by Richard Edwards
previewed on PC
Dwarves to care about
A quirky name goes a long way attracting attention to a game in a new franchise but that’s not always a good thing. In the case of A Game of Dwarves, the name is a little distracting, making one almost overlook the fact that it is not your run off the mill dwarf management game. It seems as though helping angry little ale addicts build underground kingdoms has become all the rage in recent years and developer Zeal Game Studio is looking to add their creativity to the fray. The rise in popularity for the genre has given birth to a number of great games and it is difficult to avoid comparing the game to its genre peers. So much so, that I’m not even going to try.
On first inspection, A Game of Dwarves appears to be akin to Dwarf Fortress. The player takes control of a clan of dwarfs and sets out to expand their settlement, mining resources and defending against outside threats. You conduct, research, dig tunnels and fight whatever lurks beneath the surface. A key difference is that A Game of Dwarves is more accessible, making it a perfect starting point for many players who where daunted by Dwarf Fortresses’ complexity. Less complex, however, does not mean less challenging or even less feature-rich.
Gameplay can best be described as “tower defense-ish.” This means that enemies of all shapes and sizes are charging your front lines. You are tasked to hold them at bay while you search for the resources to push them back before they burn down your home and throw you back into the wilderness. Orcs and Gnomes are just some of the many different types of foes that will be rampaging through your halls and Zeal has even hinted at demons.
Gnomes are not necessarily your enemy though: they start out as a neutral faction. Take their treasure and they will take revenge on you. Leave them alone and... well, there is talk of an economical aspect to A Game of Dwarves. Perhaps we will be able to trade with the gnomes for better items or additional resources.
Zeal is putting a lot of effort into giving players the ability to customize their game, make it their own and ensuring that no two sessions of playing the game are alike. It starts with randomly generated maps, or should I say randomly generated cave systems? With the potential for overland exploration, choosing where your main settlement is built may turn out to be just as important as actually building it. After all, I don’t know much about the Dwarven housing market, but I can only imagine that house prices will drop significantly once people realize there’s a Greater Demon of Dwarf Munching living just half a mile underneath the nearest ale hall.
Whether or not items can be traded is yet to be revealed, but one thing is for sure: they can be crafted. In many games you are forced to make a hard choice between ‘being good’ and ‘looking good’ when it comes to armor, helmets and other garments. In A Game of Dwarves, you can craft items that are not only functional and better than what is already at hand, but also look the way you want them to.
The game will feature an experience system that lets you specialize your diminutive dungeon denizens so that they can craft the finest hand made goods, find the best ores in the depths of the excavations or get to be experts at hitting things until they stop moving.
Take your time
A Game of Dwarves’ charming 3D visuals make it easier to keep track of everything than we are used to from comparable games and – paired with cutesy animations of dwarves falling into holes that they are digging – give it a lot more character too.
Zeal’s focus on the three key points of management, challenge and creativity seems to be working out really well. There is so much to do that you will rarely find yourself bored and best of all, you can do it in your own time. There are no fixed time restraints and the only limit is your own imagination. A Game of Dwarves is shaping up to be a healthy and fun mix of real-time strategy, role-playing and sandbox building and it looks to be packing a real punch in the gameplay department.