In recent years there has been a serious gap in games being developed. This gap comes in the form of the middle tier games like Darksiders, Saints Row and The Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning. The Playstation library is rife with AAA games and Indie games. However these middle tier games do not seem to be being made anymore which is unfortunate. It was these games that often had imaginative ideas and clever little spins. Growing up some of my favourite games were middle tier. So when I started playing The Dwarves on PS4 I found myself delighted that middle tier games could be on their way back.
The Dwarves is a real-time strategy game developed by King Arts Game and published by THQ Nordic. The game is based on the book of the same name by Markus Hietz. That follows Tungdil Goldhand on an epic quest to save the realms of men, elfs and dwarves ( very Lord of the Rings). Along the way you will be in massive battles where you are often outnumbered 50 to 1.
The story in The Dwarves seems to faithfully recreate the book on which it is based. I say seems because I have not read the book. Unfortunately, I only have a little knowledge of what happens in the book. That being said the story in the game follows Tungdil Goldhand. A young Blacksmith who is the only dwarf in Ionandar that has not ever seen another dwarf in his life. Raised by a magus called Lot-Ionan he longs to explore the world of Girdlegard and find out where he came from.
When Tungdil is given an errand by Lot-Ionan to deliver a package to a former student, Tungdil begins an epic quest across the realms. Along the way Tungdil meets many companions that help him on his quest to save the land of Girdlegard. It is these companions that are the true stars of The Dwarves story. Each companion has their own unique personality and traits and often add some comedy to the story.
My personal favourites are the dwarf twins Boindil and Boendal. These two dwarves love a good fight against orcs and goblins. Boindil has a blood frenzy in battle while Boendal swings a great axe. Calling orcs little piggies and going around the battlefield going oink. These two are always in a competition to see who can kill the most enemies. They hate it when someone steals one of their kill.
Overall the story in The Dwarves is a fun and exciting quest that rivals lord of the rings, with twists and consequences for your actions. The story can be completed in 15 – 20 hours depending on the difficulty setting.
The gameplay in The Dwarves consists of massive battles. In these battles your heroes literally get swarmed by orcs as you try to complete different tasks in order to complete the encounter. When not in a battle you are either in a world map. Choosing your next steps in the adventure or exploring a town or fortress to discover objects and lore.
The combat in this game is very familiar. If you have experienced a Dragon Age game then you know the combat. Each of your 4 heroes (the maximum allowed in a level) have 3 skills linked to the D-pad and one item taking the reminding slot. As the mission plays out you use these skills to take on the orcs that swarm around you trying to encircle and kill you. You are able to give orders to all your heroes at once by pausing combat and issuing the orders individually. Unfortunately you can not queue more than one order to a hero at a time. If you do not issue orders then the heroes only use the normal attacks. There is no way to set rule such as when surrounded use cleave (which clears enemies from around you).
As you play The Dwarves you have conversations where you chose what to say and what to do. Do you let certain people travel with your party? Do you dispense justice or show mercy? It’s up to you and each choice will affect your adventure. The conversations you have are shown in text and with voice acting. Unfortunately, the text sometimes does not correspond with what is said and there are a few spelling mistakes. Nothing major just something like ” I think you for or help” instead of ” I thank you for your help”.
The only problems I found with the gameplay was sometimes while in a fight the game would slow to a stop. This only happened in the instances when there were many orcs onscreen. The pauses never last more than a few seconds but it breaks the immersion of the game. Also the load times in the game seem to be a little long (not bloodborne long). This result in 20 – 30 seconds on a boring loading screen whenever you start a level or die.
Graphics & Sound
The graphics in The Dwarves are by no means AAA graphics. The animations, world and characters all look good but lack a certain polish. However the more enemies and characters have on-screen the better the graphics seem. I have experienced other games losing their graphical fidelity when more enemies appear on-screen. The Dwarves manages to keep the same graphical fidelity through my entire gameplay.
One truly impressive part of The Dwarves is the voice acting. All the characters in the game are perfectly voiced and feel real. Nothing feels forced monotone or stale. The best acting comes from the soothing voice of the female narrator that reads all the none dialogue details to you like an audio book. It truly is remarkable.
The soundtrack is also impressive. The music reminds me of the orchestra playing during the initial reveal of the latest God of War at Sony’s press conference. It’s the type of music you find in epic quest movie full of fantasy and vikings. It captures the tone of your adventure perfectly.
The controls in The Dwarves are extremely simple. You zoom in and out with L2 or R2 and change character if L1 or R1. The heroes skills and mapped to the D-pad and are activated with a simple push of X. You pause combat with square and press circle to abort a command. The simplicity of the control means that no matter how frantic the battles get, it’s always easy to get your heroes to act how you intend.
The difficult in The Dwarves can become quite difficult. I was unable to complete the game on hard while still enjoying the game. This is due to the fact the only way to complete some of the levels was to pause after every command was executed. This meant I did not get to experience the full effect of the battles so I lowered the difficulty to Medium. Even on medium there where a couple of missions that seemed unreasonably hard. In these missions I had to use one heroes ability to turn into an enemy to stop getting attacked in order to complete the missions. Without this ability I probably would not have completed the game.
I personally do think I will be replaying The Dwarves. There are a few trophies that you have to make different decisions, in order to obtain them all you need more than one play through. I however got around this by a few key save points. So I do not have much need to replay the game. I do not think there is need to replay the game as the end is always going to play out the same way. With only a few changes happening in the overall story beats, there was not much need to replay the game especially if you have a backlog.