Dwarfs!? Review

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Dwarfs!? Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Developer: Power of Two

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: 1.7 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, DirectX 9, 250 MB HD space, Windows XP SP2 or more recent operating system

You've been named the unfortunate overseer for a new dwarf base. With limited resources to train warriors, it's up to you to try and protect the growing hordes of dwarfs tunneling for treasure through the deeps. Mineral deposits and treasure caves abound, but there are plenty of dangerous caverns filled with water, lava and evil beasts waiting to exterminate your colony. Disaster is assured – how long can you delay the inevitable?

Kyle Ackerman

Feel like exploring the vast underworld with a horde of dwarf miners, but don't have the energy or spare brainpower to take on Dwarf Fortress? Dwarfs!? is a far more arcade-style game. I spent my time desperately trying to keep hundreds of dwarfs from mining their way to their own destruction, placing impenetrable rock between them and lava flows, walling off tunnels to underground lakes and firing defenders from a cannon to face spiders and goblin shamen. It's frantic fun, but the sort of hopeless endeavor that seems perfectly suited to an old-school arcade cabinet. I can see a much younger version of myself pumping quarters into a machine in a smokey arcade just to keep the dwarf colony alive.

More Sure of Itself Than Dwarfs?!

Dwarfs!? is simple. You begin with a dwarf stronghold filled with ale. That ale provides a constant stream of newly recruited diggers that wander the bowels of the earth on a random walk (random dig?). As they tunnel, they unearth mineral deposits and caverns. While caverns might be empty or even contain treasure, they can also hold all manner of hazards. Some are filled with lava or water that, when discovered, begin to fill hallways. It needs to be blocked before it burns or drowns all dwarfs, or even the base itself. Others are filled with deadly monsters that love nothing more than slaughtering dwarfs.

As the overseer, you have limited control. It's possible to encourage dwarfs to take different paths, but micromanagement costs gold, and that's in short supply. You can train warriors, make rock impenetrable, and build walls to block off corridors. It's even possible to fire dwarf warriors out of cannons to land them closer to the action. Dwarfs!? controls difficulty by limiting access to gold. All those actions cost gold. On the easiest difficulty levels, action are so cheap I could do anything I wanted, quarantining caves full of lava and building nearly endless towers. On the hardest levels, I was frantically nudging the occasional digger, wishing I could train another warrior or two and hoping no one would go near the massive, underground lava lakes.

Protect Them, Despite Themselves

There are a few play variations, ranging from a kind of tower-defense to specific challenges, but Dwarfs!? is fundamentally an effort to survive as long as possible, scoring as highly as possible on whatever difficulty level you've chosen. For the first few moments, Dwarfs!? seemed overwhelming and confusing, but it quickly resolved into a simple sort of sense. For a few hours thereafter, Dwarfs!? was a clever challenge. I continued to ramp up the difficulty, building bigger colonies with fewer resources for higher scores. Then Dwarfs!? became a victim of its own simplicity. There were few enough things for me to do, so after a few hours, I'd done them all, and was done with Dwarfs!?.

For $10, Dwarfs!? is a decent value, and it's an entertaining-enough, rather elegantly simple game. It's easy to learn and satisfying to play for a bit but then becomes easy enough to put down.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on May 23, 2011 8:51 AM.

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