It has been a long time since we posted an MMG Discusses article, but recently a perfect opportunity has arisen. Tim and I, along with a friend who might be familiar to those who watch our YouTube videos (Jroy), have had the opportunity to try out the brand new Beta for RTS DwarfHeim. DwarfHeim differs from traditional RTS’ in that it is a team-based, cooperative RTS based around a unique selling point of a division of labour. More specifically, a team of three players will manage one dwarf colony with each player having a specific role a Miner, a Warrior and a Builder. The game is played out on a game map that has both a standard above ground portion but also has a corresponding underground portion. At present the game has the option for both PvP where two colonies vie for control and domination over the map, in a traditional RTS sense, but there is also a PvE mode where you have to survive waves of increasingly challenging attacks by trolls.
The Miner is in charge of operations below ground, using a miner to carve resources out of the rocks and then deposit the raw ores onto a Factorio-eqsue series of belts and foundries which you build, smashing up ores and smelting them into resources for building which are shared between the three players. The Builder primarily operates above ground, building farms for food and woodcutters. dealing with the other portion of the resource collection, but is also in charge of constructing towers and walls and houses to increase the number of dwarfs you can supply. Lastly, the Warrior is in charge of the colony’s army. Recruited from buildings constructed by the builder, the Warrior is in charge of maintaining a standing army to protect both the above and below ground bases, as well as sending out skirmishes, attacking mob spawners for additional loot and resources. Just on its own, the three-way division of labour is very unique and the three of us were quite excited to give it a try (particularly as it ticked a number of boxes for us: the Factorio side of things, the RTS base management).
Currently the game is extremely deep in development and so obviously a full review would be inappropriate as we expect a lot to improve and change. However, the game will be releasing into Early Access on Steam in October, so we did want to talk about it some way. So, instead it seemed like a good idea to revive an older series of articles where we simply had a chat about our experience playing the survival mode of DwarfHeim (as at time of writing the PvP seems to be disabled). Just an overview of our impressions of the game and whether we think it has legs. This is that discussion (edited in places for spelling/clarity):
Seb: So, we’ve just come fresh from playing DwarfHeim last night. I was playing the Warrior, Jroy was our Builder and Tim was the Miner. It has to be said right off the bat that we played 2 or 3 rounds of Survival (the PvE mode) which overall took about 2 hours or so. For all three of us, this was our first proper session with the game, however both Tim and Jroy have had a previous and unfortunately disheartening experience with trying to play it. First, Tim playing on his own and then the two of them trying to play together…
Tim: The one game I tried to play myself, a guy on our team never connected making it impossible for my team so we just surrendered after 2 minutes (it didn’t give control of the leaving player’s units either). Then when me and Jroy tried to play together there was just nobody on (nobody found with matchmaking).
Seb: You know, I can see that being a real issue here for matchmaking. Like, even if you had been given control, how viable is it to play two roles at once? Like, I could 100% see it being doable singleplayer with pausing and micromanaging stuff. Maybe even fun! But in a competitive sense, as soon as you lose a player there’s literally no way you can continue.
Jroy: The people say in Discord just don’t bother queuing solo or duo you won’t find anyone. They do seem pretty friendly though, when I complained about Tim and I not getting a game someone had offered to jump on within 2 minutes.
Jroy: Well, one guy seemed friendly. And by one guy, I may as well say the community.
Seb: Guess that makes sense. So, I suppose right off the bat the game comes with the qualifier that you NEED a team of three to be able to play. Although I guess that’s somewhat solved by the friend pass thing.
Tim: Yeah, remember only one person needs to own the game.
Editors comments: Possible due to precisely the things we just mentioned, DwarfHeim is releasing with the very nice idea of a friend-pass wherein only one person needs to buy the game. S/he can then invite two friends via Steam to join playing without the other two owning the game. Just a very nice idea for a cooperative game to display.
Seb: Beyond this, what did we think?
Jroy: I read through some of the DwarfHeim bug reports, lots were the same as what we were having and seemed to go back a far while (pathfinding/invincible enemies/walls not working).
Editors comments: When playing we experienced several really noticeable bugs. Specifically, units would regularly get stuck due to pathfinding, particularly due to walls. Eventually getting to the point where out units were just walking through walls. But also our session was ended rather unfortunately when a giant attacked the base who took literally no damage from ANY attack. Levelling our army and entire base without taking a single hit.
Jroy: Still a good idea, but not up to scratch yet.
Tim: Yeah, bit concerning considering it launches next month. It’s the type of game that may never get off the ground if it has a botched launch.
Jroy: Early access launch, no? But yeah, Bannerlord [Mount and Blade 2] had a bug-filled, feature-lite, launch and lost like over 90% of the player base or something like that… I’m sure Bannerlord has the ‘pedigree’ to pull people back, I’m not sure DwarfHeim would survive.
Seb: Were you seeing any class-specific quibbles out of curiosity?
Jroy: The most annoying thing for me was when I selected builders to build a building, only one would go and build it. If you try and task another builder to join in before the blueprint had started “building”, it would be cancelled. If you try and task multiple builders to join in building after building had started, they wouldn’t. You have to individually command builders to help build individually. Sometimes farmers would stop farming for no reason, wood-cutters would also stop automatically getting new trees sometimes. So resource collection wasn’t optimal.
Seb: Oh that sounds like a pain… Needing to wait for things to start building to assign more workers…
Tim: The sorters (for splitting raw ores of different types towards different furnaces) would randomly stop working and would need to be rebuilt was the biggest gripe for me.
Jroy: See, that’s annoying.
Seb: Yeah, that feels like it goes beyond a bug. That’s just basic functionality that’s completely missing…
Tim: I also think with the mining, I can see it becoming “going through the motions”. There defos is an optimal setup for efficient resource extraction, so once you have that there isn’t much to do other than expand it out. Though having said that, build order is often very important in competitive RTS anyway.
Seb: It did seem like once you had your basic layout, that was you “done”. Like, there wasn’t a lot of Factorio-esque expansion and refinement going on.
Tim: Saying that, we also don’t know how long a standard 3v3 game takes, maybe issues of maxing out as a miner wouldn’t happen very often. That was like 30 mins in for us.
Jroy: I think the multiplayer game I watched was like 40 mins.
Seb: Just a vague impression, but it feels like the sort of game where early aggression would be really rewarded. Like, rush in and destroy the economy. Harass builders/miners.
Jroy: Yeah, as the Warrior you need to be clearing the camps to stop the enemy getting the resources.
Tim: To be fair also, there were some recipes for some higher end ores and late-game stuff that we didn’t even touch which may have made things as the Miner much more complicated.
Jroy: In that 45 minute game, I had just starting brewing beer and making these potion buffs from it. Dunno what they did.
Seb: For my part, and maybe I’m biased, I would say that it felt like the Warrior was both the most janky and least complete of the three classes. Like, movement and attacking were just borked, so it was frustrating to play. But then also it didn’t feel like I could do much proactive. For the most part, unless I was building units I was just flicking back and forward between above ground and underground trying to spot an attack coming and then desperately rushing to defend if I did see one (and usually failing to get there in time). But I guess I don’t know how much of that is because of inexperience on our part or just poor balance in the game. Also, just as an aside, I have to mention again that I HATE the fact that the fog-of-war is not just “fog-of-war” like in other RTSes, but just completely black so you can’t direct units properly to an area outside of your line-of-sight.
Jroy: The limited combat I got involved with was janky and stuff but I guess that wasn’t my main focus.
Editors comments: Specifically for attacking, units would regularly fail to immediately attack nearby enemies. When directed to attack enemies, the dwarf would often run right past the mobs and only then seem to realise they were supposed to turn and fight. There were also instances of supposedly melee trolls able to hit our soldiers across more or less the whole map after having been aggro’d.
Tim: Proactive is just game mode based, if it was 3v3 I think you’d have a lot more to do: harassing enemy, etc.
Jroy: Yeah in that game mode it was just ‘defend’ which isn’t that engaging.
Seb: Maybe. But I also wonder if the Warrior couldn’t have access to more defensive capabilities. Like building traps or some kind of scouting units/abilities/structures.
Jroy: I don’t know why, but I assumed you would make the defense buildings. Like maybe if when I make the blacksmith or something, you could train an “engineer” who would build the walls/towers.
Seb: Right, I actually thought that too.
Seb: Maybe I’m spoiled by Warcraft, but I’d love to see hero classes with item and equipment. With the Miner forging tonnes of super cool weapons and shit. Or alternatively even do something like Stronghold even where you can only build more basic troops but can equip them all with different gear. Just so that there’s a greater degree of interplay between the different players. Like, me demanding Tim build more crossbows for Arbalists, so he has to build a production line for them. I do recall one of our biggest complaints last night was that outside of resource management there wasn’t a lot of interaction between us, so anything that ties the classes together more would only be for the better in my mind.
Tim: They have the framework for it, the miners have backpacks for ore. So could feasibly do other items with buffs (perhaps the potions for instance).
Jroy: Would that just be for the Warrior you think, or all the classes?
Seb: I can see it being primarily Warrior specific, but Builders/Miners benefiting too.
Jroy: What would a builder hero do?
Seb: Like healing auras/build faster auras? The ability to sing Bob the Builder?
Seb: Do we have any final thoughts about the game as a whole?
Jroy: Well we haven’t even played all the main game mode yet so it’s all hard to tell. How about something like: “I hope that when the base mechanics are properly implemented this new and original concept will make for fun and dynamic team play that is not commonly found in other RTS games”. Beyond that there’s nothing more I haven’t already said. I think it’s a neat original concept which is currently let down by bugs and jankiness. I hope it gets better.
Tim: I would like to echo Jroy’s statement.
Seb: Yup, pretty much on board with that as a conclusion. We’ll be keeping an eye on it whatever the case!