STAFF REVIEW of Dwarves, The (Xbox One)


Friday, December 2, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Dwarves, The Box art Action RPG games, if done right, can provide countless hours of joy and entertainment. THQ Nordic has tossed its hat into this ring with their latest attempt called The Dwarves. Priced at just under $40 plus tax, The Dwarves walks a fine line between overpriced budget beater and something that feels like it needs a bit more time to iron out the kinks and make the game better. I thought to myself, "Oh we got Dwarves, Elves, and Orcs, so this should be at least decent given all the quality source material to use as inspiration." And then I played the game and realized that sometimes, even with a multi-billion dollar, award winning blueprint to inspire you, like the Dwarves themselves, that THQ Nordic struggled to deliver as I'd hoped. Let me explain.

Dwarves starts out as a classic Orc versus Dwarf battle for passage through the gates of Girdlegard. It's during this first battle that you come to grips with the game's control, and I'm sorry to say it isn't that impressive. On the bottom left of the screen you will see not only your health, but your power meter as well. This is the meter which you draw upon to activate your abilities. You'll learn quickly since there really is no tutorial that your X button will become your best friend. I almost married mine. The X button allows you to pause the game to input your commands, so right away you can see some real time strategy elements playing throughout the game. Then you have to use the D-pad to select your ability and it's here that you'll notice a required number of points that your skill deducts from your power meter. But the simplicity continues.


For example, your standard command input will go as follows. You use the Left Stick to navigate to your enemy, then when you are up close you press X to pause the time, then select which ability you want to use on the D-pad. You'll then press the A button to accept your command choice and press X to resume time in the game and watch your actions unfold. The B button acts as your cancel button should you need it, but one thing to consider is that friendly fire is on. So when you hit your leap ability to jump deep into the nest of Orcs, just remember should any fellow allies be within your landing, you will cause damage to them as well. There's no option for turning this off but thankfully your health can naturally regenerate over time, so long as you're not getting hit. The control scheme doesn't have an attack button because the Dwarves will automatically attack their enemies if they are within range, which is disorienting considering you almost have to stand still if you wish to deal any damage at all to your opponents.

With your regular melee attacks dealing only so much damage, Dwarves focuses on your ability to manage your power meter through your use of your abilities. These abilities can consist of a mighty swing of the Axe that clears the line of foes in front of you by knocking them back, or jumping into the fray by landing with a thud that causes damage to everyone in the surrounding area and knocks them down as well. These abilities all take a certain amount of power from your meter and thankfully you can recharge the meter by causing damage, killing an opponent, or just simply wait while it charges back up. When you start to gather your party together you can also use the Left and Right Bumpers to switch in between your other members and cue up any abilities they may have. Your Right Trigger and Stick control the camera and zoom of the game, but that's something I'll touch on here in a moment.


Now that you’re up to speed on the control mechanics, I have to say that it's unfortunate that the plot leaves a lot to be desired. The Alfar, who are essentially evil Elves, have teamed up with the Orcs and they forcibly assault the gates of Girdlegard, and after ages and ages of the door holding fast, it's opened. Now the Orc armies rage war over the various lands and their inhabitants. You play the role of Tungdil, who is a Dwarf but was raised up by humans. During this upbringing you were taught how to read and write, so even though you may be married to a forge, Tungdil loves to learn about everything. Early on you are sent out on a quest and throughout your journeys you come into contact with around 50 distinct characters. Over time you can build up your own team of up to 12 companions which will make fighting the ceaseless hordes of Orcs that much easier, however, being that this is based off the series of books by a German author named Markus Heitz, you get the sensation that the story seems rather drawn out.

The reason I say this is because when you play The Dwarves, you will easily notice how colossal the map truly is. All the areas to explore and places to travel will open up their secrets over time but you'll spend most of the time moving from point to point making choices. This is why I STRONGLY recommend you save a LOT. Sometimes choices you make may or may not have unintended consequences. Saving also helps should you encounter a battle you can't seem to pass and you need to reload and chose a different path choice. The game does Auto Save, however, not often enough and if you're not careful you could lose a lot of progress.


Now even though the map may be enormous, the visual representation of the lands and the characters themselves are done surprisingly well. That is until you decide to move the camera or the characters and the screen will start to tear. What really struck me by surprise was how the loading screens in the beginning few stages experienced a screen tear that had a yellow streak going from the top right corner to the bottom left corner (the loading screen is also rather lengthy I may add). Aside from the numerous screen tears, when the game switches into a cutscene you see some wonderfully detailed figures, however, the graphics engine can't handle it and it starts to almost look like stop motion animation than smooth and textured CG. I found in terms of the audio that I was pleasantly surprised with the music as the soundtrack seemed to catch my ear then hold my attention throughout the game itself. I also found myself enjoying the voice acting and while there were moments that felt overplayed, the overall voice acting was a solid win for this game.

Having devoted lots of hours into this game I can say that The Dwarves provides a lot of content, but not a lot of meaningful content. It is definitely a game that will drain hours upon hours of your life away, but I felt that the more I played it, the less I actually wanted to. The story never fully grasped me. When I think about it, I spent about 70% of my time moving between points on a map, about 20% of my time watching loading screens, 8% of the time exploring and fighting, and about 2% of the time I was watching cutscenes. At the end of the day I wish The Dwarves would have improved the story, fixed some of the visual mishaps, and improved the loading issues, because I was hoping I could score this higher, but given some of the hiccups with the game I think you can find better gaming out there for the price of this one. Only die-hard fans of the genre need apply.




Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10

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