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A Game of Dwarves Review

Andy Chalk | 23 Oct 2012 13:00
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They behave with a similar level of sharpness in other ways as well. Food and wood are both harvested from your underground garden, but you can't assign workers to any particular crop and they're just as likely to cut a vast and entirely unnecessary hoard of lumber as they are to harvest the food your colony needs to avoid starvation. Occasional bits of micromanagement, like placing a fruit tree directly in front of a worker to impress upon him the need to pick the damned thing, do appear necessary to compensate for clunky AI.

Dwarves are recruited through the "spawning pool," a magical conduit between your new colony and the last great Dwarven city of Hemfort. Each new dwarf begins as a "dwarfling" and can at any time be assigned a particular class, like digger, worker, warrior or scholar. Dwarflings in their unassigned state are a drain on the colony, eating, sleeping and contributing nothing, but unlike their more mature brethren, they gain experience simply by existing. That effortless growth means that bringing in dwarflings and suffering their laziness can give them a big head start with whatever role they're ultimately assigned; just make sure they don't eat you out of house and home first.

It's easy to fall prey to that and other sorts of unpleasantness, because A Game of Dwarves doesn't do a whole lot to let you know when bad news arrives. Stats like dwarf population, resources and food supply are tracked in a bar across the top of the screen and if you don't keep a sharp eye on the numbers or fail to notice when they're going the wrong way - say, when the food supply is ticking down instead of up - then your first indicator that something is amiss could very well be when your dwarves start dropping dead- which is itself a fairly easy thing to miss. Experience is the best teacher and it's safe to assume that you'll learn to pay attention after a famine or two, but it's also safe to assume that you'll suffer those famines in the early going.

Maps are randomly generated, so each new delve will present new challenges and opportunities, but one thing remains constant, as it has for dwarves throughout history: the deeper they dig, the greater the likelihood that they'll run into trouble. And of course, you'll be expected to seek out trouble on your own as you venture out into the world and attempt to reclaim the fallen kingdom of the Dwarves. But trouble can be frustrating because each campaign has only a single save-game slot, so if you make a bad move and then save, you may be left with no option but to start over.

A Game of Dwarves is a niche title that does nothing to advance the genre or the perception of dwarves as anything but boozy, weaponized midgets. But its middle-of-the-road blend of depth and accessibility make it the sort of "strategy-lite" game that could appeal to players who want a little more cerebral stimulation from their electronic entertainment but can't be bothered to figure out Europa Universalis.

Bottom Line: The AI can be a bit clunky and its reluctance to bring important developments to your attention can be annoying, but if you're out for some simple strategy fun that won't bury you in arcane rules (or you just dig the idea of building your own glorious underground kingdom), A Game of Dwarves should suit nicely.

Recommendation: It's hard to go too wrong for the price but even so, this one is likely only going to make strategy fans very happy.

Game: A Game of Dwarves
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: Zeal Game Studio
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platform(s): PC
Available from: Amazon(US)

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