Hammer of Virtue review for PC

Platform: PC
Publisher: Jens Kolhammar
Developer: No Pest Productions
Medium: Digital
Players: 1+
Online: Yes
ESRB: Not Rated

As someone whose favourite gaming moments tend to revolve around destroying everything – think Just Cause or Red Faction Guerilla – Hammer of Virtue is built around a concept that’s very dear to my heart: fully destructible environments. I mean, a game where you have a hammer and can just lay waste to everything? How could I not enjoy that!

Pretty easily, as it turns out. Hammer of Virtue is fun for about five minutes, then you realize that there’s more to enjoying a game than being able to smash everything to pieces with a hammer. It feels wrong to put those words to paper, but…well, seriously, this game kind of sucks, and not in a good way.

Part of the problem is its performance. To be sure, some of this could be attributed to the fact I was playing the game on Steam Deck. For example, the game started lagging as the more things I destroyed and the more cluttered my screen got, so it’s quite possible that playing on a more powerful system might have solved that problem.

But that wouldn’t explain why my character would occasionally fall through the world. Or why the camera would abruptly shift perspective, and send my character flying off in a different direction. Or why my character would get stuck on random objects, unable to move for no apparent reason. I suspect that in cases like that, it wouldn’t matter how powerful a PC you’re playing the game with, it’s going to perform badly because of the simple fact the game feels broken and unfinished.

On top of that, the actual gameplay – to the extent there is any – is both confusing and exhausting. At first it seems fine; after all, how hard can it be to tell you to just go and break stuff? But then the game introduces enemies and tries to tell you how to block their attacks, and none of it makes sense. You get matched up with a bear in full armour and the game starts yelling at you to block, except the controls being shown on the screen have no relation to how the game functions which means you’re defenseless against most attacks.

Likewise, at first it seems like you can bring buildings and objects down on enemies to kill them…except that stops working the moment you have enemies that can hurt you. You may be able to drop billboards and rocks on apes in the first two levels, but try crushing a bear with a house, and you’ll quickly find it makes no difference, and they’ll just thrash you around until the game arbitrarily decides you’re dead.

As you can tell, it’s all very confusing – and the fact that the game even starts with confusing menus and buttons should’ve been a sign from the get-go that something was amiss. Not only does Hammer of Virtue not use a traditional (Western) controller layout – instead using a Japanese PlayStation layout, which means you’ll often go back when you’re trying to select something – the game also uses the lightest highlight imaginable in menus, so you’ll have to squint and guess if you’ve actually chosen the menu item you meant to choose.

I really wish I could say that Hammer of Virtue is a fun game despite its many, many issues. Really, I do. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing as fun in games as making the world around you come crashing down. But Hammer of Virtue shows there’s limits to even that. You need to be fun and functional, and Hammer of Virtue is very clearly neither of those things.

Jens Kolhammar provided us with a Hammer of Virtue PC code for review purposes.

Grade: D