If I could turn back time, I would.
I remember the days when I ran around isometric rooms trying to survive, and solve puzzles in games such as Solstice for the NES. The sequel Equinox was even more daunting on the Super NES due to the sheer size of the adventure. These games combined hard jumps, challenging puzzles and an army of monsters to avoid or kill. When a game asks me if I remember crawling through dungeons in the 90’s it better be good, because I have a great memory of those games. Dwarf Quest claims to be a reimagining of those days, but after spending hours in the shoes of Morrin Firebeard I regret getting rid of my old NES.
Morrin is one of the little people, as the proper term might be today. In the game he is described, as a dwarf warrior out to seek revenge for his fallen brothers. If you have read any of the Terry Pratchett novels set in Discworld you would know that some of the fallen dwarves might be sisters as well. It doesn’t really matter though, as Morrin wields a couple of axes and is pissed.
The control method is quite simple to grasp. Simply tap where you want Morrin to go, and he trudges on. When you enter a battle it switches to a turn-based affair. Each enemy, and Morrin has a number of dots signifying actions above their heads. Each tile movement, or attack equals one action used. If you opt to simply tap Morrin he stands in guard mode for the number of action points left. You can open your inventory, and use boost cards to enhance your chances of victory. These are limited to what you find in chests, and when vanquishing foes.
For movement outside of battle the controls work quite well even though there is a lack of precision. When entering a battle that is turn based the controls have let me down on numerous occasions. For example I might have wanted to stand guard, but for some reason what I consider a concise tap of Morrin he takes a step forward. Even worse is the fact that he can get stuck behind a chair, and be forced to back up spending all movement points without gaining anything. The AI is rather stupid, or non-existent. I have been waiting for foes to deal a final blow, but instead opted to defend allowing me to kill it the next turn. When up against several enemies moving in a way that makes them block their allies means that you can take them one at a time.
The maps in Dwarf Quest are quite large, and immensely barren of life and objects to interact with. Every fifth room will feature an enemy, or two. About every third room have a barren to smash, and every tenth a chest to open. There is a handy map that is accessed in full screen mode. I would have liked an on-screen map making it niftier to navigate. The game is highly linear, but as there is a scarcity of items and potions it is best to explore every nook and cranny.
I have searched every chest I could find in the game to get as much gold as possible. Being an avid fan of the dungeon crawler genre I know that buying new gear is a key ingredient. In Dwarf Quest however I haven’t been able to find any merchant, or use of the gold at all. Why have gold if it is of no use. Now I get teased all the time, and reminded that there is a large omission not having a merchant. Heck I want to buy a large hammer to smash my enemies instead of wielding small axes.
I really wanted to relive my childhood memories of isometric dungeon crawlers, and the initial ten minutes of Dwarf Quest were promising. Then nothing happened, and Morrin kept running around a series of large barren maps. The story never really took off, and was kept at a moderate lull. The enemies got larger, but not smarter. Puzzles are kept to a simple pull a lever to move a piece of the floor, or open a door.
When Morrin dies in battle you get to reload a checkpoint, and this could have been a pleasant addition. I mean compared to the games of the 90’s where death meant restarting from the beginning a checkpoint system must be much better, right? Nope, not in Dwarf Quest. I don’t really understand how the checkpoints are determined. At times I get to start about four rooms from the previous death, and at other times I get to start at the turn before the final blow. This is actually a game breaker, as it might force you to restart the entire game from the beginning. If you are out of potions, and battle cards you can never survive the final turn.
Many aspects of Dwarf Quest feel unfinished, such as the lack of options menu, poor checkpoint system and lack of non-enemy characters. It doesn’t matter how well the game looks, or sounds when there are so many core features not present properly.
I don’t want to be a hater on Dwarf Quest, but it disappointed me sorely. Morrin tries to wear boots that are four sizes too large. Great presentation, and atmospheric sound isn’t enough to save it when the gameplay is dumbed down and there are bugs that are more frequent than the occupants of the game.
Dwarf Quest $0.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Wild Card