This is a tricky one. It needs a Neutral review. If you are going to rate this, at least read it first-Thanx
If you know what Dwarf Fortress is, and liked it, you will love this game. The learning curve is more of a cliff face, it's a long, hard slog to figure out what everything does, what order you should craft in, learning how to use the dwarf professions, Military, Stocks tabs, and how to use Priorities to create effective farms. I suggest that 6-10h of play time will get you to a point where you are proficient enough to be able to enjoy this game. Be aware of that going into it, and you shouldn't be dissapointed.
Being Early Access, one needs to remember that bugs that I mention here, will likely be fixed by the time you read the review.
So the screenshots that you see of vast fortresses? don't expect to get that far in the game for a long, long, long time. What you are looking at there, is beautiful, but it takes a lot to get there. I'm sure I'll persist with it one day, I will manage it myself, but not today.
There is one particular thing in this game that I dislike above everything else I want to say about it, good or bad; Mining isn't as intuitive as it needs to be to make this game align with more casual players, such as myself (I'm not really a casual gamer, but I play this game with a Casual mentality). This game is not ready for casual players. Read the reviews, and you will see they are filled with fanboi's. This is fine, as it can be a great game, and it deserves it's positive following. All I am saying is, prepare for something hardcore, or look elsewhere ATM.
Mostly, I'm gettting OK with this game, and the more I persist with it, the better I get at not having my Gnomes Derp out. It's the ONLY realy frustration that I have right now, otherwise I would say it's an OK game.
You dont control Gnomes directly. you give sets of instructions, and they prioritise their tasks. So if a Gnome is hungry, he will go off and eat from the Food Stockpile, before he will pick up that strawberry off the ground. (its just a bug that needs to be looked at.) mostly they manage their own sleep/food/drink needs and you ensure they have enough supplies. I actually like this idea.
The UI is clunky and slow. it uses the same system as Win95 where you have to track your mouse across several dropdowns to get what you want. you have to double click lots of things that should be single click. you have to click - move click to select, rather than click drag. I keep hearing from fanbois "it's better than DF (Dwarf Fortress)" That may be true, but it doesn't make it OK. You can't pause if you have a menu or context box up. you can only pull up the context menu if you click on a blank area of the map.This is understandable, as designated areas/ objects/enemies are interactive via said rclick. but still annoying.
Although I get it, i do - it's a throwback nod to the 8bit era of DF, it's not right. I feel the art style is archaic and unclean. tiles have a lot going on in each one and it can actually make it hard for less experienced players to 'read' the layout of the land, especially as we are talking about a mining type game with multiple layers of rock face and myriads of tunnels. I feel that this game would benefit from a clean, crisp tile set. I just looked at the gmae Project Zomboid, and it's graphics are simple, but clean, allowing you to focus on the gameplay. I feel this title here would benefit from such a make over.
Turn it down, turn it off. Play your own. It gets tired quickly.
Back to the brutal. I think this game is meant to be fun, but I'm not having any. I think that once I figure out how to mine without getting my miners trapped with no way out every 5 mins, I will like this game more.
-->Pathing: gnomes getting stuck is because it's possible to work them into a corner. If, say you were to ask them to dig a pond by selecting an area that is wide, they will potentially dig themselves into a 1 tile island. because they have done this, the dirt that they need is down below their reach, so they can not build themselves a bridge out... you have to get another gnome to come resue them, and this may mean retasking a farmer to become a miner for a little while, etc etc. The pathfinding itself seems not too bad, but it pays to dig / mine in small areas/strips..
It's hard work. not from the perspective of it's a grind... it's actually very accessible, and you can get pretty deep, pretty quickly... just remember that depth = harder monsters. Monsters Spawn anywhere that is dug that is within about 12 tiles of a gnome that is not lit by a torch. Pro tip, right there. Anyway, what I find hard, is the pathing. building stairs up/down isn't always easy. gnomes get stuck/freeze. they can remove their only way out, and then they don't build stars back up afterwards. Maybe I found a glitch, maybe I'm doing it wrong. It's annoying. There is a key (E) to make all uncovered tiles invisible, so it's supposed to make deep mining easier, and in some ways it does, but it's still really easy to lose track of where your little minions are. Then there is the whole stock piling and stacking mechanic, which is currently broken. EG. Dirt can be stockpiled, and can be stacked to 64... but gnomes will not stack dirt on a stockpile. you have to make a stockpile, get them to fill it, then destroy your pile, and the game will then stack your dirt for you. I hope this is addressed in the future.
It's meant to be a Rogue-lite Procedurally Generated Crafting Survival Game With Permadeath. this is achieved with map generation at the start of the game, and a Save feature, but no Load... so youcan't go back to previous Save games. really it just feels like it's missing the load feature. I think it's because the game talks about saving so much that it becomes a thing, something that you think about, rather than just lettign it happen so that you can focus on gameplay.
On enemies; figure out how to craft a bone needle, and make yourself some bandages. Minor cuts during combat will have your gnomes bleed to death if not treated. Enough Said.
I like the crafting in this game. You can see what the prerequisites are for items, you can even order an item, and your gnomes will make all the prereq's for it... if you have created/farmed all the needed Craft stations / ingredients for those (wood, stone, bone, cotton, etc) you can see what can be created and what's needed. I Prefer this to the Terraria / MindCrap style of play where items only become available to craft (aka you know of their exsistence) once you already have all the items needed to create it.
The Negative Reccomend is mostly because I feel that this game is not yet ready for the Casual gamer, even though I will likely persist with it for now.
Casual: well, it's Don't Starve again, but with a steeper learning curve at the start - a science machine in DS wll get you through winter if your an OK player... so, one crafting table, basically. In Gnomoria, you craft 1 table specifically so that you can craft the next 6 that you will need for winter / food / drink / stone / wood / butcher etc etc. And i pretty well need them all. Then once I have them I need to use those tables to build a loom and a tailor, just so that I can make bandages for when my guys get injured in battle. That's 8 crafting tables in the first 6-10 days, pretty much. I've learned this with about 10h of play time, so it takes about 10h before you can start to learn the game well enough to begin to enjoy it... Thus - not for casual gamers - those who want to pick up a game and know how to play it in 5 mins. If a tutorial is good enough, even if it is really long, a player can feel like they have freedom in the game, and yet still be taught as they go. hints that pop up on events, like yak @ 50% hunger... start the "build a trough" tutorial... etc