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Dwarfheim

DwarfHeim - Beta Impressions

Take control of a dwarven settlement and build it into a city marvellous enough to rival Erebor.

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No matter which fantasy novel you pick up, dwarves are always crafty blighters. They're regularly known as the race with the best knowledge and understanding of mining, engineering and blacksmithing and quite often are shown this way in fantasy games as well. However, they are so much more than that and Pineleaf has created a multiplayer simulation strategy title to show just how unique each and every dwarf can be,

This strategy game is called Dwarfheim, and essentially it tasks players with developing and defending a stronghold at the centre of a map. The idea is to constantly upgrade your base, whilst simultaneously refining how it operates in a fantasy world defined by efficiency. The challenge arises when you also have to balance defending the stronghold from attacking creeps (weird-looking troll creatures) as well as doing a similar job underground in the mines deep below the surface. By combining all these factors together, it makes for an experience that's both unusual and difficult for the uninitiated.

Setting up a base to hold is simple as everything revolves around the city hall, which is essentially the crown jewel of the stronghold. If this building falls, so does the entire city and, therefore, you lose. Defend it and prosperity awaits. From around the city hall, the rest of your settlement can grow using the help of dwarven folk. You can create farmlands, lumbermills, alehouses, barracks, gates, defence towers and so much more, but the real challenge comes in funding projects with resources.

Obtained from neighbouring natural sources and the abandoned mines deep below, resources come in many different types from standard wood and ore, all the way to food and ingots that must be processed before they're used. Collecting resources will involve engaging specialist dwarves to help grow your city even further, all whilst simultaneously making sure you don't crumble under the pressure of attacking creeps.

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As for these specialist dwarves, there are currently three types with one more in development, those being: the miner, the builder, the warrior and the soon-to-be diplomat. Each has their own talents, for example, the miner is the only class with the ability to mine, whereas the warrior excels in combat and taking down creeps. By utilising each class and harmoniously engaging them together, Dwarfheim becomes much easier to understand.

The really ingenious part about how these classes fit together is when you begin to develop them. Looking at the miner: with the right building constructed, you can create specialist units capable of causing massive explosive damage. Builders, on the other hand, can be upgraded to create brews, which assist troops in combat. The systems around how these classes operate together are what separates Dwarfheim from other simulation-strategy titles, as it asks more of you than simply building a sprawling world.

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Looking at the single-player modes, Dwarfheim currently offers two to play. Survival is a typical affair that has you go on for as long as possible while fighting back against hordes of creeps that regularly spawn. On the other hand, Sandbox allows for more passive building where your only enemy is resource management. Both of these modes are great to play solo, however, where Dwarfheim truly excels is in its multiplayer modes.

Online, Dwarfheim can be played in a few ways. First of all, you can play Survival with each player taking up the role of an individual type of dwarf, i.e. a miner or a builder. Second, is the more unique Conquest mode, which pits two teams of three (soon to be four as the diplomat is still in development), asking them to grow their base whilst defending it against an opposing team while simultaneously attacking them in return. Each player helms a different class and is tasked with their own unique duties. For example, the miner will be entirely in charge of gathering ore and resources from the mines, whereas the warrior has to protect the city and mines below, engage in attacks on the enemy, and likewise venture into the wilderness to uncover new areas to farm resources from.

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The beauty of this mode is how the classes work so well together. In single-player, it can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming handling every role at once but in multiplayer, you can focus your efforts entirely on understanding and mastering your class, which is fantastic fun especially when constructing extravagant mine designs that stretch further than the eye can see. Likewise, due to each class being so unique to one another, there's a class for everyone. If you're like us, you might enjoy building and developing a beautiful behemoth of a base with the builder, however, at the same time, you might be more of an aggressive player, making the efforts of the warrior suit you better. Even more so, due to Dwarfheim's role selection before queueing, the chances are, you will never have to play a role you don't like either.

As a final note, one of the parts of Dwarfheim that really caught our attention was the great audio cues made by the dwarves when they are given orders or finish a job. They'll constantly spout witty one-liners or passive-aggressive remarks about doing too much work, which is fantastic as dwarves are often regarded as being cocky and a little cheeky at times. Matching the light humour with the different soundtracks and great art direction, brilliantly produced in-house at Pineleaf Studios, makes Dwarfheim feel that much more authentic.

Looking at the bigger picture, this one is shaping up to be a strong simulation-strategy title. With the option to play alone or online, three unique classes (and another on the way), and multiple game types, Dwarfheim should appeal to sim-fans looking for something new to dig into.

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