On the brink of extinction, the dwarven race launches a starship expedition to find a new Star (homeworld) for the continued survival of the species. Only three dwarves survive the crash, and you must control each of the dwarves and journey deep into the unforgiving world of the Endless Stone. A brutal, tactical action game, We Are The Dwarves focuses on slowing down the action to crawl using an active pause to command your dwarves for tactical precision. A single mistake can be disastrous as you are constantly surrounded by soulless creatures that can rip you to shreds in a matter of seconds.
The narrative is broken up across two chapters, each with nine levels considering of multiple stages/environments. You’ll rotate between the first two dwarves, Forcer, and Smashfist, almost every other level in the first chapter. Eventually, you’ll gain control of both of them at the same time before finally meeting up with the final dwarf, the mysterious Shadow.
Smashfist focuses on melee attacks and damage multiple enemies at the same time with his dual axes. When needed, he also can stun a single target, preventing it from attacking. His also comes with two unique forms, providing both offensive and defensive bonuses. The offensively minded "fire form" activates after engaging with enemies, giving you additional damage output, while activating "stone form" increases your defensive, making you a much harder target to kill. Actively knowing when to use one over the other is the key to completing levels with Smashfist.
Unlike Smashfist and his melee attacks, Forcer uses a powerful firearm that can push enemies backward, knocking them clear off any nearby ledge. However, it also has a strong kick, pushing Forcer himself back as well. Strategically you can use this to drop down to a lower ledge to gain a tactical advantage, but you'll have to always keep an eye out for the angle of your attack. Unless you enjoy watching your dwarf helplessly fall to his death. Trying to group foes together is the best strategy that I’ve found, especially if you can unload a massive blast that will knock all of them off a cliff together. The final dwarf, Shadow, is a blend of the first two, utilizing a bow to help take care of anything that attempts to come too close.
If you are inclined to use stealth tactics and the environmental hazards to your advantage, you must pay attention to the vision cone for enemies. However, sight is not the only thing you need to be aware of, as different species have the ability to hear and even smell you. Rustle through plants and the humanoid Whistlers may take notice and investigate the area. Get too close to one of the local giant clams and it will slam shut, producing a clicking noise which draws other creatures to its location. Let’s be honest, dwarves are not known for their cleanliness, so I would honestly do the same thing if a stout, smelly alien dwarf wearing a spacesuit got too close to me.
We Are The Dwarves doesn’t pull any punches, and each of the characters starts with the bare minimum of abilities and health. In each level, there are hidden resources that can repair the dwarves spacesuits, as well as provide new perks and skills. Dwarven armor comes equipped with four layers of protection, and “energy ore,” repairs these layers. However, it can only repair the current armor level. For example, you can repair the second armor layer if it still exists, but to reconstruct new layers you have to find a resource called "star crusts." On top of that, perk trees require a third resource, “dwarven stones.” Perks are dwarf dependent and focus on class-based abilities. Forcer resembles a support character while Smashfist can choose perks for both a defensive and offensive character, such as igniting nearby enemies with "fire fury", or slowly regaining health with the "fortress" perk.
The goblinesque Whistlers are not the only danger, as exploding flora can end your life in the blink of an eye. Insectoid sludge workers utilize a hive consciousness, coordinating attacks and protecting one another in the process. Not to mention, they have no problems with swiftly skating across the tops of murky deep swamps. Exploration points marked across the environment provide valuable insight on enemies and your location. Although many may skip out on reading the journal, you’ll learn a great deal about the backstory for the dwarves and everything else you encounter.
We Are The Dwarves isn’t without its faults, even though many of my deaths were from poor planning on my part, I've died numerous times due to the game’s finicky targeting mechanic. The hit box for clicking anything in the game is so precise that you may find yourself clicking between the arm and the body of a creature, resulting in your dwarf moving to a new location instead of attacking. Perhaps I should not click on anything in the game except when using the active pause. Certain melee attacks lack oomph and I struggled at times to realize if I was making contact with anyone or just swinging at thin air. This is really only an issue with Smashfist's AoE ability, but my survival was often contingent on the move making contact.
We Are The Dwarves is a brutally difficult tactical action game with some RPG elements thrown in for good measure. Learning the best way to utilize each of the dwarves' talents is the key to advancing in the game. The isometric perspective provides clear sightlines of the action, but I found controlling multiple dwarves much more difficult than controlling a single dwarf. With more characters on screen, things start to become more hectic, but in a way, the game relishes in the ensuing chaos.
Note: The We Are The Dwarves review is based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided for review purposes.