(Note: I've rounded the score up and given it 4 stars, though in actuality I'd rate the game a 3.5)
I bought this game on a whim with a gift card back around Christmas time, and only just recently did I finally put the game in and play it. I hadn't ever heard or seen anything of the game itself but was aware of the book series that the game was based on, though I hadn't read any of the series ... but the game was cheap enough so I figured why not, and took a shot on the game. Overall, I'm happy that I did.
It didn't initially present itself well in my opinion, though; the game begins with a sudden and short cinematic sequence that gives a very brief bit of exposition on the world and the role of the dwarves in it (as well as serving as a prologue for the game's story, though it doesn't come back around to it until much later in the game), before jumping right into combat for the player. It's a tutorial on the game's battle system (more on that in a bit), and it just feels a bit ... haphazard and confusing, I guess I'd say, in both the narrative it's setting up and in the combat it presents. Not being clear on what was happening myself, I could potentially see some players being turned off by it, though if they stick through it for the few moments that it lasts, they'll find themselves starting out on an enjoyable fantasy romp.
For the rest of the journey, the game's story and world is fleshed out and presented very well. The world, while a typical high fantasy setting, is an enjoyable and interesting one, and the story is intriguing and compelling enough that I wanted to see how it progressed, and it had some surprises to unfold along the way. The main character of Tungdil is -- again -- a typical fantasy goody-goody hero (though a dwarf, which a main character being a dwarf in fantasy isn't all that typical) but is likeable in character and in voice; the remaining cast are all fun and interesting as well, with their own personalities and characterizations, and interact well with one another, when they do interact. They're all voiced well, and the designs are charming.
The graphics for the game overall I would say are pleasant, having a storybook like quality to the designs; they''re not the grandest graphics ever of course, but it all looks pretty good for this game, though the cinematics can be a little janky in animation here or there. The music I'd also call pleasant; it's -- once again -- typical fare that one would expect to hear in a game with a high fantasy setting, outside of the rock song that plays over the end credits, and while the music on the whole may not be particularly memorable, it's suitable for the game and sounds nice.
In certain towns and other places on the world map, the game is played in an isometric perspective in which the camera can be moved around and zoomed in or out to get the lay of the land; these areas are usually marked by being a combat area, though every once in a while it allows the player to wander about the area and explore. It mostly works well, though on occasion a character would be in a corner and there'd be no place for the camera to be moved in which to get a good view. Much of the game and the party interactions or interactions with NPCs occur via text boxes with portraits that are overlaid atop the world map, with the world map itself being landscape with nodes that the player chooses by moving a cursor over it.
It gives the game more of a storybook presentation I feel, and while there are definitely some occurrences where a conversation or plot point would've been better served to have been presented in either a cinematic or even in just the isometric view, I still found it to work well and didn't feel that it robbed the game much of presenting a compelling story or characters. It's aided all the more by some very good voice acting that reads over the text, primarily by way of the narrator and main cast; some of the smaller NPC characters have somewhat more iffy sounding voices, but for the most part it's very well done, especially for a game that clearly isn't and doesn't present itself as a bigtime triple-A RPG.
For the combat, always an important part of every RPG, the game utilizes real time combat with pause, like the BioWare/Black Isle games of old, with special skills mapped as hot keys to the directional pad. Overall, I felt it worked well enough mechanically and looked good, if -- in terms of the basic attacks -- lacking maybe a little bit of weightiness to the blows. I did feel that, overall, the combat was satisfying most of the time, and varied enough; each character has different skills and different strengths -- one is high in attack power, one in defense, one uses magic, etc -- as one would expect from most RPGs. And also much of the time, combat can be challenging -- and frustrating.
However, the challenge for the combat, I felt, came less from a strategic or tactical aspect, and more from just hordes and hordes of enemies rushing your characters and the feeling of chaos that would ensue. The game gives hints on the loading screens about using the environment for a tactical advantage and such, but oftentimes I felt that I would be surrounded by mobs of enemies far too quickly to make use of any said environmental advantages. I began the game on 'Medium' difficulty, but it wasn't too far into the game -- during a particular battle where I was surrounded by enemies but only had to kill one single orc to win the battle -- that I had to swallow my pride a bit and bump the difficulty down to 'Easy'. After that, the game's combat did become a bit easier, but it was still easy to get swiftly overwhelmed if I wasn't paying attention to each member of my party, as once a character gets completely surrounded, their HP will drain away in moments.
And the player must pay attention to each party member while in battle, switching between them constantly, not only to ensure their safety, but also to ensure that the characters are actually doing something. Most of the time it wasn't much of an issue; if there is an enemy within the nearby vicinity, the character will attack it. However, once all said nearby enemies have been dispatched and if the rest of the party has pressed the battle on further along the map, the left behind party member(s) have a tendency to just remain where they are and be idle. It can sometimes be a bit of a boon, as the characters will regenerate health if not being attacked, but there were times that I had a character start to be overwhelmed and switched to others in order to help alleviate the pressing hordes, only to find that the other character(s) was/were just standing around on the far side of the map. As well, I'm not sure any of the characters use their special skills (which are much more helpful than basic attacks, of course) when I didn't take control of them and prompt them to do so. I may have missed it in game, but I didn't see any way in which to set tactics for party members when not being controlled by myself. But to be fair, apart from the early difficulty from being mobbed by hordes of enemies, it wasn't often that I would have to restart a battle due to any of the preceding issues.
While I'm not sure of the exact amount of hours I spent playing the game, as I'm not sure how to find that information on my PS4, the game is short, especially for a modern RPG -- I can't imagine that the game was any longer than ten hours from beginning to end, if even that long. In truth, with the shorter time the game's pacing flowed well and was brisk, and it hardly bothered me all that much, as it was nice to settle in for an RPG that wasn't going to be a 100+ hour time sink. I'd liken it to fantasy novels; those 1000 page tomes can be great reads, but every once in a while, I prefer to experience the brevity of one that's about 300 pages long.
However, that said, the game's narrative and development of its characters did feel to suffer some from said short running time. There are a few characters that have pretty interesting set-ups -- a companion that's forced on you that doesn't like you, another that has dangerous powers -- but as there can't be a lot of time spent on developing these plot-lines in so short a time, so there really doesn't feel to be much meat to their stories/characters. What's there is done well and interesting enough, and I never got the impression/feeling that the game was rushing through plot/characters (those two characters specifically mentioned do have complete arcs), but one can't help but feel that a bit more length could've served these things better.
There are also the odd glitches or just mistakes that I encountered along the way, such as misspelled words or voice acting not matching the text presented on-screeen (one time a character spoke a line that was clearly said by another character in the text). Sometimes a character would disappear into a wall or fall up stairs, but I didn't encounter such things too often and never was any of it catastrophic in any sense. The game runs fairly well on PS4; there are some graphical issues at times such as screen tear and the load times can run upwards of 20 seconds or longer (which has never bothered me), but it never froze on me and I was never forced to reload a save due to any performance issues.
Also, for people who care about trophies, the trophies in this game are fairly easy to come by; it's entirely possible to get a platinum for the main game in a single playthrough. I myself have never been too concerned with trophies, but those who are, there's that.
Overall, The Dwarves is a pretty good game and RPG, and while it didn't last too long, I found it to be a pretty enjoyable time. I'd give it a solid 3.5 out of 5, and recommend it to anyone who likes high fantasy RPGs and looking for a more brief adventure in which to partake in between those hundreds of hours behemoths that the genre has a tendency to put out. For around twenty dollars or so, it's a good investment.