Release Date: February 26, 2016
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Review Platform: PC
I’ve discussed previously how I believe that indie developers are a fantastic part of the video game industry. They take risks that others don’t, or won’t, and can be brilliantly creative at times, producing some incredible content. I still very much stand by that sentiment. However, We Are The Dwarves is, in my opinion, a clear demonstration of the opposite.
The Down and Dirty
A trio of intrepid but vertically disadvantaged explorers are on a mission to find a new Dwarven Star. These stars produce tremendous amounts of power, providing the necessary energy to support whole civilizations. Unfortunately, the stars have been growing weaker, so weak that they are beginning to threaten the continued existence of the dwarves and their cities. With only darkness ahead of them, three dwarves have been sent into the distant and undiscovered depths of space where together they must locate a new, life-giving star.
As these things typically go, the dwarven space ship crashes, scattered and broken. The three crew members now find themselves amidst an alien landscape full of swamps and populated by all manner of strange creatures. Regardless, the mission must continue.
The Nitty Gritty
We Are The Dwarves tries to be in multiple genres at once, drawing elements from each, but instead succeeds only at being in none of them very well at all. It wants to be a tactical action game and dungeon crawler with RPG elements like that of Torchlight, but alas, it’s not even in the same universe (pun intended). The end result is a frustrating, unenjoyable mess.
I can quickly boil this review down into one simple, salient point: We Are The Dwarves isn’t fun. There’s no better way to say it, and no avoiding it.
The campaign begins with an in-game tutorial starring Forcer, the first of the stocky triumvirate. Forcer carries around a large, dwarven blunderbuss that kicks like a mule. It projects enough force to knock enemies off nearby cliffs, but that same recoil can propel Forcer off ledges in the opposite direction. His reload time is painfully slow, which wouldn’t be so crippling if it weren’t for the relatively short range his shotgun can engage from. Enemies almost always trigger in groups and close quickly, eliminating Forcer’s usefulness. But wait! There are also enemies who can chuck spears like a seasoned Olympian, making them able to hit Forcer from far beyond his own range. To add insult to injury (or death, in this case) Forcer and his buddies are incredibly slow and squishy; a single mistake can prove excessively costly.
During this first stage and tutorial, I died somewhere between 20 and 30 times. I had to walk away before I damaged my keyboard or stoked my temper any further on more than a few occasions.
After taking an absurd amount of time completing the tutorial, I got to move onto the melee character, Smashfist. He fares slightly better as his abilities tend towards crowd management. His whirlwind attack does moderately against groups, but the is animation poor, making the move look like a badly coordinated fight scene from a 1960’s Batman film. Smashfist also has a charge attack, a “push” ability that forces enemies backwards, a stun attack and two useless, passive forms that increase either damage or defense.
While playing Smashfist’s introductory stage, there was some back and forth between the dwarves via some strange, floating communication device. The dialog is uninteresting, badly translated and does nothing to give the player a sense of investment, immersion or curiosity about what might happen next. In fact, the entire plot itself is forgettable and should never have made it off paper.
After another tiresome slog through the Swamps of Frustration, I got to the third and final dwarf, Shadow. This guy can teleport and uses a bow to dispatch enemies quickly and quietly from a distance, specializing in stealth—surprise, surprise.
When using all three dwarves together, the game does improve, but not nearly enough to outweigh or erase its earlier shortcomings.
There’s no loot to speak of, only a paltry selection of resources that allow the player to make armor upgrades or repairs. Talent upgrades have little effect and the “tactical pause” dynamic that was so highly-touted by developer Whale Rock Games is not worth mentioning at all. Combat sequences are repetitive and bland. And, on the odd occasion when the completely asinine skill curve of We Are The Dwarves seems to let off momentarily, the game remains plain and indistinct.
Perhaps the only good thing I can mention about We Are The Dwarves is the concept, which, unfortunately, was an embarrassingly bad imitation of what it could’ve been.
The Bottom Line
We Are The Dwarves is one of the worst games I’ve played in a while. It’s maddeningly difficult most of the time, but can spontaneously become playable, without any option to change the difficulty settings. Basic options like the ability to modify key bindings are also missing. Combat and gameplay, outside of being woefully unforgiving, are boring, unoriginal and no fun. I have never spent so much time in the tutorial of a game in my life. The plot—what plot?
I cannot rightly recommend this game to anyone, even at its modest price of $14.99 ($13.49 during the first week).