Are You Cooperative Enough?
Every co-op gamer has one friend in which they perfectly gel. A companion that always knows the top strategies and pulls off the greatest moves. A fellow warrior who keeps your best interests at heart. You've destroyed every campaign together, dominated all enemy teams, and built the ultimate bond. It's time to test that alliance in DwarfHeim.
DwarfHeim looks like a traditional RTS, complete with fog of war, control groups, and resource gathering. That said, it's bucking classic play via one major twist: you're not in full control of your base. Unlike Starcraft or Age of Empires, DwarfHeim splits the base-building responsibilities to multiple players. Ideally, this means each genre fundamental (base construction, unit control, and resource gathering) would thrive from the intense focus. In reality, it means you better come in with a competent team. One weak link will destroy your chances of winning.
Breaking Down Classes in DwarfHeim
I was fortunate enough to play some rounds with the game's dev team. The preview had three classes: the fighter, the builder, and the miner. There's also a fourth class known as the diplomat, but he's currently a work in progress.
The fighter commands combat units and has the slowest early-game. At the start, this class can scout around, take down AI camps, and rush the enemy base to keep them on their toes. But I quickly ran out of things to do as my teammates take on the other RTS essentials. DwarfHeim attempts to occupy fighters with a creep rush every few minutes, but with a decent army, these attacks quickly become irrelevant. A player attack is a whole other story, however. Should the other team strike, the fighter is your last line of defense.
However, the fighter can't take all the resources to build new units. Sometimes the builder might need steel for a better structure, leaving your army weaker for a period. These are the same decisions you make in a typical RTS, but ones you must now debate a friend (or two!) over. Of course, you can spawn a unit anyways and take the steel, but that could piss them off and lower morale, possibly losing you guys the fight.
My first round was as a fighter, and it quickly taught me that I was the weak link. My team's miner and builder were doing their thing - the former gathering coal and forging steel while the latter kept our population cap up and sent units to gather wood. Meanwhile, I was playing too conservatively. I failed to communicate with my teammates, who didn't need the resources I was saving. I could have trained more units and fought extra creeps. The enemy eventually attacked in droves, syncing their charge with a creep spawn. My squad was instantly wiped, and our base soon afterward. Defeat, of course, is how one learns an RTS, so all I wanted was to play more.
DwarfHeim Instills a Genuine Sense of Camaraderie
My second round as a builder went much better. My units were quickly gathering wood, building houses, and working with my fighter to build wall defenses and towers. I was a better communicator, and we quickly grew a seemingly formidable base. However, the enemy team was more aggressive than last round, consistently scouting and sending small attack parties to see what we're doing. They also came through the underworld, an alternate dimension where the miner sets up their operations. That's where I learned we must protect two bases at once. Since the responsibilities are split into thirds, DwarfHeim's other realm provides the fighter and builder a little more to do. I built some defenses down there, and our fighter sent over some units. Together, we could pull off a win.
As confident as we were, the other team was still more efficient. They came at us with more upgraded units and timed it for creep and another AI enemy type, trolls, to roll through as well. I watched in sorrow as my defense towers, walls, and finally, my poor builders were slowly wiped out. That loss in mind, I want nothing more than to sit down with each class in a practice mode to learn their ins and outs. While it seems simple at first, there's bound to be a lot of depth to each class. Eventually, I imagine some sort of ranked matchmaking will prove to be a great way to test your knowledge and skills.
You'll notice I haven't gone much into the miner. That's because it was too complex for me to try. According to the dev team, I couldn't have learned in the hour or so session. That's how complex it is, and I'm all the more intrigued. They compared this class to Factorio: a complex management title about automation and resource mining. I can tell you that miners spend their time in the underworld, building conveyor belts to process resources like coal and steel. These materials allow other classes to build tier 2 buildings and units. Essentially, the better your miner, the faster your research. This is definitely a class for a precise, detail-oriented person.
While the multiplayer was great fun, I'm curious how the game's single-player will work. If the miner is as complicated as it sounds, I can't imagine a player could balance multiple classes all at once. That said, it's more likely they'll provide AI teammates, and the player would focus on one class instead. I wouldn't mind a builder-based challenge mode, for instance.
That said, DwarfHeim is being pitched as a co-operative RTS/town-building hybrid. A game where you're not building a colony alongside your friends, but you're constructing one powerful base together. It's not enough to know your mechanics inside and out. This isn't Starcraft, where a player can make up for their weaker teammate with additional units or game sense. To win, you have to communicate. The fighter can spawn as many low-level units as they'd like, but they can't acquire upper-tier armies without the builder. A builder can't construct a massive gate without the miner to allocating proper resources. It simply won't work.
If that doesn't gel with you, there are traditional RTS games to play. Age of Empires is making a comeback! However, if you're looking for a twist on the familiar formula, a co-op experience that truly tests your communication skills, put DwarfHeim on your radar. It's shaping up to be something quite special.
TechRaptor previewed DwarfHeim on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.