Indietail – Dwarven Skykeep

I love resource management games, city builders, deck builders and the like… I’m a sucker for anything strategic and I enjoy more challenging games just as much as I enjoy cosier titles, so when I first heard about Dwarven Skykeep, I was naturally quite excited. It’s a game about deckbuilding where you use these cards in your deck to defend The Nameless Kingdom against a dark force… by building towers to defend against them.

The premise is interesting and the game is rather unique but… it takes a long time to get started. There are five worlds to explore, lots of cards to add, and many different characters to meet but during the three-ish hours that I played, I constantly was hoping to get more freedom but it was actually just “move there, talk to this guy, go here, do this one mission, then rinse and repeat”.

So, naturally, I didn’t finish the game and I didn’t play as much as I usually would with these review keys… and this review is going to be a bit different – by which I mean that I’ll leave my suggestions for improvements near the end and I hope that it helps the 11-man development team from Hack the Publisher out.

Developer: Hack the Publisher
Publisher: Ravenage Games, East2West Games
Genre: Indie, Strategy, Deckbuilding - with some Base Building somewhere in there
Release Date: December 1st, 2022
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was provided by a PR person.

Dwarven Skykeep puts you into the role of Dr. Sevendar Kness, a master of card magic and the leading expert in the construction of block towers. To help The Nameless Kingdom, you arrive in the Dwarven City and have to get trained in the usage of card magic.

To do so, you speak to a lot of people, acquire cards, buy new cards, change out the cards you’ve got in your deck etc.

The “actual game” is accessed through a Magic Mirror in the mirror shop – there, you’ll find yourself in a valley of sorts where you build a tower and summon creatures (mostly dwarves) to build the tower up and craft items.

Each tower you build consists of blocks that you need to draw. You can have up to two block cards in your hand at a time and you’ll get a new one whenever you finish building a block. These blocks have rooms in them that can be occupied with workshops, storage rooms, taverns, mines, mana generators and other facilities – that then can also provide you with more cards to use, like tools and magic!

This in itself is an interesting spin on the base-building formula but the amount of RNG you encounter really screws you over. Sometimes, you’ll spend a mission trying to build the tower but you just don’t get anything that effectively attaches to your tower in any way that furthers your goal. What I mean by that is that you essentially get these blocks that can be open on one to four sides. When you build something that is inaccessible on the top, for instance, you cannot build a block above it that has an opening on the bottom of it.

And sometimes… you just get those that in theory can be built but they don’t really help you go deeper. I’d love it if you could rotate blocks at least. Using the warehouse, you can change cards to other cards in their group but that also is very RNG-dependent… and that kinda sucks.

The missions that you embark on often have you try and survive for a set amount of time or get specific cards (i.e. “Earth Essence” found deep underground).

So, there is some variety there in what you’re supposed to do… but the amount of RNG in the game makes it rather challenging to get there… and then the game also tosses enemies at you that destroy blocks, set stuff on fire,… or you may even get rain which floods your basement.

When this happens, you can’t use those specific rooms until the water is pumped out, the fire is stopped or the room is fixed. This also requires specific cards that need to be in your deck but it’s random what the game puts into your starting hand or what you get through the workshops… and that’s an issue.

But Dwarven Skykeep doesn’t only focus on this base-building aspect… it also has a story with lots of humour but you experience this through dialogue boxes that pop up in between missions. Those boxes, however, are so filled with unnecessary sentences and lots of information on a world that doesn’t take itself too serious.

One plot point of the game is that this prophecy says that the hero is gonna save the kingdom – but they couldn’t find this hero, so they basically just grabbed some untalented kid and they’re now tweaking the prophecy to fit the kid’s description. It’s fun initially but eventually, the game just goes on and on about this so that you lose interest quickly.

At first, I was reading everything… then, I skipped a lot… and then I skipped everything. But you also end up walking a lot to different people across the city streets and it’s honestly quite annoying if not even tedious. You’re walking at the same pace every time and the amount of back and forth you have to go is… suboptimal.

So, my proposed fixes would be:

  • Limit the amount of text on the screen at one time.
  • Give us fast travel.
  • Limit the number of ways that RNG can screw you over.
  • Implement longer campaigns.
  • Make Walking faster.

Frankly, I can see how Dwarven Skykeep could be a lot of fun in theory but I find the in-between sections just so darn tedious that it doesn’t really make for a joyful experience… and then even the actual gameplay sections with the promised deckbuilding and base-building don’t feel quite right since missions are over so quickly and then you have to start again in a different mission.

It just drags on for so long and it feels like you’re playing a tutorial… non-stop… so I started a new game and skipped the tutorial and ended up quite far back… It didn’t actually skip that much. The game constantly is doing tutorial-like things that halt any sort of progression you might find fun or entertaining and the humour loses its charm rather quickly…

I just really disliked the game which is a shame because it’s an interesting title. But, you can check it out yourself if you’re interested in a City Builder Deckbuilding game. It just came out. Maybe you’ll like it more… maybe the devs will update the game soon enough to improve the experience – in which case, I may update this review and/or write a new post on it.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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