I’ve always enjoyed pen and paper roll playing games, and I wish I had more opportunities to play. Whenever I play one, I try to choose a dwarf or dwarf-like race. There is something about stubborn-headed Orc-slaying and having an affinity for beard growing that I find respectable. This craving is certainly filled with this game, even with its many glaring flaws. It helps that the game is based off a book of the same name, so the narrative is already defined for the developers to adapt.
The game starts out by dropping into an active battle. This is a little disorientating, which will probably lead to at least one failure due to not understanding either the controls, which units are supposed to be killed, or the pacing of the game. As a better grasp of the mechanics is garnered, the game introduces the story in awkward little cut-scenes. Some of them are fully fleshed out, but with bad shading and lip-syncing that is slightly off that makes for some illusion breaking moments, and some are done in the moment with the help of subtitles. After what is essentially the tutorial mission is over, the game progresses a small period into the future, and grants control over the primary character, Tundil.
This is where the game starts to open and the core of the game revealed. Half the game is choosing how to move from objective to objective in the map, and that is where this game shines. Each move could send you into a fight with a band of orcs, a chance to grow relationships with other characters, or even more varied incidents. This is the fun of a roleplaying game. Lots of games have situations where you can learn the pattern of what happens and then you can take advantage of that. Each map marker could contain a different happenstance. In the early stages of the game, I had gone forward and cleared a map marker. When I came back, I had an event where I was sitting and eating dwarf cheese around a campfire. This gives the game the flavor of a solo roleplaying campaign where the game moderator is the game. I know that is how the genre literally works, but this really pushes for that feeling of being in a good old fashioned tabletop game, enhanced by modern technology.
This game does have some drawbacks. The load times are significant. Every time you enter an event. Every time you leave. Every time you switch rooms. Just, everything. And it is the same control scheme layout every time. There is also frequent light glitching in the game, so sometimes scenes don’t render correctly, including the flat black loading screen. The cut scenes also suffer from drop-in and stuttering. Luckily the audio keeps playing and I never remember having a problem with it.
Overall, if Fantasy RPGs are what you enjoy, I would recommend this game. The combination of world map with random events, as well as combat driven scenarios, makes for a game that varies enough to avoid getting stale. The story differs enough from traditional fantasy epics to be fresh, but sticks to traditional dwarven themes to really empower them and help dive into nuances of their race. This game is held back by its heavy loading and frequent graphical hiccups, but the gameplay itself makes up for it.