Preview: Co-Op RTS Dwarfheim Has Potential

Screenshot: Dwarfheim

Competitive real-time strategy gaming is beyond me. I grew up playing real-time strategy, but in a realm where winning is determined by actions per minute on a highly competitive stage, I don’t have a chance. Even when I’m playing against amateurs online, I get trounced pretty regularly. I tend to focus too much on one or two aspects, and lose sight of the battle as a whole—and I think that’s where the idea of Dwarfheim comes in.

Dwarfheim is a real-time strategy game where you only control one aspect of the gameplay. Instead of managing an entire dwarf army, you play as one of three roles: the builder, the miner, or the warrior. It’s an interesting dynamic that allows you to focus on your job, but also requires your team to have good communication. And battles don’t just take place above-ground—each map has two layers, an overworld, and an underworld—and both need to be considered when setting up defenses, or attacking your opponent.

Screenshot: Dwarfheim

Each of the three roles in Dwarfheim is specialized—and you can’t play the full experience as its intended without a full three person team. Each role is integral for success, too. If even one member of your team isn’t able to play their best, the whole team suffers. This is true for a lot of cooperative-focused games, but each role is so integral to the whole in Dwarfheim, that you literally can’t function unless your teammates are doing their jobs.

As the builder, your job is to build structures and defenses. Builders are also responsible for gathering above-ground resources, as well as building farms and gathering food for the hungry dwarf armies. Builders spend most of their time above ground, but have some underground duties as well—like building underground defenses.

Screenshot: Dwarfheim

Miners, on the other hand, will spend most of their time in the underground gathering ore. The miner is focused on gathering resources, building mining-related machinery, and they even help the warriors break sieges, giving them a combat role as well. If you’ve ever played or seen Facrtorio, the role of the miner will look familiar—most mining is done by placing ore on belts, and setting up automated machinery. The more efficient your setup, the faster you’ll gather valuable resources for your time.

The warrior is the only class that doesn’t build, and is focused on fighting. Warriors are responsible for gathering the army, defending the camp, and they can do a little bit of resource gathering. As the warrior, while you’re training different types of soldiers to man (dwarf?) your army, you can find some extracurricular enemies to kill (creeps) that will drop resources you can bring back to base. Warriors are also essential to claiming and defending objectives—which takes little more than standing in a circle for a set amount of time.

Screenshot: Dwarfheim

Dwarfheim seems like a good idea on paper, but relegating certain tasks to certain players takes a little fun out of real-time strategy. The miner is probably the best of the bunch with its minigame of belts and machines, but as the builder and warrior it feels like you’re only playing a partial game. Hopefully, through its early access phase, developer Pineleaf Studio adds a few more things for the other classes to do, or makes their tasks a little more interactive and interesting.
What makes this whole concept even more disappointing is that it doesn’t seem like you can play against another set of player-controlled dwarves. That’s right, according to the Steam store page it seems as though you can only play with your friends in a Skirmish mode against rival AI. I feel like this is a massive missed opportunity, and hope it changes.

If you don’t have friends to play with, you can currently play a few modes by yourself—but then you’re stuck playing a basic, so-so real-time strategy game. Dwarfheim has simple tech trees, and not many units to train and use. I’ve seen RTS games released with two or more factions, but never have I seen one with essentially just one faction—at least, not in the modern era.

Screenshot: Dwarfheim

Dwarfheim is an Early Access title, and will remain so until at least summer of 2021—at least, according to its Steam store page. The developers are planning on listening to community feedback, and continue to work on the game. Hopefully Dwarfheim can tighten up into a experience that is worth the potential of its ideas.

Dwarfheim is an interesting concept—but it’s not one that is fully realized yet. If you’re at all interested, I’d say let this one bake in the Early Access oven for a while longer before giving it a taste—you might be disappointed otherwise. As a real-time strategy game, it’s incredibly basic—and as a team-based game, having such specialized roles with so little to do feels a little boring. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one—it has potential.

Dwarfheim is available now on Steam Early Access.




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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, video game historian, and small streamer.
He is also the editor of the Games and Tech section but does not get paid for his work at 3CR.
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