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Dark Gnome – First Steps


When I started playing Dark Gnome, at first I did not realize that this cute pixel-art game would be so engaging that I would be spending several hours playing it.

The game’s secret is simple yet compelling: it’s about gathering enough dwarfs so to alternate sending different teams of four into battle.

Right from the start you free enough imprisoned dwarfs to put together a group of four. This team you send into battle against the first enemy faction: the rats. At this early phase until your dwarfs reach level 2 or 3, you will be fighting rats with a maximum of 12 hit points and may spend a few minutes after each fight at the doctor’s.

However, once your fighters are at level 4, which is rather quick to reach, even pumpkin-armored rats with their 12 hit points, will be sure one-hit kills. So after only one round you can easily pick your prize.

Every dwarf can learn certain skills – so my Thugs I first train to use “Pump” just in case, some tougher enemy is waiting in the next mission. Rogues in turn should learn “Trap Finder” and “Lockpick” – at that level every chest you manage to open will greatly boost your power.

So now every time I open the game, my first steps take me to the “old” areas to play the rescue mission first and free another dwarf from captivity. Depending on their attributes (see below), I either send them directly to the mines to dig for valuable resources like stone and gold, or add them to my ever growing roster of fighters. Those dwarfs with the “Workaholic” trait are especially great additions for the mines: a single dwarf who works for two!

Once the first team rat’s boss is defeated and you have to face the cats, your second team can start decimating rats, collecting experience points, gold and strength. At the same time your first team has earned you some spare gold, so you can send your conquering heroes to see the trainer. This is money well spent as each newly acquired skill brings you closer to victory.

Admittedly the bosses of each region are quite tough and do require a strong, well-equipped and trained group to beat, but with a bit of luck and determination you should be able to find/gather/craft enough resources to outfit your fighters. So while I keep re-visiting previously liberated areas to gather stuff, I do this with my dwarfs mostly fighting bare-handed. Still they hit so hard, most enemies simply go poof the moment I attack. This way I can save the armor and weapons I found or crafted for the final battle against the region’s boss – they are quite tough and a fight can take about three rounds.

What I figured out after a couple of battles is that your dwarfs traits may make quite the difference in battle! If you click on a fighter’s portrait in the selection bar at the right of the screen, you can find the traits mentioned right below the character screen. Dwarfs with “Tourette’s” or “Flatulenz” should be sent into the mines right away.

Other traits like “Scaredy Cat” (does not enter areas more than two levels higher), the aforementioned “workaholic” (counts as 2 dwarfs in the mines) and other traits can make a difference the higher your dwarfs level up.

There are some more traits like “Genius” (+2% XP per fight), “Gourmet” (Healing Items give more HP back), “Genius” (+2% XP), “Blockhead” (-2% per fight), “Cocky” (+10% more Damage when at full health), “Coleric” (+20% DMG when at <10% HP) which can make a significant difference in battle. “Tourette’s” and “Flatulence” are more or less useless funny gimmicks but do not give any advantages or disadvantages. So you should focus on those dwarfs with the most helpful traits.

To sum it up: At the beginning of each session you should go on rescue missions to stock up your roster and use your teams in turns: one to rest and one to go fighting. Once your teams are battle-hardened enough to one-hit your opponents in the first round, you should attempt the boss fight.

Of course there are other ways to improve your teams fighting abilities – like hiring heroes, who not only are fully equipped with armor and weapons but also bring some special skills to the table and do have an individual group bonus. That way your team is much harder to beat. Quite the useful investment to make, I’d say.

Dark Gnome is not a game to rush through and play through all the existing content. Should you however want a game that you can enjoy for a period of time every now and then, Dark Gnome is quite the charming jewel.



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