An interesting coop-versus real-time strategy, with beer
Type: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Developer: Pineleaf Studio
Publisher: Merge Games
Release Date: 22 Oct, 2020
DwarfHeim is a new take on the RTS genre where three players per faction manage the different aspects of a dwarf kingdom. Each of these three players has different tasks, uses different units and buildings, resulting in a completely different gameplay, based on cooperation with the other three figures. The game is currently released in Early Access and, while certainly interesting, it suffers from the early release. But let’s see its points of strength and weakness more in detail in this preview…
Build, Mine or Fight?
You’ll get a taste of DwarfHeim’s most interesting feature before even starting a game and that’s because you’ll have to choose the role you’ll cover in the upcoming match. There are three and they all play in very different ways: the builder constructs the various structures, which are fundamental to train troops, grow crops and access to more advanced researches and units. The miner, on the other hand, never sees the light of the day and is tasked with the construction of complex contraptions, useful for refining the different ores that can be found on deep underground. The warrior… obviously trains and controls the army of the faction.
As I’ve already said, all three roles play in completely different ways: the builder is all about efficiency in timings, management of resources and building of defenses. The player who covers the warrior role must instead have a more strategic approach, both in unit training and handling: if you see your opponent training a lot of armoured units, it would be best to have a couple of armour-piercing ones to your side. The miner role is the one I liked the most: it is similar, albeit more simple, to the gameplay of titles like Factorio, where you have to automate the mining process. This includes smelting ores, combining them to create ingots and more precious materials, which can be used to build advanced structures or to train more advanced units.
This particular choice of creating three distinct styles of gameplay can get a little problematic, especially if you play this game with random strangers (which you shouldn’t). The first and most obvious problem is that you don’t have any control outside of your role: if you need something from your builder as a warrior, but he doesn’t provide it to you, well… though luck. The second problem is that not all roles are equally fun to play: the builder is by far the less engaging one, which means that sometimes you’ll have to cover it even if you wanted to play something else. Something that happens also in other games, yes, but also something that would need an improvement.
The Two Worlds
Each DwarfHeim game is played in two separate levels: the overworld, on which the builder constructs and units fight against creeps and among themselves, and the underworld, the deep mines from which the miner extracts precious resources and units move with the cover of shadows. This duality of worlds means that military actions can be carried out on both levels allowing, for example, sneaky ambushes on the tight mines’ corridors. This also means that defenses must be studied for both levels: building walls around your city is great, but not defending your miners below will lose you the game, since you won’t gather important resources if your mine equipment gets destroyed.
The interesting thing about map, though, doesn’t only reside in the two levels: there are, in fact, monster camps and runic altars. The latter is a special kind of structure that spawns in precise points of each map: factions can fight for and control these points in a King of the Hill fashion. The reward is quite important: have vision boost around the altar and a global effect, that can range from a damage boost to a production one.
DwarfHeim biggest problem, right now, it’s his early access state. You shouldn’t buy it if you are just looking for an enjoyable game with your friends because, well… it isn’t… yet. The title is very rough around the edges, with both technical issues (optimization, pathfinding, UI, bugs) and non-technical ones (missing descriptions, incomplete tutorials, low amount of heroes and maps). Right now the game needs more content and polish, which is what early access is for: hopefully, Pineleaf Studio will be able to implement new features with the help of the players, complete what is already partially implemented and fix the various problems of the game, like for example making all roles equally fun to play.
Not really a verdict, since this an early access title, but DwarfHeim shows a lot of promise, it just isn’t ready yet. I will check the game again in a few months, hoping to find a more complete, enjoyable and polished title!