Review : Dwerve : Dwarven Warfare

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Originality rests between the lay lines of that which inspire us. Melding distinctive styles together to create something unique is a challenging endeavor. Luckily, the folks over at Half Human Games managed to pull it off with their long-awaited and Kickstart success: Dwerve. Combining turret defense and top-down dungeon crawling, Dwerve is a unique experience filled with adventure, humor, and tactful combat that keeps you coming back for more. I also believe that Half Human games created Dwerve in a secret underground facility that is dedicated to making games that I would hold dearly.

You play as the title character named Dwerve; an anxiety-driven, blue-haired dwarf that ends up with a ton of weight on his shoulders. Tasked with solving a local political crisis and saving his father by proving the existence of the evil trolls who staged an attack on Dwerve’s village. Upon setting out on his journey, Dwerve learns about the ancient art of warsmithing; a technique which enables him to ward off the onslaught of monsters using turrets and traps.

While traditional tower defense games feature a general play area, Dwerve removes itself from the typical static plane of solitary levels. You have free reign over the battlefield and can place turrets wherever you can fit them, there are no dedicated anchors, and there is no prep time before you start your encounter. Enemies will suddenly appear with little to no warning in real time, and while that keeps you on your toes, there are a few instances where you get some breathing room to collect yourself and readjust to the scenario.

Instead of the build, kill, reward, and repeat economy, Dwerve gives you a bank of magical crystals allowing you to build turrets. You have a limited amount, and each turret has their own allocated cost, allowing you to mix and match what you put down. They do not last forever though as most turrets gain the attention of attacking enemies, succumbing them to damage and eventually, destruction.

When the turrets fall in battle, the crystals drop, waiting for collection so you can rebuild your defensive or offensive line. You can upgrade these turrets with cogs, enhancing their effectiveness in several ways. Each turret has their own dedicated tree, so your options begin to expand the deeper you get into the game. You can upgrade armor plating for greater HP or add poison arrows for damage-over-time effects. There are over one hundred upgrades within the game spread across the fifteen or so turrets, giving you so many options.

While Dwerve happens to have a litany of offensive and defensive weapons, you can only equip a few of them at a time. I found myself constantly weighing in on which ones would be right for the upcoming scenario, which is difficult because I do not know what is waiting for me up ahead. A weapon that is effective against one enemy type might be useless for another, so there is no true way to know unless you give it a shot. Sometimes you are lucky and pass without dying, other times you must really gage the battlefield.

In one instance, if the enemies hit a bell, a small platoon of trolls would kill me. So, I had to figure out a way to put myself between the enemy and the bell. This kind of gameplay breaks the monotony at the perfect times. Just as you are getting a bit tired of the experience, this hook comes out of nowhere and pulls you back in.

While the combat is fun, Dwerve is not free of issues. You change your equipped items at a workbench, and in a couple of instances I chose my loadout poorly. There were several points where I was unable to backtrack and change my turrets because the game pushed me forward beyond a point of no return. This hindered my experimentation and caused me to knock down the difficulty just a bit so I could make it past that respective area.

Despite that, I still found the rest of Dwerve’s presentation pleasing. Vivid colorization and detailed character modeling both in and out of dialog embraces the retro art style we have all grown to love and enjoy. The score and sound effects are equally satisfying with musical queues that match each environment perfectly. Even the clanking of turrets slamming onto the floor or bees running into saw blades sounds oddly satisfying.

Performance wise, Dwerve runs incredibly smooth as it does not require resource-demanding hardware. While Dwerve releases on both PC and the Nintendo Switch, I happened to play the game in its entirety on the Steam Deck thanks to native controller support.

Dwerve managed to break into my top-10 titles of the year (so far). It is witty, colorful, and fun. It may be a bit simple, and difficulty may fluctuate at times, but I still found it all incredibly enjoyable. Dwerve feels like a brand-new experience, presenting a twisted take on the genre that I already have a deep love for. I have nothing but excitement for the folks at Half Human Games, and whatever their next project is, I will be waiting patiently for it.

Final Verdict : 8

     Fun Factor : 8
     Technical Prowess : 8
     Time Investment : 15+ Hours
     Replayability : 8

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By Steve Esposito

Steve Esposito is a dedicated content creator with a focus on his love for technology, video games, and the very industry that oversees it all. He also takes part in organizing the Long Island Retro and Tabletop Gaming Expo as well as a Dungeons and Dragons podcast: Copper Piece. You can find him on twitter @AgitatedStove

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