The Dwarves – Review

Tungdil is just your average dwarf. He likes ale, food, and crafting things on an anvil, but everything changes when he’s sent out on a quest to a distant dwarven kingdom.

Soon he’s traversing Girdlegard, bumping into bandits with a taste for gold, chatting to traders with healthy stocks and supplies, and stumbling upon a malicious plot that threatens to destabilise the natural order of the world.

Growing up around humans, Tungdil knows very little about his dwarven bretheren, but comes to understand their culture through the expertly written words of Markus Heitz, author of the world-famous The Dwarves fantasy novel series. Unsurprisingly, this King Art adventure is based on the first 756 page epic in a four part saga.

Originally starting life as a Kickstarter, The Dwarves was funded back in October last year and has been gradually building momentum as a must-watch RPGs ever since.

 

Reminiscant of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery series, players will traverse a large map of the world in turn-based fashion in order to further the story and progress to their next destination. The interesting thing, however, is that the route you take is entirely optional. Take the long way round or cut straight through, but either way, the journey is likely to be very different with side-quests, random events, and other encounters often illustrated through cut-scenes and multi-choice narrative pop-ups.

You can also explore certain areas in typical RPG fashion by examining scenery, looting bodies, solving puzzles, reading lore books, and performing certain actions which change the course of the story in various different ways.

It’s important to be stocked up on rations and get the appropriate amount of rest, however, as this can have battle implications and generally fatigue your character. By having rations, you can also heal any existing injuries you’ve sustained in battle.

The good news is that the ambition is clear for all to see. The world has been faithfully created in visual form, the voice acting is well suited to the characters, and the exploration through narrative direction and point & click discovery is extremely compelling.

But sadly the game seems to have been rushed out into the wild before it was ready. With bugs and glitches galore, the combat also ends up being the source of much frustration due to horrific difficulty imbalances and general mismanagement.

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On the surface, the combat concept seems genuis. In addition to fighting hundreds of enemies simultaneously, the action is totally dynamic in that you can use the environment to your advantage as much as the weapons in your hand. You can also gather items like grenades to split apart mobs, and cause structures to crash down and crush your enemies.

The opening mission depicts a huge confrontation out on a large bridge with dwarves fighting against swarms of orcs. Your character has a charge attack which can be used to plough through the hordes, and even send some of them tumbling over the sides to their death.

But you’ll need to be careful as enemies also have a reactive AI, meaning they’ll work together to surround you, and generally making life difficult by isolating you from your team mates. Most amazingly, however, is that despite the number of enemies on screen, the game never seems to struggle or slow down. Which makes everything feel suitably epic, as well as incredibly impressive.

While all this sounds ridiculously good fun – it certainly can be – the difficulty soon comes along to spoil the party. And not in a ‘Git Gud’ sense, rather ‘this is flawed, plz fix.’ kind of way.

I mean, I get that it’s authentic. You’re a couple of dwarves fighting overwhelming numbers, you should be getting massacred. But even on easiest difficulty setting, your beards are getting plucked and pulled far harder than they should be.

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In one particular battle, I actually had to use an in-game glitch to see me through. I was able to spam one of Bondil’s special attacks – which lets him stab enemies multiple times with his blades – and keep doing this even when his powers were drained. This turned out to be incredibly fortuitous because my party of three was continuously being overrun by the unrelenting orc forces. The amount of damage the orcs were both taking and delivering in comparison to the damage my party was dishing out was completely imbalanced and ridiculous. In some cases, I had to wait for one orc to go down in five or six hits while getting hounded by six others that had gathered around me.

I had no real way to defend myself as you can only target one enemy at a time – unless you’re using a special attack – and the base attacks feel quite ineffectual. I also couldn’t use my special attacks because I had to build them up while fighting, giving them time to recharge.

It also didn’t help that the conditions for that particular battle weren’t triggering as intended. It clearly states that at least one party member has to remain standing by the end, yet the battle was ending when only one of my three party members had fallen unconscious.

I kept powering through, though, following in-game hints and tips in the battle as the game pointed them out to me. But to make matters worse, once I’d cleared a set number of orcs, I then had to escort all three of my characters to an objective marker in another room so they could escape. At this point, I was pretty convinced I wouldn’t make it. I’d failed this particular battle at least ten times due to some of the reasons mentioned above and had basically scraped the bottom of the barrel and cheated to survive to this point. Dying here would restart the whole thing over and I was hanging in there by the skin of my teeth.

But then, unexpectedly, the sea of orcs blocking my path suddenly ran in the opposite direction leaving the way completely clear for me. There was absolutely no logical – or specified – reason for them to do this, although I like to think one of them had the Hot UK Deals app on his phone and got a notification about an unmissable Black Friday TV deal. Either way, I’d never been so thankful to see a game bork itself.

That is, until I headed into the next battle which was ten times worse and even more unfair.

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In combat, you can switch between other characters at any point and also pause the battle to review your tactics. The thing is, with your time in combat mostly being taken up waiting for special abilities to recharge, there’s not much you can do except wait or run. And running proves to be easier said than done. You’ll either have to charge through foes to create a path, or use a big blast that pushes everyone back to create a brief window of opportunity. Even then, the hordes seem stuck to you like glue so you’ll still find yourself wading through treacle in order to create some distance or get one of your allies to help you.

And all the minor glitches start to add up making things even more difficult and frustrating. Sometimes your characters randomly start below par on health, compared to other times when they start at full. That would be fine if you could access your inventory during battle to pop a potion, but for some reason the game has a bizarre, un-user friendly system prior to every conflict which means each character can only take one thing with them. And usually, you’ll have to decide between a talisman which offers you several timed buffs, or one measly healing potion that you’ll find yourself popping within moments because enemies are bludgeoning you black and blue. Ideally, you’d want both.

Other stats also seem to randomly change, like your relationships with other characters and XP you’ve earned. And sometimes, your action icons will randomly disappear from the UI when you’re in the middle of the fight. Unless you’re familiar with everyone’s button mapping – in the heat of the moment – this isn’t especially helpful.

As if that wasn’t enough, the game randomly hard-crashed and locked up on me at least three times. So badly, in fact, that I struggled to close the app through Windows 10 just so I could re-open it.

I can’t attest to any problems on the console version of the game, but based on my experience with the PC build, King Art have a lot of work to do.

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Here’s the sad facts. The Dwarves on PC is a mess right now, and it’s such a shame that King Art have decided to launch the game in this state because the core is good fun. It’s also a huge surprise because the game has been in Beta for quite some time, yet the build I’ve been supplied is just riddled with issues. Blatant issues that you wouldn’t be able to miss or ignore.

The Dwarves immediately faces the huge problem – beyond the glitches and bugs – of creating an unnatural difficulty spike far too early in the game that would give Dark Souls nightmares. And doing so without affording players an appropriate amount of preparation or providing them any lessons to learn from apart from ‘this game needs a patch’.

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As much as I may want to, I cannot award The Dwarves a higher grade in this state. I know most of these issues can be fixed in a patch or two, and I’ll definitely revisit the review once those have been implemented. The reality though is that this is very easily an 8/10 game currently being dragged down by far too many technical imperfections to ignore.

It has a very compelling story, there’s some great ideas in here, and it’s beardiful to look at and listen to, but the PC build, at least, needs a lot of work before it can reach its full potential.

 

Pros
+ The story is really enjoyable and characters an interesting bunch
+ Nice RPG feel to some of the mechanics and the open-endedness of the journey offers replayability.
+ Epic battles with numerous forces is mostly smooth and can be satisfying

Cons
– Game is absolutely riddled with bugs and glitches
– Numerous hard-crashes and lock ups
– Bizarre pre-battle system that only allows for one object per character per fight
– Difficulty spikes are unnecessarily savage


The Dwarves

6.5 out of 10

Platform review on :- PC

Based on Patch 1.1.1.55

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,

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