your weapons once the city camp has been unlocked in the temple. Each upgrade level offers more damage and increases your magical regeneration but the top level also unlocks new spells or moves offering more combat variety.
Graphically Tempestfall is excellent if you have the horsepower to push the engine. The scale presented in the world design is obvious from the starting menu but continues throughout and the decay present in the buildings and crypts you explore is a suitable companion to drive further immersion into the main story. Lighting plays a major part in the atmosphere; whether its torchlight or magical arcane light from your spells; it all adds to the depth and immersion as you press forward into another fight.
So after all this, where are the negatives? Well, VR is a cruel mistress and some things that may be easily forgiven elsewhere are unfortunately magnified in a medium where immersion and roleplaying is everything. The sporadic collision issue mentioned earlier is probably the most apparent but some small quality issues are also present such as the lack of player tracking when characters speak to you, NPCs walking away mid conversation or continuing to speak facing another direction when you pass them to investigate for shiny loot.
The Warhammer premise might be a bit of a double edged blade and may put some players off from picking this up but Tempestfall’s design, presentation and battle system shouldn’t be underestimated and is better implemented than many others on the platform. It will be interesting to see how the Quest 2 platform natively handles Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall without the brute force of PC based VR and whether that detracts from the package offered.