Never in all my years of gaming have I ever faced the challenges that We Are The Dwarves threw at me, and never have I been so satisfied when I overcame them.
We Are The Dwarves is the first ambitious project from new comers Whale Rock Games. And if you’re up for the challenge of stealth, real time tactics and experiencing a genuine “90’s hard” challenge this game is going to be for you.
I have to start with the art and design; it’s absolutely gorgeous. The heart that went into the art alone is just simply breathtaking. I’m a huge fan of video game art, and these guys set the bar high for me this year.
As for the story, well, I’m a firm believer in not spoiling stories, especially this one. What I will tell you is this:
Imagine if you will, a universe filled with endless stone — and of course, with endless stone comes endless caves, where life thrived thanks to stone stars. This is where our protagonists live. Dwarves.
Our story here will focus on three brave Dwarven astronauts seeking out a new stone star, when a horrible accident happens and their ship crashes…
That’s where it starts, anyway.
Of course, brave dwarves don’t go venturing unprepared — you send your best. In this game, you’ll have a chance to control three unique dwarves, each with their own special abilities and talents. Thanks to the genius gameplay, each dwarf has a chance to shine.
The game has a unique real-time-strategy mechanic that I like to call Tactical Pause. This allows you to plan out your attacks, make maneuvers, and of course move in the shadows unseen. It comes in handy — I can’t even tell you how many times I died. I’m a jump-into-the-fray-and-battle-everything-because-I’m-a-damn-dwarf kind of dwarf, but this game takes battle very realistically. Enemies will kill you. So you have to play smart, you have to plan, and you have to carefully consider your movements. Literally every action you take in this game matters, and if done wrong, the game is fairly unforgiving.
If you’ve ever played a MOBA like Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends, you will find the control scheme fairly easy to pick up on. Left mouse button for navigation, a series of clicks to get where you want to go. Using this with the Tactical Pause, you will be able to plan our smooth movements and ensure your dwarves are unseen in the shadows or covered by the environment. Attacks were very much the same — when engaged in combat, you either clickthe enemy for a basic attack (if you’re bad at stealth, like I am), or you are able to engage with the “Q,W,E,R,T” quick keys, each of which has a specific ability for each character.
Again, I am blown away by how smart this game and its design are. Everything you walk past, interact with or even brush against serves a purpose.
You will face a wide array of enemies on this rock. They can pick up on your sounds, your smell, and your tracks. All of them are, unfortunately for you, smart, and they can interact with each other. Yes, you read that correctly. Not only are the enemies going to kill you, but they’re going to do it well.
This game is all about being smart. I highly advise scouting everything before you decide to engage in combat or avoid it, but tread lightly — the world around you can kill you just as easily as the enemies. A shaky cliff, narrow path, or hell, even dwarf-eating plants — yes, DWARF-EATING PLANTS — can make you kiss your ass good bye. On top of that, once the enemies confirm they see something not like them they will alert everything around them to your existence. So this is when you have to play smart, and use the environment, Tactical Pause, and planning.
I keep talking about the environment; it’s crazy, as it will literally try to kill you if you’re not smart. However, not everything will try to kill you — the rocks, roots and even grass can be your hiding place while waiting for an enemy to pass. This is ideal for scouting and planning the perfect setup for a sick combo with your group of dwarves.
Adapting to this environment and thinking outside the box are a must in this game, because the world can be as useful as it is deadly. Shooting an enemy off a cliff, luring an enemy into a plant trap, or dredging them throw a swamp are all viable tactics.
We Are The Dwarves, I will warn you, is ‘90s hard. One slip-up and you’re dead. I found this fairly frustrating, as I would sometimes forget about Tactical Pause or to use my hotkeys, and I’d be swarmed and brutally killed. Sometimes puzzles or objectives weren’t as easily solvable as I had hoped, and I would be faced with death until I did get it right. This is my only issue with the game– how genuinely challenging this game is. Which… isn’t a bad thing. I’m more used to stealth games allowing me a place to run, or shoot back. Unfortunately the AI is really damn smart and it will find you and it will kill you.
In closing, I personally enjoyed my time with this game and would recommend it to anyone that is a fan of stealth games or loves Dark Souls-like unforgiving gameplay. This game will test you, it will break you… but you’ll have a damn good time doing it.
Steve Noel is a Senior Editor for AYBOnline.com, Team lead for Streaming & Video Content & Producer of the Level One Scrubs TalkShow.
When he’s not working behind the desk you’ll find him spending time with his cat “Jeff Bridges”