You play as a team of dwarfs. You compete against other teams of dwarfs. Your aim is to mine gold, gems, mithril and relics before returning them to your base to gift to your dwarfish king. You do this by directing your miner, warrior and scout dwarfs and carving your mines out of the mountainside. Along the way, you face “THE EVVIL” as it rises from the depths of your mines as well as your adversaries.
Delve Deeper appears, at first, extremely daunting. The tutorial doesn’t properly explain the intricacies of each turn and the strategic depth of the game, which left me staring at the screen clicking on things to see what would happen. Once I got the hang of it, however, I was excavating like a boss, mining gold and grabbing relics. At the start of each turn, you get to chose a shaft to put down on the hex grid, allowing your dwarfs to push further down through the mountain. You then direct your dwarfs through these mines, ending your turn when you’re happy with their placement. At the end of your turn, depending on where they’re located, your dwarfs will mine for minerals. Your goal is then to take these minerals back up to your base camp to receive points. As you would expect, the deeper down the mountain you go, the greater the rewards get – however, the “EVVIL” thickens and the difficulty to excavate your spoils increases.
Each game of Delve Deeper pits you against 1-3 dwarfish opponents. This is obviously a game designed to be played with some friends – there is no campaign mode, and competing with the AI, while fun, has a stale feel to it. With friends, Delve Deeper becomes much more enjoyable – the dry, slightly stupid AI replaced by thinking people. While I can’t guarantee you’ll play it for hours, a game (~20 minutes) every now and again is always welcome.
I don’t want to insinuate that Delve Deeper is free of problems. It’s definitely daunting to new players, the UI is a little confusing, the forced (as far as I could work out) widescreen annoyed me a little and – my personal peeve – you have to watch each opponent’s move, every turn. If you’re playing with friends then that’s all well and good, but someone like me, who has no friends, gets a little bit impatient. I found myself playing matches with just 1 other AI player rather than 3, as I didn’t want to sit through four turns (the AI and the EVVIL) between my turns. I’m not suggesting that they should force us to skip the turns, I know that some people would want to watch it, but still, how hard would it be to add a skip button?
The game is styled perfectly. The graphics are reminiscent of 16-bit games of the past, albeit with a much higher resolution than those we’re used to. The humour is cheeky and abundant – Delve Deeper never takes itself too seriously (the blue dwarfish team is called “French Connection”, with one of their dwarfs called “Stinky Pierre”). Sure, it’s immature and over-the-top, but what’s wrong with that?
At its core, Delve Deeper is a small yet complex TBS. If I were you, and I didn’t want to fork out the $5 from Steam, I think it’s at least worth a demo – if you decide you like it, it costs so little that it really isn’t much of a risk. I doubly recommend a demo if you’re into indie TBS games.