I'm a simple man. I see a dwarf in a game? I play it. So obviously, I'm not skipping out on First Dwarf. It also helps that the game is quite good, if my preview session at PAX West 2023 is any indication.
Developed by Poland-based studio Star Drifters, First Dwarf is a refreshing medley of action RPG elements with tower defense/base-building mechanics. With vibrant cartoon visuals in a world of floating islands, it's up to our main character, Tru, and his dragon companion Ragna, to establish a new home for his people.
First Dwarf's Building Shows Promise
The First Dwarf demo at PAX West was a tutorial, so I received a fairly comprehensive look at all the mechanics involved in this game. Based on all I have seen thus far, this is shaping up to be quite the fun time with its rhythm-based combat and seamless base-building. So let's split it up, starting with the latter, shall we?
Base-building is going to be a blast in First Dwarf, I just know it. Since you're on these floating islands to establish a new foothold for your dwarven comrades, you'll have to gather up resources and start to build from scratch. Resource accumulation is slow and steady when done manually, but if you siphon mana from a nearby vein, you can start to create a pipeline.
Through this pipeline, you can connect it to automated buildings to expedite the resource-gathering process. Even as a 3D game, choosing and placing buildings like houses for your residents is easy as pie. I reckon once you get the hang of things, a civilization will pop up before your eyes in no time.
Though it doesn't seem like the most deep building system, I'm definitely excited to see just how big my bases can get. And I mean bases as plural, since the demo indicates you'll be building all over. Of course, these floating islands aren't without dangers, so make sure to place turrets around to defend resource-gathering points and more.
A Unique Combat System in First Dwarf
Monsters inhabit these islands, but thankfully, you're more than capable at defending yourself. You're a dwarf that can explore on foot, but why do that when you can utilize your mechanized suit? With a strong weapon at your side, foes are less of a threat in your suit.
Combat's quite intriguing in this one; this is due to the timing-based mechanics. You see, a meter will pop up after your first hit on an enemy. You will then want to assure that your next attack hits within the colored portion in the middle of the meter. It's a little tough to explain, but it's all just about timing the attack correctly.
Timing your attacks leads to a certain flow in combat, so you can keep hammering or slashing away without interruption. If your timing is off, you'll have to restart this chain and that can lead to the enemy getting the upper hand. It might sound a bit unusual for an action RPG, but it feels satisfying to pull off a string of attacks on enemies.
Time will tell if there's more depth than just the timing of attacks. I got a second weapon in the demo -- a lightning hammer -- so certainly, we can expect to see variation in weapons. I'm sure each weapon will even behave differently; for example, the hammer has a charge attack that can do some serious damage to enemies.
First Dwarf PAX West 2023 Preview | Final Thoughts
One aspect I didn't get to check out at PAX West is the co-op mode in First Dwarf. There's a cooperative mode where both players take control of dwarves and can also can switch to Ragna on the fly. Ranga's used to scout around but can breath fire in a pinch. This seems promising!
There's a lot going on mechanically in First Dwarf, but don't let it intimidate you. There's also a lot going for it, which is to say it seems relatively polished with a wide array of mechanics. You're not likely to get bored with this one, and hey, if you can bring a friend along too, even better.
First Dwarf was previewed at PAX West 2023.