Game adaptations of movies and books tend to be hit or miss when it comes to quality. The latest game to take inspiration from literature is called The Dwarves, published by THQ Nordic. This version is based on the bestselling novel of the same name, written by Markus Heitz. Dwarves are some of the most charming and loveable characters in the fantasy genre. The Dwarves is a tactical RPG with a large focus on story, but are these two elements enough to make a memorable game?
Throughout the story you play as Tungdil, among other dwarves, as they venture across the land of Girdlegard. Traveling across the land plays out on a map where the player can choose which branching path to take. After almost every stop, the games’ narrator will inform us exactly where we are and what we can do. The narrator has an amazing voice and I never grew tired of hearing her explain every situation. Many times there are choices to make, each with important consequences. You’ve stumbled upon an abandoned camp, should you claim it as your own or hide nearby and scope it out? More often than you would expect, the wrong choice will lead to death. Thankfully you can save your game while traveling through the map. When you aren’t making choices like these you can visit merchants and taverns, other times story cut scenes will unfold or you will take control of the player to explore a small area. These gameplay moments are my favorite in the game, it is a real shame that the combat isn’t handled with as much care.
Fighting battles in The Dwarves requires quick transitions between characters and a lot of management from the player. When thrust into battle, your character will automatically attack enemies with their regular attack, typically a melee weapon like a sword or axe. Every character has a few special attacks they can use, provided they have enough attack points. Attack points regenerate over time, this means that you will spend most of the battle switching to a new character, using their special moves and then repeating this process with the next character. Combat was very dull for me, despite there being dozens of enemies on screen at times. The game would slow down and things just didn’t run as smoothly as I hoped. I would have greatly preferred either turn based combat or just real time control of all attacks. Instead the combat is caught in limbo and it was not as intuitive or polished as it should have been. Your characters will level up and grow stronger, and special items you have can be equipped before combat begins.
The presentation in The Dwarves is a real mixed bag. The story telling is amazing and the art style is a nice blend of cartoon but somewhat realistic. I enjoyed many of the settings, both indoor and outdoor as well. I have a major problem with the loading times, they take a very long time…even when restarting a level. The cut scenes in between levels are animated nicely and the music and sound effects are of great quality also. There were also many times when I noticed slowdown especially with a lot of enemies on screen. The Dwarves would really benefit from a patch to stabilize the framerate and speed up those load times. The game is priced at $39.99 and is available digitally and on disc in retail stores. I can see players getting a few playthroughs out of the game and going different paths, along with different story choices.
For all the time I spent enjoying the Dwarves, there was equal amounts of frustration, boredom and disappointment. The story was gripping, making every choice seem important and carry real consequences. When I explored with just Tungdil I was able to take my time and really let the world sink in. Sadly, when it was time to fight, the game just made things more complicated than necessary. I am not a fan of pausing in the middle of battle or switching between characters just to spam the same special moves. When I won battles I never felt satisfied and when I continued to lose I just got annoyed. I would highly suggest those considering buying The Dwarves to do their research and decide if this game is the right fit for you.