I should preface this review by saying that unfortunately I wasn’t able to play through a lot of We are the Dwarves, and not from a lack of trying. The main reason being, that due to optimization issues, the game would crash and bring me straight back to Windows after about an hour of play. Despite this though, the game shows real potential, the fun is definitely there.
Developer: Whale Rock Games
Publisher: Whale Rock Games
Reviewed on: PC
Release Date: February 26th, 2016
We are the Dwarves is a strategy game very similar in gameplay to classic titles like The Lost Vikings or Konami’s Animaniacs with the key difference here being that you are no longer confined to just moving left and right, and there’s a far greater emphasis on combat (though, like with modern Legend of Zelda titles, the argument could be made that the combat is a puzzle in and of itself).
The game has you playing as one of three Dwarven Astronauts (which sounds pretty awesome), who are sent on an expedition to find a new star so that they can save all of their kind. It’s simple and to be honest, I’d rather the overall plot of a game be as simple as possible. I couldn’t tell you if the plot gets any more complex as the game goes on, because like I mentioned before, as the game would crash whenever I got to a certain point.
Before I go any further, I just want to say that this game isn’t very well optimized. I don’t say this as something to scare you, the potential customers, away from the game; but rather in hopes that Whale Rock Games fixes this. Despite the optimization issues, the game we have here is VERY good. So, don’t let that bother turn you away, a patch is no doubt already in development.
The gameplay is an interesting mix of old PC RPGs like Diablo, and Dungeon Siege, with the puzzle solving mechanics of The Lost Vikings thrown in for good measure. While I’m certainly up for playing more of The Lost Vikings, the PC RPG style isn’t really my cup of tea.
The control setup will be familiar to those with MMO experience, you have to use the mouse to move, but it is also the attack button. While this setup works brilliantly for other games, in my opinion, it’s a lot less intuitive with We are the Dwarves, it just doesn’t work. So what makes it so dynsfunctional, I hear you ask.
Well, this is a game where you do have to utilize a fair bit of mobility, your dwarf is about as sturdy as a wet cardboard box, three or four hits will result in death and so dodging attacks is really the best option for staying alive. However, after I had moved out of the way of an attack, and went to shoot back at my enemy, the enemy had already moved, and this resulted in accidentally click where they were. This would cause my dwarf to move into a position where they would be easily hit by oncoming attacks.
The combat element is something of a puzzle in itself, requiring a certain level of tactical play, utilising the proper skills for the job. While simply clicking on the enemies may give you a result, I opted to use the skill with the highest spread and most knock back. This proved both helpful, and harmful when fighting on narrow pathways, as the knockback sometimes resulted in my poor little dwarf being sent over a nearby ledge, and on his way to Broken Spine Boulevard. Don’t get me wrong, this is actually a good thing as it means the game is designed to make it so that certain tactics won’t work in every situation.
In many games, I’ve often found that just using one particular strategy, move, item, etc. will pretty much result in the game throwing it’s hands up in frustration, and allowing the player to do as they please. It is great to see a game which actually penalizes the player if they follow this method, it’s thought provoking rather than mind-numbing.
One innovation which really helps in combat is the ability slow down the game to a crawl, a pseudo-pause feature which allows you to plan out your attack. This make the game play feel much more like a strategy game, and less like a top-down run-and-gun with some slightly dodgy controls. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a creative use of a bullet-time mechanic, and considering how overdone bullet-time mechanics tend to be in video games, that’s definitely a good thing.
It’s a shame that I couldn’t play too much of this game. I like the concept, and I did like the bits of the game that I was able to play through. With a patch, and some minor refinements to the control layout, this could easily become an instant classic.
So, to sum things up, We Are the Dwarves is a very clever strategy game which has some great visuals and character designs. The gameplay is fun, with some impressive innovations throw in to ensure that you’re using your brain and planning ahead. Despite the less than ideal controls and the killer crashes, the game was more than enjoyable and more than justfies its £10.99 ($14.99) price-tag.
- Game is loads of fun, even in short bursts.
- It looks good, even on low settings.
- Fast-paced, strategic gameplay really does keep you on your toes like very few games do these days.
- Game has tendencies to crash.
- Your dwarf has the durability of a soiled paper bag.
- There’s literally nothing more for me to nitpick at. I just wanted there to be a third bullet here for the sake of symmetry.