Searching for energy on a hostile, primitive planet is as dangerous an endeavour as you might imagine or at least, it is in Whale Rock Games’ We Are the Dwarves. Instead of the mead drinking miner one might expect to meet in the halls of Moria or the bearded Legion of the Dead soldier in Dragon Age’s Deep Roads, you play as a trio of dwarven astronauts stranded on a hostile world after an accident renders your ship inoperable.
And the game goes out of its way to make it clear that you are not wanted on this world from the outset. Wounded and alone, you do not last long should the initial enemy patrol spot you and even when a means to heal yourself is soon presented, barging in and attacking is a quick invitation to a premature death. In writing this review, an embarrassing amount of time was spent trying simply to get past the opening area for not only do enemy attacks cut your health points to shreds rapidly, your own attacks can see you thrown from the raised pathways to your doom far below.
The edges of these pathways can and must be used against your enemies as well, with other obstacles such as swamps and carnivorous plants being a help as much as a hindrance.
While at first sneaking seems an obvious solution to the difficulties of direct confrontation, adopting such an approach is easier said than done. Enemies are alert, usually uncomfortably so, and can use the usual forms of detection such as enemies’ line of sight and the sound your dwarven explorer makes to track you. Yet beyond that, touch and even taste can lead to your discovery, forcing you to think tactically about how you approach any situation.
Each dwarf has a range of special attacks at their disposal which are activated by pressing one of the QWERT buttons and restricted by a time recharge function. And they can kill you. Not directly, but many attacks feature recoil that’s more than enough to send you flying off the path edge. In this game, you can be your own worst enemy. Finding the right location for an attack and stacking up appropriate attacks beforehand, is vital in a game with limited capacity for manual saves (one must find a “Rune Stone”) and a propensity to punish mistakes.
Overcoming these obstacles, however, provides a certain sense of accomplishment that might otherwise be lacking if the dwarves’ situation were simpler. Aided by the realisation that many of the game’s challenges can be resolved by planning and with the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reason to try again and push onward. Yet it these very obstacles that produce much frustration while you deal with them, especially at first. Who knew patience could be such a virtue for dwarven astronauts?
Even so, options for distraction or even outright stealth would offer greater incentive to replay while offering an alternative to combat. That, of course, is not the purpose of the game and We Are the Dwarves does that quite well.
When you are reunited with your fellow explorers and can revive them from their ‘half death’ the situation becomes markedly more palpable, if never entirely easy.
We Are the Dwarves paints a beautiful world and a challenging one, but one worth delving into regardless of dangers that await you. Scouting ahead and considering the options open to you makes for an experience that rewards more than it frustrates even if there is little sign of originality. Still, it’s not every day you get to play as an astronaut from another race.
We Are the Dwarves was developed by Whale Rock Games and published by Global Inet Group. The game will be released on February 26th, 2016 on PC. A review copy was provided by the publisher.