Dwerve is a spiritual successor to the brilliance and nostalgia-filled glory days of the SNES, particularly A Legend Of The Zelda: Link To The Past. The new release features compelling writing and a modern twist on turn-based combat that’s not afraid to challenge the player, while rewarding variation and creativity, weaving an experience like no other.
Respect The Past, Embrace The Future
The story feels simple in execution, but the further you progress, the hints of world-building and lore begin to take center stage and showcase a plethora of memorable side characters that feed into the mythical landscape of the world Dwerve the dwarf finds himself in. For example, one character is a turtle named Fub, obsessed with keeping his orange-reddish locks from getting damaged, which is hysterical to say out loud, but when you play the game, it makes sense to fit the genre.
Still, one of my favorite moments was visiting the hub town and interacting with each clan member. Each had different subplots and commentary on the events unfolding as the story progressed, reinforced by solid and clever writing.
It’s great that each level and environment feel unique yet familiar. For example, you travel to the forests, caves, dungeons, and a few other locations that evolve the further you progress, showcasing the darker tone lingering in the dialogue and narrative, which at times draws similar inspiration to prior RPGs. Now that’s not a bad thing to honor and respect titles, because inspiration is critical. However, Dwerve succeeds and pulls the player in with hand-drawn, 2D lit cel-shaded animation that is breathtaking and gorgeous during almost every gameplay moment.
Gameplay: Don’t be scared of Tower Defense; embrace it!
I was honestly a little scared when I heard Dwerve would adopt and implement a live tower-based combat system because I don’t play that genre. Still, after some practice and moments of trial and error, it’s pretty easy to get ahold of, but expect to die a lot. I’m not afraid to admit I died quite a few times, but now I’m a pro. Of course, the tutorial does a great job of revealing a glimpse of what end game exploration and skill trees can offer. The possibilities are truly endless.
Dwerve also has a fair share of puzzles that never felt like a hindrance or obstacle and were pretty fun to tackle. They added to the enjoyment of the title, while rewarding meaningful exploration to showcase the wealth and currency of the skill trees.
Without diving into spoilers, the currency in the game looks like machine cogs. And you see them almost everywhere and wonder what to do with them till you meet a mysterious character named Sla, who gives you better traps and weapons and works as the primary basis of the upgrade system. In many ways, she feels like a perfect blend of Shiek from Ocarina Of Time and the merchant from Resident Evil 4 because she’s mysterious, but pretty witty with her dialogue.
In terms of the open world, Dwerve can become linear and straightforward at moments. Still, at other moments it breaks off into a great time killer and enjoyable title that will benefit from being on the Nintendo Switch because it feels meant to be a handheld experience from the design and tone. However, it’s still fun playing on Steam, which I’m currently playing on at the time of this review. The easiest way to describe Dwerve it’s part Zelda, Dungeon Crawler, Pokemon from the top-down camera, and a little bit of Chrono Trigger.
Our little blue-haired Dwarf comes equipped with quite the arsenal because you have a spinning ax, bow turrets, tar pits, spike traps, a few more secret ones, and familiar legacy items that are pretty ingenious to spoil.
Then if you look closely at certain moments, you will admit that you can notice shot-for-shot recreations regarding boss encounters from previous titles such as Zelda and classic Final Fantasy. Even cooler, every boss comes with an original theme suited for the encounter, and no boss battle is the same as another adding to the creativity of the team and everyone involved.
Half-Human Games not only had the courage and direction of fleshing out Dwerve and the side characters he meets on his journey, but you can’t have a great hero without a villain and enemies playing foil to the story. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present trolls, angry bees, rats, and spiders, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. However, there is the main villain, but to spoil the antagonist would spoil and tarnish the player’s experience. The best way I can tip toe around the reveal is that the trolls come off feeling like the orcs from Lord Of The Rings, but bloodier, and they become scary in hordes.
And another thing to note is that each comes with a distinct attack style and will challenge the player to rely on all forms of the upgrade tree and adapt to the core fundamentals of tower base combat.
Dwerve is a stroke of creativity for the future of indie gaming, and I hope players will enjoy the story and gameplay as much as I did. It’s funny, witty, dark, heroic, and oozes Zelda on almost level, and in every aspect. For these reasons, I give Dwerve an 8.5 out of 10. It’s a blast from the past, and give it a checkout. In a way, it feels like Dwerve was created by fans of classic gaming to rekindle their childhood days and show the modern-day audience the simplicity of what gaming used to be. Are you going to check out Dwerve? Let us know your thoughts over on our social media!