Developed by King Art Games & published by EuroVideo Medien, The Dwarves was funded by a Kickstarter campaign & released late in 2016 across numerous platforms including Xbox One.
A fantasy role playing game that uses turn-based tactics & exploration as the backbone to its gameplay.
Based on the novel by Markus Hertz, The Dwarves story surrounds Tungdil. He’s dwarf who has lived among humans all his life. His decision to face his destiny comes at the exact same time as the world is plunged into chaos. You see, the Magi who maintain the balance of the world have been killed. So it ends up falling to Tungil to stop evil spreading throughout the world.
Alongside an extremely varied group of allies, he will travel the world defeating this evil while also dealing with the internal politics of the dwarf way of life.
Thrilling, right? It might not sound great but it is actually quite interesting & as it progresses it draws you in making the world feel quite real. The story isn’t the problem with The Dwarves. No, the problem lies with just how unpolished an experience it is. It has so many small issues that mount up. Issues that slowly chip away at your enjoyment until you’re ready to throw the towel in.
Terrible amounts of screen tearing, extremely bad frame-rate stuttering & slow-down, freezes, big pauses between screen transitions & horrendously long load times. The game quickly begins to feel like a chore.
You explore the map like a board game moving from point to point while visiting villages, battlefields & areas that move the plot forward. This is well done & easy to understand even though having to move one point at a time can be annoying. Many locations don’t actually have to be explored but not checking out every corner of the map will see you missing out on some of the more interesting & fun side-quests.
Not all locations can actually be explored. Instead just opening up dialogue boxes allowing questions to be asked & items bought from shops. When you do actually enter somewhere it’s often a limited location with few areas to actually interact with.
A hefty portion of the game relates to combat & this is another failing. It’s so clunky & so un-coordinated that it often ends up being extremely frustrating.
You control several characters at once, switching between each one to unleash special attacks & heal. When you’re not in control of a certain character they will automatically fight the enemies that swarm you. However, they are useless. The standard attacks against even basic enemies seem to do so little that you’ll spend all battle jumping from character to character trying to unleash special attacks after special attacks. The AI will not use these nor will they heal (unless they’ve got a perk that does it automatically).
They will just allow themselves to get swarmed by even basic enemies & then die. Some battles also make it so that one dead party member equals game over. It’s not fun, it just ends up being far too stressful especially when you also add that many of the special attacks harm your own party!
The game also has a horrible habit of leaving you extremely unprepared for bigger battles & boss fights. These just come out of nowhere & with a healing system that is very questionable you’ll quickly find you’re replaying battle after battle. Maybe not such a problem if the loading times weren’t so bad.
For an RPG there is very little customisation. You can’t equip new weapons or armour & even when you do level up it only results in a new ability to swap out with another. Before each battle you’re given the opportunity to choose your party & by the end game you’ll have quite a few to choose from. However you’ll end up sticking with the same ones throughout because of their abilities.
The female mage is so over-powered that to not bring her along every time you can is practically suicide. The dwarves have far more HP then the human characters so that’s your party filled (a maximum of 4). You can also equip one item (yay) to use during battle but again these are often very little help.
If you’re just following the story the game can be completed in about 6-8 hours depending on how good you get with the battle system. If you’re up for a bit of exploration then it’s probably more like 8-12 hours.
Since launch the game has seen patches but the improvements don’t seem to have done much at all. All the issues above still exist but a new ‘challenge’ mode has been included. These see you taking party members into small maps with a goal. Sometimes it’s to kill as many enemies as possible. Others it’s to kill as many enemies in a set amount of time all to earn stars.
This mode is probably the most frustrating of all. All the issues with combat rear their ugly heads here. Along with the limitations of party numbers & a level of difficulty that makes it very little fun. A nice enough addition but considering the many problems with the base game it would have been nice to see them sorted out first.
It’s hard to recommend The Dwarves. It has a solid enough platform but so many bad choices & missing content along with the bugs makes it a wasted purchase.