If you happen to be a dwarf, you’re all too aware of the dangers of digging too deep. Sure, deeper earth may hold greater treasure- but it certainly holds greater dangers. It’s that risk versus reward system that is the push behind the Paradox Entertainment published A Game of Dwarves. Having spent hours searching for ores and building homes with a preview build of the game, here are a few things to get excited about.
Digging for resources may cause some comparisons to Minecraft, but the title actually draws a lot of inspiration from nineties-era sim games, and from the Dungeon Keeper series in particular. Instead of controlling one particular avatar who manages to shape the world through the force of their own will, players take the on the role of a manager who sends out troops, directs construction, administers food crops, controls population, and- most importantly- tells the dwarves where to dig. The game has a sort of “hands-off” ethos when dealing with dwarves that keeps it from getting bogged down into micro-managing the little guys, and it’s a smart move as larger colonies would become unruly if players had to direct individuals as opposed to guiding them as groups.
Of course, digging out new underground empires isn’t without its surprises, as players will also run into chambers that can be filled with monsters, treasures, potential allies/enemies or nothing at all. Aside from the warrior class that can fight off monsters, players will also be given a plethora of traps to set in anticipation of monsters. I didn’t find myself using the traps too often, and it was clearly towards my detriment as having multiple, high-level warriors whose slots could be filled by dwarves of other classes becomes a burden; it’s a well-balanced system.
Resources are of great importance, and come not only from the veins of ore littered around the word but from keeping a garden stocked with trees, bushes, and trees that grow harvestable wood (a goofy contrivance, but considering that underground trees don’t really exist, a necessary one). What’s really interesting about the game is what one does with these resources. Yes, they are used to build ladders and sold to purchase more dwarves, but they also open up doors to a level of minutiae that I wasn’t expecting.
While the tension of digging and finding treasure is easily the main conceit, I found that almost as equally as compelling was interior decorating. The tone of A Game of Dwarves is rather light, with rotund, bright dwarves roaming around in a rotund, bright world. Aside from just digging it up though, the game gives players a variety of items they can use to embellish dwarven dwellings. It may sound silly, but one of the reasons I binged seven hours on the game within two days was due to how deep I was going with decorating my home, creating symmetrical levels, and maximizing space. The game seems to encourage that thoughtfulness as the pace is rather slow (though the game also includes the ability to change the speed in real-time).
For those looking for more directed play than just building amazing homes, the game contains a campaign mode in addition to the free-play mode. In the former, players are placed in the role of an indolent dwarf prince charged to build his own kingdom and recover lands taken from the dwarves. In addition to setting up goals and sometimes placing time pressure, the campaign contains a helpful tutorial that helps players learn the game’s basics.
The game releases in a month, and though I don’t know as to how far in the development cycle this particular build was pulled from, I can easily say that what I was given has me looking forward to what’s coming to PCs October 23rd.