When it comes to fictional races in media, Dwarves have to be my favorite. Something about their surely disposition and love of barley pops always pulls me in. When I stumbled upon Dwarfenstein I knew I had to play this game. It’s a first-person shooter, tower defense game starring space dwarves. While you might immediately think of Deep Rock Galactic (another space-faring dwarf game) however, this game’s cast and space are where the comparisons begin to drop off.
You play as a descendant of a mighty race of space dwarves. This powerful race once ruled space and was revered like gods. Unfortunately, they fell when they self-destructed thousands of years ago. You’re flying around planet to planet in search of your new home. Accompanied by a strange robot you land on each planet in search of crystals that will eventually aid in taking you to your new home.
Dwarfenstein is an FPS tower defense game however, I’d say it’s more akin to a horde mode game. Each planet you go to has 3 or 4 levels with 3 tiers of difficulty that you can go through. You are in charge of protecting your giant mining equipment that is working diligently to get those gems! You will be able to see various spawn points on the map and a wave counter and time on the top of your HUD. I do love this HUD because not only does it show you the kind of mobs and how many there are; but it also shows the incoming wave.
In each of these levels, you’ll find various pickups like raw gems that you can break off and collect, health pickups, tower repair pickups, and hidden parts. To touch on these hidden parts, you will find one on each level. These work toward creating a “Robot Destroyer” and gives reason to finish all three tiers to each level.
Gunplay is quite the treat here. Regardless of class, you have a gauntlet on your left arm (or right if you change the option) that shoots a freeze ray. This helps slow down the horde and in some cases allows for easier kills of fully frozen enemies. This gauntlet can also be used to pick up shields and weapons dropped by mobs and throw them back at the incoming horde. Each weapon also has two firing modes and each is unique. You can zoom in, shoot multiple times, shoot grenades, and more.
Before each deployment in Dwarfenstein, you get to gear up and choose from 3 playable classes: Gunner, Electrician, and Engineer. Each class has 4 unique skills to unlock and 3 guns, 2 of which you will need to unlock with gems. There are 12 perks to unlock that carry across the classes. These perks give things like extra gun damage, movement speed & jump height increase, and reduction in cooldown timers.
I truly like the aesthetic that the developer created here. The world is low poly but with a little steampunk, metal punk, style with the gems you collect intertwined. Each weapon has a unique look to it that really ties into the way the rest of the worlds look. Your enemies are reminiscent of orcs and goblins. There are about 40 kinds of enemies so there is variety within the hordes you face. Some are reskinned like a goblin being a goblin mage, but even with this reskin they have new skills and playstyles that it feels fresh and different.
For the game being a solo developed game over 4 years, it plays really well. In my time with the game, I didn’t run into much to be concerned with. The biggest bug I ran into had levels where the mobs would spawn but not actually move to your mining equipment. They would be stuck at the spawners and not attack you unless they had ranged attacks. Thankfully after speaking with the dev he is aware of this bug and it should be taken care of.
My other concerns were related to perk pricing. They were very expensive so I focused on buying skills and weapons vs perks. By the time I finished the game I had bought 2 perks only. Much like my last complaint this also has been addressed and the costs have been reduced.
The game can feel a little repetitive. The different tiers of the levels didn’t feel different enough from previous tiers. Both in look and difficulty. The enemies hit a little harder and had more health but with how forgiving the game is when you die, I didn’t really notice that much of a difference. After speaking with the dev they are aware of this and are looking at ways to improve this difficulty increase.
While Dwarfenstein doesn’t necessarily do anything groundbreaking, what it does set out to do it does it very well. The gameplay is fun, smooth, and kept me entertained. It’s been one of those games I can sit down and do a couple of levels or a single run on survival and put it down knowing I’ll be back for another run tomorrow. If you’re in the mood for a solid horde mode shooter with a fair amount to unlock, then Dwarfenstein is definitely one to check out.
A fun take on the tower defense genre. Its story is short but survival mode and unlocks will keep you busy.