With their own stars dying, the Dwarves set out in order to find a new source of energy to live by. Because there would be no adventure without something going wrong, their ship gets caught in an energy current that throws them off of their original course and destroys their ship. The survivors must now find each other and survive the hostile environment that they find themselves in.
The core concepts of We are the Dwarves are solid. Three Dwarves, three different styles, top down isometric view of each environment and plenty of ways to take out everything that's between the entrance and the exit. What doesn't go over so well is their implementation which can sadly bog down the overall experience.
One thing that would have changed everything and made it all the smoother would have been for a form of auto-attacking instead of simply giving each Dwarf several abilities with various cooldowns. Waited too long to use an ability to get the most amount of enemies in one fell swoop? You're pretty much toast. Used that ability too early? You're just as toast as odds are the rest of your abilities will not be enough to save you and once again, your Dwarf and eventual Dwarves, will be brought back to the entrance or the save point if that particular stage has one.
We are the Dwarves is built in stages. While they may not build upon one another, they are designed for each Dwarf in particular or against that Dwarf to really make it challenging which was a nice touch. This is a tactics game and there is sometimes a fair amount of thought that needs to be put into your actions. More often than not however it came down to how much longer is that cooldown on for as you try to run away from the ranged attackers that have no cooldowns. This was disappointing because each stage had a way to sneak around. It had a way in order to duck and cover so that you could bombard your enemies. Sadly even with these, more often than not it came back down running away while waiting for cooldowns.
In regards to interesting concepts, there's a full stage that operates around a lack of gravity and random anomalies in which your Dwarf with his cannon must propel himself by firing in the opposite direction from where he wants to move. This very quickly turned from an amazing idea into a nightmare as if he was hit with anything, he was sent flying more often than not into a black hole. The stage also comes wrought with enemies that can fire away and poison you at the same time while you have to wait for that one cooldown. You can fly into enemies and destroy them that way but your cooldown has to be up first. There was an option to slightly boost yourself but for some reason this mini shot from your canon would deplete your hit points more often than not getting you killed by enemies that you may not even see yet.
Using a bit of an RPG system it's possible to upgrade your Dwarves both in the long and in the short run. In the long run each Dwarf has abilities that once learned are permanent and these use tokens to unlock. For example your first Dwarf can make upgrades to his shield bubble or instead reduce the damage that his allies can receive when he essentially shotguns and mortar blasts them while they are in combat. This makes sense because his attacks all have a blast radius and these perks narrow down his scope. I appreciated these both because it was useful for me and it also meant that he was conscious of the harm that he could bring to his friends even if it's their fault for standing in the way.
The short run was a bit more interesting as these come in the form of "armor upgrades" that can be destroyed as they are hit by enemies. These can be bought on the field for a different form of currency and can do a variety of things such as grant automatic flashlights or health regeneration while standing still. Sadly the first to go is the health regeneration but it's also the most potent of the bunch so it only makes sense that it's the first to go. These upgrades could be re-purchased at any save point as long as you had the currency to afford them making them quite the game changer in certain cases. Picking these up was never a bad thing when possible.
The visual style and the level designs work. From that point of view We are the Dwarves hits its goal in providing a decent experience. Unfortunately it's when everything else is added that things take a bit of a dive. This was all on a medium difficulty and as such to experience the rest of the story some may want to drop it down to easy or if they are feeling very hardcore perhaps even upgrade the difficulty to hard. The difficulty doesn't affect the outcome so finding what works for you is always a possibility. For me? Medium felt like hard mode with how it was designed but I stuck to it regardless and did enjoy myself.
We are the Dwarves is the perfect example of a game that has all the elements to be something amazing but sadly falls short of that goal and not for a lack of trying. Unfortunately there were some of the elements that simply didn't work together but on their own with a different approach would have worked splendidly. If the Dwarves decide to embark on another adventure I hope that it is a slightly smoother one and I would definitely be on-board for tagging along.
Sony PlayStation 4
Whale Rock Games
Whale Rock Games
Microsoft Xbox One
Purchased or Provided by Publisher
Article by Pierre-Yves