Developer: Zeal Game Studios/ Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Available on the PC.
Dark mages have taken over the land, and you are tasked with gathering your clan and taking it back. That’s the premise of A Game of Dwarves, a 3D strategy/ time management game developed by Zeal Game Studios and published by Paradox Interactive.
The game starts off in a paper puppet theater narrated by your father, the King. He tells a great story of the dwarves, and how they populated the land with their amazing buildings and expert craftsmanship, and befriended elves and dragons. Everything was going great until one day the mages came, and with their magic and evil creatures they took over the land and drove the dwarves underground. You, the Prince (You get to name him) never believed your father’s stories, but one day he orders you to prove yourself to be a great dwarf leader by taking back the land. Do you have what it takes?
The dwarves are divided into different roles set up as classes. You have your starter class called the Dwarfling, which can then changed into one of the five basic classes: the Digger, who digs up minerals, dirt and open secret rooms hidden in each stage; the Worker, who tends to and harvests plants; the Crafter, who builds and maintains items; the Scholar, who researches and unlocks perks; and finally the Military class, who is the only class able to fight off the enemies. They’ll start as a melee class, but can be changed to a long range class if the necessary perks are unlocked. These can then can be further altered into advanced classes as you progress within the game.
When you begin the game, players are thrown into an overworld view of the land that has been conquered by the evil mages. Each part of the land is divided into stages, and each stage consists of various story-driven tasks and quests given by the king. In order to finish the stage the story quest has to be completed, but there’s always the option to stay in the stage if you want to finish the optional quests.
The mechanics of the game are fairly simple: you choose what you want to do and where. You send your diggers to expand your living area and look for materials for crafting and improving. As you keep digging lower and lower, rarer materials may be discovered (something similar to Minecraft), but they may also discover rooms full of enemies which will require the use of the military.
I found that the combat is somewhat lacking. Since you can’t control the dwarves directly, you must put flags to designate areas for dwarves in order to have them go and protect the area from incoming threats. Only military dwarves can attack (and the prince should you get the right perk), and they tend to not react in time, despite having the enemy in front of them. It can be a hassle sometimes.
You would think the biggest threat for a dwarf would be getting stabbed to death by a goblin. But it’s not. It’s hunger!
In each stage the dwarves have 3 major needs: Energy, Hunger and Joy. As the dwarves run around and do different tasks, they’ll need rest and food, so you’ll have to make sure that you provide enough beds and rations for them. Joy is shared between all the dwarves, so the more they level up, the more joy they’ll need. You can prevent loss of Joy by decorating and providing ale to the dwarves. If the dwarves needs aren’t met, then they could either collapse, leave the fort or die.
If a dwarf is in battle and they get hungry, they’ll leave the field and go eat, leaving defenseless dwarves to be killed. There’s a nifty teleporting skill that allows you to get those defenseless dwarves to a safe place, but most of the time you won’t notice in time since there is so much to do, losing you a dwarf or two.
There is much fun to be had with the digging and exploring. It may be a bit repetitive, but you never know what may lie ahead (or deeper) within the stages. The camera for the most part works, though sometimes it can be a bit clunky. I stumbled upon a bug that doesn’t let you move the camera completely, only to the left or right, but upon restarting the game it was fixed. So it’s not really a big deal.
The writing of the game tries to be funny, and for the most part it is pretty good. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but it will make you smile. Some of the lines get repeated in the stages quite a bit, so they can get old pretty quickly, like banter between the Prince and the King.
The visuals in the game are cartoony, a bit outdated and in some cases a little rough around the edges, but they add to the art direction and charm of the game. You start with big tiles of brown on every stage, but as you gather materials you can decorate your living areas with floors, walls, statues, chests, paintings, pillars and a whole lot of other things that’ll make the fort good enough for any dwarven royalty.
The sound in game is okay for the most part. You have your dwarven grunts, digging sounds and many other typical sounds. The game also has a good soundtrack; it’s nothing really memorable (something similar to your typical fantasy soundtrack), but it has some catchy songs. I’ll have to say that the voice acting can be bad (really bad), but the funny dialogue helps it out.
As a strategy fan I enjoyed my time with A Game of Dwarves. Even with the issues with the camera and the clunky battle system, it didn’t stop me from having fun with the game. The story is generic for the most part, but the funny dialogue and solid gameplay mechanics make this a game that I recommend to any strategy fan. Go buy it!
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