A game that came up a little too short..
The Dwarves, developed by King Art Games, is a fantasy, tactical RPG that derives its legends and storytelling from the book by the same name. And though this may be an RPG it takes little resemblance from the genre while missing the mark on several, sometimes even elementary, moments throughout the game. But there were rare instances in The Dwarves where the excellent voice cast and commanding music really make it feel as though I was playing a top-tier game.
The Dwarves is a nice adaption of the novel about fighting to save the realm from a horde of undead enemies seeking power and control. A band of dwarve warriors starts out by protecting the castle and making their way around the lands to restore peace and order once more to the world, with mysticism and a bunch of magically imbued moments thrown in for good measure. Sure, the story seems like an obvious knockoff of many other games and novels around, but this character driven story delivers with a cast that’s not only likable but also voiced impeccably. There may not be a whole lot of new and daring moments within the story, but it sure has some memorable moments from time to time.
There are plenty of beautiful moments in The Dwarves, from lush, green forests to fortified castles that look well designed, but it’s hard to appreciate all of the landscapes with the imperfect camera that tends to hide behind important moments now and again. Battle becomes a hassle when the camera hides behind a tree or rock and you’re fighting to survive.
"There are no armor and weapon upgrades at all. Instead you are stuck with placing a single attribute talisman to each character that will designate what the stance of that character will be."
Now being of the RPG genre there are several focus points in the game that make The Dwarves a bit underwhelming, all together. Besides the main character Tungdil, you have the option to level up several different dwarves throughout the entire experience. There are no armor and weapon upgrades at all. Instead you are stuck with placing a single attribute talisman to each character that will designate what the stance of that character will be along with what he can do. There are ultimately five skills for each character that look great…when you can see the skills in battle.
Battles are huge but not pretty. Often times there will be dozens of enemies on screen while you and a three others may be fighting against them right in the middle. It was at moments when these huge battles didn’t really pan out very well for me as I was one little man in a swarm of enemies. I couldn’t see my character for most of the battles and I was constantly trying to make my character run to an open space so I could refocus on where I was within the battlegrounds. It was frustrating and just annoying. There are ways to control each of the on-screen characters and strategically force enemies through narrow passageways to slow down the action, but it doesn’t last long.
"Often times there will be dozens of enemies on screen while you and a few others may be fighting against them right in the middle. It was at moments when these huge battles didn’t really pan out very well for me as I was one little man in a swarm of enemies."
Furthermore, with so many enemies, powers often felt under powered and didn’t seem as though they did much damage — and when there are dozens of enemies on screen and the powers and abilities do so little, it takes a long time just to make any progress.
Speaking of progress the game had several moments of freezing up on me for several seconds at a time. Moments that weren’t even combat heavy had my character and the entire screen simply frozen in place. I was thinking about restarting my game but it unfroze after nearly five seconds or more. It didn’t just happen once, it happened again and again so I just had to put up with it.
There are also other bugs in the game that have characters doing strange actions, like spams and non-movements when they should be doing something on screen. Also, the controls felt as though they lagged behind the commands. Moving in any direction, pressing any button, and giving any command was not instant, but lagged behind for a split second. That may not sound like a big deal but when your life is on the line and you need to make quick decisions, a split second here and there add up. Hopefully these are patch-able, but for now it’s just a mess.
"Thankfully the music in The Dwarves is excellent. But I’ve always been a sucker for massive themes that come from films such as The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars."
Oddly enough the game continued to remind me that X button is the pause button. Naturally I clicked the menu button to see what that does. It pauses the game. Then why have the X button as pause? That’s because the X button isn’t just a simple pause but more along the lines of a strategical pause. From the X pause menu you can control several different character commands and roam around the battlefield to see where everyone is including the enemies. This is a great strategical advantage that allows you to command the battlefield and follow through with simultaneous attacks from your entire party at once. But instead, the game just sweeps right past it and calls it the pause button.
Overall The Dwarves is a game that needed some extra development time. With another six months of development, a better battle system, more effective powers and abilities, and much less glitches, this could have been very enjoyable. But it wasn’t. If you’re just interested in the story then start the game on easy and make your way through a game with a great voice cast, and wonderfully epic music.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Novel-like story, characterization, voice-overs, and the fantastic music.
Uneven camera and battle perspective, powers and abilities and glitches.
The Dwarves feels as though it's stuck between being an indie game and a triple-A game. And when that happens all sorts of bad things can happen. The game suffers from terrible cameras to glitches but it also benefits from a great story and voice cast. This game is a pure mix bag.