In Diggles: The Myth of Fenris, you control some very unlikely heroes, dwarves, while collecting resources and building towns with a few RPG elements thrown in the mix. What sets this RTS game apart is the inclusion of characteristics from the virtual pet game Creatures. Innonics blends the elements in a nice way, but the pace is so slow that most gameplay is spent watching and waiting for events to occur.
Odin's puppy Fenris has escaped his master's leash and is now destroying the underworld. If the Diggles can return him to Odin, they'll be rewarded with fame, fortune, power, and the ability to grow beards, a much coveted prize in the Norse world. Instead of assembling a massive army, gameplay is more about getting characters to follow your orders, gaining experience points, and increasing skills.
In the fairly clever and original campaign, you build structures, dig tunnels, fight the occasional enemy, and explore the world of Midgard, while solving puzzles and discovering weapons, items, and chain links. During the quest to recapture Fenris, you explore four unique worlds and perform hundreds of subquests, which is where gameplay falls apart since the action takes far too long to get underway, if it ever really does.
Gameplay management is a constant struggle to balance the Diggles' wants and needs against your requirement to accomplish goals. Each Diggle that eats, rests, and socializes results in one less to use in performing tasks. Needs are directly opposed and counterproductive: give a Diggle free time and he'll take too long getting back to work; ignore his wants even a little bit and he'll disobey orders until you rectify the situation, or maybe the Diggles won't mate, causing you to run short. Despite the promise of an RPG-like story, 98 percent of the game is dedicated to taking care of your clan.
Instead of moving the game along, scheduling Diggles' work and leisure time actually makes gameplay a spectator sport once accomplished. After goofing off (resting), the characters not only procrastinate before going back to work but seem to perform tasks even more slowly than before, leaving you to issue more orders to alleviate the boredom. The lack of tangible results from their work shifts is frustrating, as prior to starting a task, they gather all the needed materials into a nice neat box, select the box, and choose the destination where it'll be unpacked -- several movement cycles. Too often they pause to put on an appropriate hat (e.g., hard hat for digging, chef's hat for cooking, etc.), which takes so long you doubt if they'll actually ever do anything.
Even more frustrating is the all too often unhappy circumstance of pulling an already-working dwarf off an assignment when you start a new one when an idle Diggle is standing nearby. This mystifying programming seems sloppy and ill-conceived, and, in effect, requires you to round up all the dwarves and find out why they won't follow orders.
Gaining experience points is one of the few ways to speed up the game, though even that is a double-edged sword. The more experience points gained from a specific task, the faster the pace, but excelling too much on one trait will take away from another; thus, becoming too skilled in weapon usage may well result in ineptitude at digging a tunnel. Since they only live for 24 hours of game time, eventually you start over from scratch, and ultimately the only way to keep the game advancing is to work them constantly, which results in a lot of dead dwarves.
Another speed-up method is procreation; without it, you'll fail since the work force will dwindle to nothing and the game will end. Strategic coordination of who takes free time and when is crucial since the babies inherit parental traits and abilities. Although they still need to gain experience to become adept at a certain task, at least they have a leg up on developing into better diggers, fighters, chefs, and so forth.
Fighting consists of enemies battling until one is dead. Weapons must be in the inventory being carried and, if there's more than one, it's randomly selected depending on the distance to target and experience of the Diggle. It's another instance of watching and waiting for events to finish with no real control over the action.
Because of the boring and frustrating gameplay, Diggles: The Myth of Fenris fails to live up to the potential promised by an original concept and decent appearance. Unfortunately, the lack of exciting gameplay overshadows the good features and makes for a tedious and tiresome experience.
Graphics: The characters and backgrounds are extremely colorful and enjoyable. The top-down perspective can make clicking on the right object a bit difficult at times because of overlapping objects and areas.
Sound: The music consists of very soothing melodies and picks up appropriately during combat. The voice acting is funny for the wrong reasons due to poor translations.
Enjoyment: Enjoyment is stifled by the watch-and-wait style of gameplay, which keeps you at arm's length. Far too much time is spent managing the clan and not advancing the story.
Replay Value: The lack of action will make one play through enough for most gamers. No multiplayer option hurts any potential strategic replay.
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