The epic fantasy saga that is The Dwarves has been turned into a videogame. Does it live up to the popularity of the original book?
We’ve had glimpses of The Dwarves before we started our review. We met with developer KING Art during 2015’s Gamescom convention, when the game was first revealed and shown off to the press. Some early in-game footage was shown, but the game wasn’t playable to us. This summer, we got to see the game again – and while we didn’t get to go hands-on, we did see more of the game in action. The impression we were left with was a sort of Diablo meets the high fantasy world of Lord of the Rings (and of course the original novel by Markus Heitz).
Now that we were finally able to play with the game extensively, our experience is a little different. While still an action RPG at heart, the action doesn’t feel nearly as refined as Blizzard’s original benchmark for the genre. This holds true from both a technical standpoint and a gameplay one, and luckily it feels like both can be fixed to a large degree.
From a technical point of view, the game suffers from framerate issues, screen tearing and the occasional crash – things that can probably be fixed and indicate that The Dwarves could have used a few more weeks of development. That would have pushed the game past the holiday release frame, but we feel it would have been worth it – for now it’s a bit of an unpolished gem. The Xbox One version seemed more stable and error-free, most likely because it doesn’t have to account for all the different PC configurations that gamers have.
Gameplay-wise, The Dwarves suffers a little from uneven pacing/difficulty spikes and frustrating restarts due to a severely lacking AI model. Again, things that could have been fixed. Without those fixes, what tends to happen a lot is that your party member gets stuck in a battle and loses – causing the game to end and forcing you to start over. Your only alternative is to constantly switch between characters to try and keep them alive, because leaving them to their own devices (or: under AI control) is a recipe for failure.
It’s a shame because when The Dwarves works, it works really well. Battling it out with your Dwarves is fun, and the gameworld is rich and beautifully realized – something that’s easy to appreciate even if you’re not familiar with the source material. The story and game world are the best developed aspects of the game and will definitely stand the test of time – let’s hope the issues that stop us from fully enjoying them will be resolved soon. For now, The Dwarves stumbles and falls too often and doesn’t realize its full potential. Its score could have easily been a full point higher or more…