Dwarfs is quite a unique game. It released last week on Steam and was Lets Played immediately by two very well-known Lets Players (Yogscast and Total Biscuit), so it gained quite a bit of attention. Personally, I noticed someone mentioning it on Reddit before it released and wasn’t sure until I saw it being played.
It turns out it’s a strategy game, but more in the vein of Lemmings than anything else. You have dwarves who will, if left to their own devices, dig out from your town centre (if you like) at random. Out there, in your underground, undiscovered surroundings, you’ll find caves – you can see them before you get to them, but you can’t see what is in them. These caves can contain anything from gold to monsters, with lava and water in between. They could also be empty. The idea of the game is to explore as much of the environment as you can, which makes the random digging being done by your dwarves quite useful.[drop]However, if bearded diggers happen upon a cave filled with water or lava you must act quickly before it engulfs your entire mine complex. This is soon sorted out with a wall to stop water or a hole to stop lava (as lava will slowly burn through walls). Walls are placed by holding shift and clicking, whilst dynamite is place by pressing W then clicking but must be activated by a dwarf who is willing to sacrifice himself for the cause (read: any dwarf).
You can tell your dwarves where to go by clicking and dragging, which will leave waypoints for dwarves to follow. All dwarves that happen to step on the arrow will follow the waypoint until you remove it with a middle click, which was almost my demise when I unwittingly sent the warrior dwarves who were protecting my base off with a digger dwarf shortly before another digger uncovered a cave of enemies. That isn’t really the style of game Dwarfs is, though – it is much more like Lemmings, where instead of controlling all your dwarves, you should really just intervene when it is necessary, such as when a digger uncovers a dangerous cave, or you’re a little short on gold. If you can stop yourself giving orders, that is (I couldn’t).
The danger isn’t only related to dwarves’ well known fear of liquids, there are also monsters hiding around. As you might expect, the monsters are made up of typical fantasy enemies, such as giant spiders, zombies, skeletons and goblins. They’ve all got boss versions, which, upon discovery, you’d better deal with sharpish as they get angrier and angrier until they begin to rage. When the spider queen rages for example, she begins to jump towards your base, releasing armies of spiders in her wake. Not to mention that even before they rage, they still summon more monsters.
There is a tutorial to help you get used to the mechanics and it’s pretty much an essential, too, as you’ll have no idea what to do if you haven’t found out before jumping into a proper game. When first playing the game I was a little bemused that a game that looked so simple had so many mechanics (water, lava, dwarf control, monsters, bosses, multiple modes, outposts…etc) but, after the tutorial, I felt it was considerably less complicated than I’d thought and easy to get into, provided you play the tutorial. Again, the sense of humour helps you through the dullness that is inevitable with any tutorial, with it being led by a particularly entertaining dwarf itself.[drop2]The sense of humour is evident elsewhere as well, with buildings randomly popping up in your base and in your caves with amusing signs outside (I once had a gate in a cave that was called The Gate of no Return and Candy), whilst the only building you can build yourself, the Outpost, lets you buy warrior dwarves and use a cannon to get them somewhere quickly, which is preposterous and an excellent gameplay mechanic.
Dwarfs is a great little game that will soak up your time if you let it, or it could just take up a tiny amount if that’s what you’d prefer. There are various modes available, such as Arcade (in which you can choose a time limit), campaign (which is a collection of challenges to complete), Endless, Rush and, possibly my favourite, Base Defend; a tower defence variant in which you dig mazes for the waves to go down yourself as well as placing towers (as opposed to creating mazes out of towers in Desktop Tower Defense or having set paths and specific spots to place towers such as in the likes of Savage Moon and Defense Grid: The Awakening).
If you want some amusing light strategy gaming to occupy your time you’d better look into Dwarfs!?. I’ll be playing it long after this week. You can buy the game via Steam for £7.99 (though it’s currently on sale for £7.19), where there’s also a demo for you to try out if my glowing explanation is not enough to convince you. Hell, you could even watch the 30 minute video below (I do spoil you, don’t I?), though it’s regrettably commentary-free as I have the mother of all colds.
- OS: Windows XP SP2, Vista, or Windows 7
- Processor: 1.7+ GHz or better
- Memory: 1 GB
- Graphics: DirectX®9-compatible
- DirectX®: DirectX®9
- Hard Drive: 250 MB
- Sound: DirectX®9-compatible