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A Game of Dwarves

By Leigh Cobb24-11-2012
StuntmanLT (editor)
Dylan_Hodge (editor)
A Game of Dwarves

The Defence

Zeal Game Studio
Paradox Interactive
Strategy, Indie
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Pentium E5300 2.6GHz
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+
Nvidia Geforce 8800 GS
AMD Radeon HD 2900 GT
4 GB
3 GB

The Case


A Game of Dwarves is a new release from Paradox, aiming to capture some of the magic of past management strategy games; in a title about Dwarves, goblins and evil Mages. This title takes a more hands off approach to management games, letting you build and vaguely guide your Dwarven minions, rather than directly control them, in a multi-layered, variable, isometric world, see how it fairs in my review.

The Trial


You play as the Dwarf Prince, the lazy and ineffectual son to the King of Dwarves. Between eating and sleeping, the King sees fit to instill some character building in the Prince, sending him out into the world to reclaim old Dwarven settlements and rebuild their Empire. Ah yes, their Empire. It was conquered and stolen by evil mages you see, who slaughtered the Dwarves and sent them to live on a tiny island as a fraction of their past success. Beyond a few scant lines of dialogue during missions, as well as the animated introduction sequence, this is about the only story you'll be getting playing A Game of Dwarves; the story is simply a means to keep ramping up missions and challenges.

Dwarves possess an uncanny ability to sleep in midair.

Dwarves possess an uncanny ability to sleep in midair.

This is a management game, think Dungeon Keeper or Theme Hospital (or any Bullfrog Productions game). You'll spend your time building your underground settlement, in various ways such as planting food, crafting furniture and placing decorations and traps. As well as this, you can also tell your Dwarves where to dig, which can lead to undiscovered rooms indicted by floating question marks. These usually contain monsters and treasure, so you'll have to make sure you have some Dwarf Warriors to back you up. There is a fairly long campaign, as well as custom map modes available. Although the custom map modes give you hardly any customisation.

The Dwarves themselves are divided into classes. You’ll usually be given a few classes at the start of a mission, or you can send for 'Dwarflings' from the home base, which you can then turn into any class. Once a Dwarf has its profession, they can't change. This often leads to situations where you have too many of one class and not enough military for example. The solution is to sell the Dwarves in order to gain the classes you need, it seems that is would have been beneficial to allow class switching, perhaps at a cost, but at least you're not rigidly tied to the Dwarves and classes you choose.

Always remember your fallen comrades - and exact revenge by killing lots of goblins.

Always remember your fallen comrades - and exact revenge by killing lots of goblins.

The crux of the game is this: you'll start a mission with your Dwarves and Prince (who mustn't die) and be ordered to find some sort of treasure and/or kill the enemies in the map. This involves digging, pausing for breath, digging and clicking. Digging grants you resources, such as gold or iron, which can then be used to craft better items in your base. You'll also be digging into the black, undiscovered void, to reach other rooms, indicated by the question marks, where you goal usually lies. I say usually, it takes time and a lot of digging to reach your end goal, as the map is scattered with side objectives to pursue.

That's the problem with this game really, despite the considerable amount of charm and personality in the Dwarves and how they are presented, the gameplay often devolves into a tedious amount of digging and repetition. You'll spend most of the game with the speed turned up, just to help skip the tedium of endless digging. I started to find that even in fast forward the game was still too slow. To say it takes awhile to get going is an understatement.

Due to the hands off gameplay, fighting is also just as bad. You'll find that your early warriors are easily overwhelmed by even just two goblins, and there are no tactics you can employ to influence a fight, they all just run around outside of your control. You can place traps sure, but these are costly to make and run, as well as taking an age to research. You'll be better off just getting lots of soldier Dwarves.

Crush the greenskins!

Crush the greenskins!

Graphically, it is cartoony, but ultimately forgettable. It's not stylised enough to be unique, nor is it realistic enough to be impressive. It's middle of the road stuff. Sound wise the effects are a good standard, although more Dwarven voices and dialogue would have been nice. The music is fitting as well, suiting the underground setting, but it doesn’t exactly stand out.

The Verdict


It's all rather a shame really, as A Game of Dwarves had the potential to be immense fun. I love management games and so was rather keen to see how this one faired, sadly I was left disappointed. Every level involves digging deeper and finding something but that takes forever. The array of items and options available to you is also lacking. In short, the management is not as deep as it could be and the game itself, despite oozing charm, just becomes anything but fun to play after a few hours.

It's accessible, sure, there are no statistics screens or in-depth information panels. Just you, some hairy Dwarves and underground caverns. It's a far cry from the management style games which inspired it, ending up being just mediocre in the process.

Case Review

  • Dwarves you love: The game has personality, with your Dwarves being quite likeable.
  • Accessible: Building and digging are simple, customisation should keep you amused... for a while.
  • Lengthy: The game is fairly long, but not all of that time is well spent.
  • Mixed Graphics: The graphics are ok, but not stylised enough for my liking.
  • Hasn’t dug deep enough: Too simple and not nearly as complex or in depth as it should be.
  • Repetition: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again.
Score: 3/5
A run of the mill strategy title, it simply hasn’t dug deep enough.


When you see “A Game of Dwarves” for the first time, it suddenly reminds you of Dungeon Keeper. When you play it, you will still be thinking about Dungeon Keeper, and that is actually a bad thing because A Game of Dwarves does not really manage to fill those shoes. It looks and feels like the good old Dungeon Keeper but you will still feel that something is missing. The game is fun to start with but after an hour of digging and fighting, it feels that you have experienced everything it has to offer. It works in three dimensions so that means that you can dig up and down as well as sideways. When you dig out a big room, it is only natural to wish to build a perfect cavern but unfortunately, it is a bit tedious. If you have gold under the thrown and if you dig it, the throne will fall in and you will have to spend many resources mending the hole. In addition, when you find other caverns it is cool to fix them up at first but after the fifth one you just will not care anymore.

 In general, A Game of Dwarves has some depth but it is either not enough or it is too repetitive to keep you hooked for a long time. A lacklustre campaign, shabby visuals, tediously slow speed and sorry voice acting would sound like an awful game but it still has some Dungeon Keeper DNA and that will keep you coming back. Combine that with a low price and it becomes a product worth playing... Just use it in small doses or the game’s flaws might start to become too transparent.

Score: 3/5
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