Get ready to take on the mantle of the prince to a Dwarven clan, which has seen it’s settlements all but destroyed, thanks to the evil mages that waltzed on in and have taken over the lands. As the prince, you are to prove your worth to the king by building underground settlements and destroying the minions that dwell below, along with the wizardly foes that you come across along the way. This is Game of Dwarves.
Let me preface this paragraph with the following sentence. This game will not be for everyone. Let’s face it, in an age where instant gratification in video games is indeed the standard for how a lot of games are made today (I’m looking at you Activision), playing a game that insists-or in the case of Game of Dwarves, demands- meticulous thought and patience will scare some people off. For the rest of you sitting on the fence, here is why you should play this game. It is actually fun to play. The basic mechanics are sound and are relatively easy to learn, and are taught through a simple tutorial as you learn the basic mouse and keyboard controls. There are a few tricks that the game leaves up to you to figure out, but by and large the game is simple enough to play, providing that you go in with the right mindset. That mindset being, slow and steady wins the proverbial non-race.
You start off with your prince avatar and 10 other dwarves, all of whom have their class-based roles to play in your settlement. You have your diggers, which are the backbone of your exploration efforts, your warriors whom defend your clan mates, workers that harvest food etc. It starts off as a bit of a balancing act that can turn to a decently paced routine, provided you keep a vigilant eye on your resources. Spread yourself too thin and you could end up with your clansman starving to death, or if you are really negligent, your character (whom you have to also take care of) will die whether by foe or famine. Be too conservative, and you may find your camp overrun with trolls and goblins. It is a system that once you nail down, it can be a breeze and your boys can for the most part become self-sufficient.
One other factor you will need to keep an eye as you dig down is the amount of distance your dwarves (especially the diggers) have to cover between where the food and beds are relative to their position in the settlement. I have lost units due to them starving before they could reach the dinner table. Thankfully, the game allows you to manipulate the position of any object, potentially creating a scenario where you have to relocate your whole camp down (or up) several floors. Now anytime you need to bring in some more dwarves they start off as generic ‘dwarflings” where they just mosey about gaining experience until you assign them a particular role. What this can lead into however is letting your dwarflings level up and up and up, until you finally give them a job. This was described to me as a way to reduce your downtime getting say your soldiers and researchers up to snuff, I call it a very easy exploit and one that could break the game for some players if they choose to go this route.
During each level you are given a series of tasks that must be performed, with additional tasks given by the king that are optional, but will help build extra influence amongst your subjects. After accumulating enough influence, you will be able to spend points towards giving your clan a permanent boost right off the hop. This runs the gamut from extra resources given to you at the beginning of each mission, to your clan given a free research point. These research points (also earned by your research dwarves) can be used in the tech tree that allows even further enhancements to your clan, such as requiring less sleep and food to have a more productive settlement, or unlocking specialties with some of your military and research dwarves. The benefits individually are not game changing, but you will notice the effects later on in the levels. Especially the ones that can take you a couple of hours to complete.
Graphically, the game feels very Fisher-Price. That is by no means knocking it, the dwarves do look alright and they animate well. However with every level, every environmental texture and character skin does have a certain blandness to them. This can be remedied with decorations to make your settlements more lively, and enhance the happiness of your clan, but this takes away resources that you need for your men so unless you are really really patient, you may not be concerned with such things. And this may only be because of the nature of the gameplay that this is, but the massive amounts of empty black space around your settlement really looks sparse. Again, not knocking it, based on how the game is played, but it certainly looks very “black hole in space” bare. Hopefully something that the developers can enhance in the future. Also, navigating the many tiers of ground you have to flip though is a bit of a mess, especially when you have missions that require you to dig very deep to reach your goals.
So with all this information being inundated in your direction, the $10.00 question is simply, is it worth it? The short answer is Yes. Despite the flaws I have mentioned above, GoD is for the most part a fun, and dare I say cute, game that will grab you if you let it. And while there are a few gripes about the overall presentation of Game of Dwarves, it is still a title that offers fun for a low price.
A Game of Dwarves is now available on the PC through Steam.