Buy Hinterland and it’s just as likely you’ll walk away complaining that the score should have been doubled or halved. For a game with such a simple premise – Diablo, but you build the town as well as saving it – it’s surprisingly tough to grasp exactly what it is.
It feels like a casual game, with its simplistic combat and economic model, but there’s more to it – and the games are longer – than this would imply. You rarely feel like you’re getting your hands dirty with strategy and tactics, or in many cases, like you’re making any real decisions at all. And then just when you’re thinking that, one of your mistakes doesn’t just come back to haunt you, but snaps your spine in half and uses it as a loofah. Five minutes later you’ll find yourself at the whim of random dice rolls. Nghhh.
In short, Hinterland is a pain in the hind-quarters. Not a bad game – that’s a different thing entirely. It’s simply that the more you pay attention to specific game mechanics, the more they’re going to irritate. Distance yourself to the point that you can just roll with the punches and it quickly becomes one of those games where you glance up at the clock and realize you’ve yet again been sucked through a time portal to 2am.
What’s not in question is that Hinterland is rough around the edges. It feels like the work of a ‘proper’ strategy designer sitting down to make a casual game – suffering from poor feedback and a terrible interface that can’t decide between juggling and keeping things simple. The random elements keep each game somewhat fresh (ignoring the fact that you’re always conquering the same basic field), but at the cost of distancing your success from your achievements.
It’s not our cup of tea and that’s about as specific as we can get. You can find games that do all this stuff better, just not usually in the same box. That makes Hinterland interesting, if of fairly niche interest past the first couple of Game Over screens.
Hinterland is available through download from steam.
Nov 7, 2008