“The first slavering beast was eviscerated in seconds as the bladed turret whirred to life. Beyond the gore that now covered the passage walls, Dwerve could see more movement as a huge pack of baleful hounds came thundering towards him. Readying his boomerang for the impending onslaught he heard the crossbow turret behind him loose a bolt. Turning, the dwarf saw the quarrel had pinned a man-sized wasp to the wall. It’s mandibles bit angrily at the wooden shaft sticking out of its abdomen. ‘Shit, they’re coming from both sides’ he though. The war-engineer was stuck between a rock and a hard place, or should that be a spinner and a crossbow? Either way this wasn’t going to end well ….”
Ahem, sorry, got a little carried away there. That’s something easily done when playing Dwerve. Don’t let the simplistic SNES-style graphics and quick to learn gameplay fool you – Dwerve is a frenetic and challenging experience from indie developers Half Human Games.
In Dwerve you play the titular character as he delves into the darkest dungeons battling monstrous opponents and seeking out loot. Shirking well-trodden tropes, you’re not armed with a sword and shield, no, no, you’re a master of turrets – a dwarven war-engineer placing lethal contraptions on the battlefield to dissect and dismember anyone foolish enough to come close. You’ve also got a razor-sharp boomerang at your disposal, for added effect.
The demo of the game (available at the time of writing on Steam) gave us a taste of the story, presentation and general gameplay experience. I found it an absolute treat.
Kicking off proceedings we are given a little history lesson. You see, the Dwarves were bonified JRR Tolkien types who lived in under-mountain halls, but their gold lust led them to plumb the depths too greedily. One fateful day they unearthed a great evil (not a Balrog) and trolls spilled into the dwarven cities. Dangerously outmatched the dwarves fled their ancestral homes for the surface. They learned the trolls could not follow because sunlight turns them to stone.
And that’s how it’s been until the game kicks off, with the trolls living in the old cities and the dwarves living a pastoral life in the meadows and valleys. Things quickly turn upside down as Dwerve has a timely lesson on turrets from an old master. I love fantasy fiction and this is pleasingly reverent (and the inspiration for the opening paragraph). Good stuff.
But it’s the gameplay that makes Dwerve shine.
During the demo I played on PC using a dualshock controller. It felt natural running around frantically placing turrets seconds before hordes of monsters descended on me. Each turret maps to one of square, circle, cross (X if you prefer) or triangle so its a simple matter or remembering which is which. The tricky part is using the right construct in the right place. For example, a crossbow turret is great at picking off enemies at range but is weak if they get too close. Best to pop it at the back in a hard to reach spot. Oh and put a couple of spinning blade turrets or spike traps in the way for good measure. Beyond the demo we’ve seen a huge variety of lethal defences our hero can craft that spit out all manner of stuff, from gouts of fire to chains of lightning.
Crisp 16-bit visuals display the carnage, reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda on the SNES but with more decapitations. They do an ample job of bringing this fantasy world to life. Dwerve himself looks tiny on screen. The helicopter viewpoint means you can see where enemies are likely to come from so you can prepare accordingly. Minecraft came to mind as the games soundtrack filled my ears, a pleasing juxtaposition to the chaos of combat.
Overall the demo was a fun experience that’s got me excited for the full release which is scheduled for sometime in 2021. Thankfully that will definitely be happening following a very successful Kickstarter campaign (which you can still get involved in until 8am (BST) on Friday 25 September 2020). I think this will be one that’s worth the wait.
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Release Date: 2021
Learn more about Dwerve on the official site
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