There is something that I don’t get when it comes to our societal love for the characters we create in fantasy settings. It seems like often people aim to be elves, other worldly creatures, or even great human heroes that they could never been in this day in age. You know who always gets left the short end of the stick? Dwarves. You hardly see anyone playing our fierce-hearted bearded brethren in a serious manner. Sure, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series had their share of dwarves. Ask yourself this though; didn’t they just play second fiddle to the Hobbits? With the sheer number of characters you would have thought that someone would have been important enough for some face time. And those dwarves with Snow White? No chance either. Even the Kender from the Dragonlance universe got more dues. It is possible that they might have a shot at redemption. Lunar Giant Studios aimed to garner them some respect with their adventure/strategy game Delve Deeper.
Well, respect might not be the correct word in this case. Not since Dwarf Fortress have we had the focal point of a game feature our hearty warriors and workers from under the mountains in anything resembling a starring role. The King pulls the focus back to himself– I mean, his people, with a royal decree! In his gobbledy goop sort of language he demands to his subjects that he is in need of more wealth! As he is your liege, the duties fall upon you and your group of five miners, scouts and fighters. Where does one go to get said wealth for the King? The natural place for dwarves to look: mines! You will dig deep into the mountains, creating tunnels, harvesting precious gems and metals, and discovering long lost treasures. Piece of cake, right? Not so! There are other teams of subjects trying to lay claim to the vast riches. They’ll be all rough and tumble about it too as all bets are off when it comes to getting the King what he wants. There will also be a fight coming from the denizens of the underground consisting of goblins, gnomes, evil dwarves and even dragons.
Delve Deeper is a really straight forward turn based strategy game. Each team alternates a set of three different phases in order to gather the most glistening purities for their newly commissioned, kingly coffers. First is the digging phase where you must select a pre-set tile to place on an appropriate blank spot on the map. There are three different tiers of tunnels depending on the ground you are tunneling into. Those make up depths of dirt, stone and deep. Step number two is where all the strategic positioning takes place. During this time, you move around your five guys to either be in a position to pick at the walls to collect wealth, fight, explore, or turn in the trip’s haul. Once you are done there, you move to the third and final stage- collection! Here all your items are added to your dwarf’s inventories, counted when they are turned in at your lift or gnome exchange, or remain on their person if the squad members are slackers. Depending on the map, you can start at 14 turns or stretch it as far as 25. Fighting comes after the monsters take their movement. Pretty simple turn order wouldn’t you say?
To go along with a simple game play, the graphics are easy on the eyes. Delve Deeper doesn’t need to be the flashiest thing on the planet. It only needed enough graphics to get the point across. Using a traditional 2D look with animated characters does just the trick. The best way I can describe how the characters look is Super Nintendo-era sprites just punched up some more. I’d almost liken the dwarves and their actions to that of a fancier version of Golden Axe on the arcade. Textures, like the dirt and stone, is not unlike many games from the late 90s. They are much better looking, but have that classic clods of dirt thrown together look. Overall the shading, lighting, and coloring are better than what we’d expect from something almost 20 years ago.
This is not a bad thing.
The best part about Delve Deeper has to be that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you can imagine if a gerbil and murloc had a baby, that’s what the King sounds like. Yeah, that’s right. Get that image out of your head. To go along with that, Delve Deeper isn’t afraid of a cheap joke or bad pun. Dwarves are assigned random names like Tom and MacDuck, but also some common dwarf names from fiction. Every team name the game comes up with is just silly. It even extends as far as the relic names and abilities. The game reserves the special kind of naming hell for the gnome wizards though. Sir Bedwetter? Tell me he wasn’t mocked at wizard school. The King is always cracking wise when things happen as well, like death or if a player turns in a treasure. Even with how goofy the game can be, the comedy doesn’t distract from the simple strategy. Thinking out your steps rarely goes past the actual movement phase. It is a smart move to make sure that you end up at something you can mine at the end of your movement points. The AI is setup so the computer controlled players will always seek out a fight if it is something they can reach during their movement phase. The touch here adds that little spark of excitement where it is needed.
Thankfully, Delve Deeper doesn’t suffer much at the hand of flaws either. During my testing, there were only two that I ran into. The first will be a big one if people don’t choose to take sixty seconds or less to do some Internet searches if bought on Steam. For whatever reason, Steam doesn’t like to launch the C++ distributable package after you download and launch for the first time. The files are downloaded to the game directory, just not executed when you start the game. The other flaw is a very tiny one. During the review every time I would take a screenshot the game would switch from a windowed mode to being full screen. A command to bring the game to full screen is bound to the universal Steam screenshot key. Doing it too many times will also make the game crash. Correcting this is as easy as re-assigning the command in your Steam settings to something that isn’t used in the game.
All in all, Delve Deeper is a tremendously fun game. It’s a game that will have you laughing at just how harebrained it can be. The value of such fun looks even greater when you look at the piddly amount it costs. On Steam you can pick up the original game with the Treasures and Tunnels expansion for only $5.49. Treasures and Tunnels added 10 levels and 25 new relics to the game. Not bad for $1.00. If you’d like to get it from other sources, look no further than direct from Lunar Giant for $5.00. It is well worth that price. It makes me a little sad that this isn’t on the iTunes store. Delve Deeper would easily make a killing as an iOS game. We have spoken with the developer regarding this, and while there are no plans to make Delve Deeper an iOS title, they are in the opening stages of its sequel Delve Deeper: The Deepening. The Deepening may end up on the iOS. Graphics, gameplay, and comedy have most any other casual title beat with just those features. Also, this game can be setup in a window on a second monitor. You could easily take your turns while your raid prepares for a fight or are waiting for everyone to run back after a wipe. Lunar Giant struck it rich with Delve Deeper. An accessible game was built that is easy to grasp, fun, and should have you chuckling as you dig on. Dig in (see what I did there?)!
Game provided by developer. Posted with permission from 20 Sides of Nerd.