Dwarves are typically supporting characters in fantasy RPGs. Robust allies or comic relief, they’ve rarely been their chance to shine in the spotlight. Until now that is, as The Dwaves from KING Art Games sees them star in an action RPG all of their own. Based on the popular fantasy book series this should presumably involve an engrossing story, tactical battles and the chance to kill orcs. LOTS of orcs.
However, main character Tungdil isn’t your typical dwarf. Having been raised by humans he’s a bit more restrained and polite than you’d expect – although you’ll encounter plenty of more traditional dwarf companions as you embark upon your quest. Although the fantasy setting of The Dwarves is fairly traditional, the story is definitely a cut above average. Which isn’t too surprising once you realise it’s a faithful adaption of a popular series of novels from author Markus Heitz. The plot is definitely the strongest element of the game, which is important as the RPG elements are a bit weaker.
The core part of the gameplay are the battles with interludes at certain locations to either progress the story, or simply as a chance to rest and explore. You can talk to NPCs and even make moral changes that can sometimes have long-term effects, but it is generally fairly limited. Customisation is also a bit basic, with the only option to equip one item per character. Still, it makes a pleasant change from the larger and more complex RPGs that dominate the genre, and means it’s fairly easy to get into.
Of course it’s the battles that are the real backbone of The Dwarves, and admittedly they are quite good fun. Only four characters can be involved in any one fight (even though you’ll ultimately have more than ten in your party) and you can switch between them at will, although they will get stuck in by themselves. However given how most encounters see you significantly overwhelmed you’ll have to make intelligent use of them and their various special abilities. Luckily you can pause at any time and issue commands, which becomes essential as some of the battles can become extremely chaotic and confusing. However I did find the constant crowd control scenarios a bit tiresome after a while and the constant pausing and issuing of commands breaks up the flow.
The graphics don’t help too much either, as even with the raised third-person perspective it can become quite muddled. While the cutscenes look great, the actual in-game graphics are not particularly impressive for a PS4 title and there are occasional performance issues. The audio is fantastic however, with some quality voice acting and great orchestral music (although some heavy metal makes an enjoyable cameo too).
In terms of game length though you’re only looking at around 15 hours worth, and that’s including all the optional side-quests. Personally I’m quite happy with that, although many RPG aficionados might feel it’s too short. It does fit with the overall feeling of accessibility though, and many might enjoy an RPG that’s easier to get into and doesn’t suck up all your spare time. The game always feels enjoyable without too much filler such as fetch quests and grinding up levels.
The Dwarves was originally a Kickstarter project (raising over $300,000) and the many backers can be justifiably happy with the end product. It does sometimes feel a bit unpolished and the RPG aspects are a little watered down, but it’s a fun experience while it lasts. Plus they’ll no doubt be thrilled to see themselves featured in the end credits, as one of numerous named enemies that charge past the screen!
Like its stocky protagonists, The Dwarves is an adventure that’s a bit shorter than usual but full of character. It’s tough but not unduly complicated, not much to look at and a bit rough around the edges. But if you can look past its flaws there’s a solid story will plenty of battles to enjoy.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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