During GamesCom 2012 we were treated to a demonstration of upcoming Paradox Interactive dungeon simulation title, A Game Of Dwarves. Sebastian Thorwaldsson, Lead Designer at Zeal Games Studios, walked us through a detailed demonstration of what the game has to offer.
As a management sim, immediate stylistic comparisons can be made between this title and classic 90s simulation games such as Theme Hospital and Dungeon Keeper not just in terms of gameplay, but also in the quirky humour evident in the game and the frequently amusing, cartoony graphical style.
In terms of narrative, the player takes the role of a Dwarven Prince who has been exiled from the Dwarves’ home settlement for his lazy and irresponsible ways. On his exile, he is tasked by the King to prove his worth by setting out to reclaim the lands that were lost to the Dwarves in their war against an evil group of Mages.
Unlike in similar management sims such as Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper or Elixer’s Evil Genius, your Prince will be represented as a character within the game world and not simply as an omniscient overlord. As befits his backstory, he will initially be a rather unskilled and unimpressive character but as you progress through the game you will earn both influence points and equipment to develop him into a much more productive and motivated character. Your improved ruler will follow you from level-to-level and as the campaign progresses will develop into a significantly more ‘Princely’ character than the one who disappointed his father so much at the outset.
The Prince is not alone in his efforts to reclaim the lost Dwarven lands and is able to call on a variety of Dwarven subjects including workers, diggers, crafters, scholars and soldiers. These subjects fulfil important duties throughout the settlement such as collecting food, digging new passages and making progress along the game’s research tree to unlock new items and room schematics. Each Dwarf type will earn experience by performing tasks which can earn them increased levels and make them faster and more efficient in performing their specialist tasks.
Your minions will not work for you thanklessly, and all have needs that must be met; so ensuring you have enough food to feed the hungry Dwarven mouths and enough beds to service the those exhausted by a hard day’s mining must be a consideration when recruiting new members. At one point in our demonstration we witnessed an unhappy digger refusing to follow orders due to his energy levels being depleted. Rather than proceed with the task at hand he stubbornly stood idle while quaffing his way through a large tankard of ale, which struck us as rather amusing and typical Dwarven behaviour.
During the course of the campaign you will be given various quests to undertake which offer rewards of influence points and equipment for the Prince. As our demonstration showed the early development of a new dungeon settlement the task was to build two beds, collect 150 food units and set up 20 decorations. A few underground apple trees and one well decorated bedroom later saw this task completed.
Building these rooms and farming areas uses up the resources that are collected by your Dwarves during their exploration and excavation activities. Unlike in many simulation games where you have only one main resource pool (usually monetary), A Game Of Dwarves features a wide variety of resources such as stone, gold, silver, wood, fertile soil areas and more. This means that certain features will be more difficult to implement into your dungeons than others as they will not only be more expensive, but will require the expenditure of particularly rare and hard to obtain resources.
It is fair to say that this game has real depth. No, we are not speaking figuratively when we say this; what we mean is that your dungeon is not static to a single level as your diggers can delve deeper or climb higher to form a Dwarven stronghold that spans multiple levels in the earth, from the surface to the very deepest and darkest places.
This exploration is key to your development. Resource placement is random on each level and your Dwarves will also uncover randomly placed rooms which they can either claim or sell for additional resources. The random nature of resource placement ensures that the experience will vary which each playthrough and improve the scope for replayability. Of course, exploration also runs the risk of opening up dangerous areas where monsters may reside.
Exploration is guided as your Dwarves' keen subterranean senses can hone in on areas of interest close to your settlement’s boundaries and display these on the overview. Of course, all you know is that there is something there, but you must excavate the area to discover exactly what it is. Those wishing for a less guided model of exploration can turn these hints off, but we were warned that the size of the levels on offer make unguided exploration a particularly daunting and time consuming task.
The balance of risk-versus-reward is reflected in the way in which exploration is handled. As you move down through the earth the deeper levels contain the greatest concentrations of rare and useful resources, but also contain the strongest enemies and greatest dangers. Common enemies that can be encountered include moles, spiders, Goblins, Orcs, giant creatures and the evil Mages themselves. The toughest enemies will be particularly alien monstrosities heavily influenced by the Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos.
We were also told that not every creature encountered will be inherently hostile. As an example, we were told about the Gnomes - who are a peaceful race and bear no ill will towards the Dwarves. However, should your natural Dwarven greed take control they are also the guardians of great treasures and will react in a less-than-friendly fashion should you attempt to secure such fineries for your own ends.
While things like resources and room placement are randomised for a large part, important areas to the campaign levels such as boss rooms or important quest locations will be static and the quests offered will be linear. For players looking for a more randomised and replayable experience a custom game mode is available, which allows dungeons to be crafted in fully randomised worlds created based on a set of user-defined parameters.
A Game Of Dwarves is shaping up to be a unique, detailed and in depth dungeon simulation game that combines both deep gameplay with a quirky style and humour. The game is due for release in the fourth quarter of 2012.