Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Game of Dwarves Gameplay Review

I'm playing A Game of Dwarves, an exploration and building management strategy game by Zeal Game Studio and Paradox Interactive.

The game comes with a campaign that includes set map layouts and specific objectives and a tutorial to teach the basics of the mechanics. The quests usually involve digging towards question marks, rooms that contain enemies that must be defeated to advance to the next mission. A Game of Dwarves also includes randomly-generated custom games for enhanced replay value, although the number of options are quite limited. The interface needs improvement: tool-tips are lacking pertinent information, specifically dwarf needs, tile information, food usage, happiness justification, and specific feedback (why did this dwarf die?). The multi-level layout is also very confusing: you must switch floors to build, but the entire map below your current view position is displayed. Most of the game involves collecting resources to build objects, as you must feed your dwarves while providing sleeping locations. Happiness can also be increased by placing decorations, and you can trade an overabundance of one resource for another. Dwarves come in six classes that determine their role; a digger cannot fight enemy units, so careful planning and balancing of your population is important. You do not directly interact with your dwarves, instead issuing dig, move, and build orders that an appropriate unit will execute. This method would have worked just fine, except the AI has several shortcomings that result in undesirable behavior: units exhibit erratic behavior sleeping, fleeing from hostile units, attacking hostile units, and eating. Military units love to eat and sleep as enemy units are attacking your base and killing your units, and there is no way to alter their undesirable behavior. The game’s slow pace also means lots of waiting: even on accelerated time, the frequency at which units need to eat and sleep makes for slow underground expansion, as your digging expeditions are constantly interrupted. Because of the shortcomings with the interface and automated unit behavior, A Game of Dwarves is difficult to recommend.