The Pipeline: Standing With Brothers Alone In The Dwarves | Buzz Blog
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The Pipeline: Standing With Brothers Alone In The Dwarves

THQ Nordic's takes their own stab at an Action/Strategy RPG.


It doesn't matter how many times people watch or read the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, there will always be a slew of imitators who create entertainment that has the look and feel of his universe. One such book was Markus Heitz's The Dwarves, which came out in 2003. The series earned a lot of praise and a nice fanbase for having a colorful cast and hardly ever detracting from the main story's characters to encompass an entire universe. (That's geek-speak for "just talked a lot about dwarves and didn't make it about wizards.") Now, with the help of King Art Games, THQ Nordic takes a stab at turning the series into a video game with The Dwarves, released last week for Steam, PS4 and Xbox One.

I used to be a pretty good game, until I took an arrow to the arm. - THQ NORDIC
  • THQ Nordic
  • I used to be a pretty good game, until I took an arrow to the arm.

The story looks at a band of dwarf characters hailing from Girdlegard, who protect their realm from, well, basically everybody. In this world, it seems almost everyone is against you. You'll play as the character Tungdil, a dwarf who has never seen anyone of his own kind. He has been sent out on a lengthy errand when he runs into a pair of twins who are off on a quest. You'll join up with them as they trek across vast lands, encountering many enemies along the way as you fulfill practically everything from the first book's story. Along the way, you'll be able to customize up to 15 characters, and utilize their skills as a team by heading into battles across the lands, ultimately trying to undo the plague which has made your race feeble and dying at the hands of more powerful foes.

Oh the devious sex toys I'm gonna forge with this. - THQ NORDIC
  • THQ Nordic
  • Oh the devious sex toys I'm gonna forge with this.

The combat system in The Dwarves is very heavy on click-and-point. You'll take charge of a character, and direct them to the enemy you wish to fight, allowing your power and weaponry to do the rest. You'll earn items and skills as you level up and progress that will help you in battle, such has hurling bombs at your enemies, making long dashes through hordes, or jumping into the fray from high up. You'll only truly be able to control one character at a time, but once you set someone on a course of action, you can keystoke over to another person quickly and set them on a new task.

While the leveling system is okay, there's no room to optimize your gear. You're stuck using a single talisman, and are unable to change out items like weapons, magic, armor or trinkets that may aid your character. On the one hand, you could look at this as simplifying gameplay; on the other, you could see it as restrictive. The combat itself handles so stiffly, you'd swear it was done to be obnoxious. You'll find yourself pausing the game frequently to examine the terrain or judge the situation to give out commands to your crew. I don't feel like I have proper control to give my fighters guidance, and even when paused, there's little I can do to fend it off once real time kicks in.

In ancient lore, they say our beards will be threaded like your mother's after she turns 50. - THQ NORDIC
  • THQ Nordic
  • In ancient lore, they say our beards will be threaded like your mother's after she turns 50.

The game does an amazing job of bringing the characters to life with cut-scenes and great voicework. As you proceed through the game, you'll find scenes and conversations that will give you a chuckle and endear the game to you as a player. You'll need that, as you start seeing the frustrations pile up. The combat will start weighing you down, and the game starts to become overburdened with battles that seem more tedious busy-work than fun. At a certain point, I became annoyed with the idea that every single land I entered seemed to have another onslaught of enemies, who just wanted to stop me for arbitrary reasons. There's a fine distinction between RPG battles that help me gain experience and learn my skills, and fights that are just there to prolong what would probably be a much shorter game. The Dwarves definitely falls into the latter category.

Be prepared, you'll be staring at this kind of cluster a lot. - THQ NORDIC
  • THQ Nordic
  • Be prepared, you'll be staring at this kind of cluster a lot.

Your biggest enemy by far is not orcs or goblins, but the game's camera. From the get-go, you are stuck with one of the most erratic  angle-finding lenses I've seen in a while. Mid-battle your characters will move and the camera will not move with them; you'll need to drag it, almost like trying to get your dog to do anything on a street of fire hydrants, to move anywhere convenient for you to see what's happening. And even when you get into perspective, you'll find you're not there for long. As for the plot: Don't get me wrong, the books are fine. However, The Dwarves sticks to the book way too much, with little room for original gameplay or thoughts. There are instances where I feel like I'm given a choice, but really, I'm just stalling until I get to the next plot point. I'm sure this is cool for people who adore the story, but as an interactive element, I feel like there's little wiggle room for me to enjoy myself.

  • THQ Nordic

Overall, The Dwarves is just okay. Fans of the series will flock to it, but there are far better RPG strategy games out there that feel a lot freer. What if I don't want to get to the plot right away? What if I want to keep exploring the land, like an RPG should allow? If the end of the game is all there is, how much of an RPG is it, really? I can see where a lot of gamers will get a kick out of the gameplay and the story coming to life for them, and it's well worth it for those people. Average gamers have better options, but for fans, this is your only option, so have fun with it.