Gnomoria review – guiding gnomes to greatness

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Your Gnomoria base begins to crumble under the goblin attacks and you wonder what went wrong.

Was it the lack of valuable ores to make armor and weaponry, or the fact that the buildings were too spread out leaving them vulnerable to attack? Perhaps those farmers could have been drafted into militia as a last resort. Whatever the reason, you’re already planning a new and improved underground fortress. This Gnomoria review will help you understand what you’re getting into.

Honey badgers and giant ants have already died before witnessing this epic battle never before seen in Gnomoria.

3 goblins think this fortress is easy prey, little do they know zombies are already wrecking it.

Made by Robotronic Games, Gnomoria is a sandbox village management game set in a procedurally generated (random) and fully deconstructable land. The player acts as an overseer guiding the gnomes to greatness. Yet you are never in direct control – instead progress is made by giving gnomes professions, selecting areas to be worked, and placing blueprints of various workshops and furniture. Designate a chunk of mountain area to be mined and observe how dirt and stone makes way for a cave. Once the chain of production feels familiar your dirty workspace can transform into a livable base of operations.

There is always work to be done in Gnomoria.

An early fortress still in the process of expanding.

After the first season gnomads start to appear wanting to join the workforce. But friendly gnomes aren’t the only ones to be lured into the prospering land, goblins will also want to take a bite out of your riches. Feeble as they are these pests are not that big of a threat, but the power of invaders is cleverly linked to the value of your kingdom. Naked goblins are replaced by armored ones who eventually even team up with ogres. Assuming the difficulty setting isn’t set to peaceful this forces the player to not be too greedy and take it slow. Patience applies even more to mining as deep underground is the home of dark creatures waiting for their chance to cause havoc.

Imagine the guilt I felt when intentionally letting one of these escape just for this Gnomoria review.

The dining room is filled with statues at the cost of a possible zombie chain reaction.

All this might sound pretty straightforward but in reality the learning curve of the game is fairly steep as there are a lot of different materials linked to various workshops and professions. A common complaint is confusion over orders not being executed which can have a wide range of causes such as lack of materials, or workers being too upset to be productive. Micromanagement will take a big chunk out of your playtime so the unofficial Gnomoria wiki certainly comes of use as there is still a lack of in-game explanations. Personally I find the handholding in other modern games annoying and unclever, but in contrast Gnomoria does the opposite by throwing you into a moving vehicle you’re unfamiliar with.

Combine materials to make products in Gnomoria.

You thought beds just pop up out of thin air?

Luckily there is no need for being overwhelmed as orders can still be given while everything is paused, a pleasant aspect as it gives more control over the somewhat unpredictable events.  Another interesting ‘feature’ is that the game saves when closed, meaning failure or progress cannot be undone, just like in Minecraft. Forcibly exiting by holding ALT+F4 or creating a backup of your save file is a way around this but this may be seen as cheating. Furthermore just like Minecraft this is a game that gets progressively easier over time as the player finds better and stronger defences, which is very nontraditional for video games. The game even shifts from management to simulation if players are clever enough to make everything automated which feels like a reward on its own.

So how does all this compare to the legendary Dwarf Fortress? It’s difficult to compare a goblin to an ogre as Gnomoria is basically Dwarf Fortress Lite. While both games are still in development, Dwarf Fortress was born in 2006 whereas Gnomoria popped up years later in 2012 and isn’t nearly as deep and rich. It is however more pleasing to look at clear isometric pixel art instead of Dwarf Fortress’ ASCII graphics that make you feel like you’re trying to decypher the Matrix code. So perhaps most importantly, Gnomoria is much more approachable. This doesn’t necessarily make it a better game, as Dwarf Fortress takes the cake with its vast world of ever surprising complexity.

'Imagination is key' has never been more true, a Gnomoria review pales to even describing one aspect of Dwarf Fortress.

You may not be able to tell, but this dwarven fortress makes Ironforge look like cavemen scribbles.

Back to Gnomoria; The yay:

  • A solid game for strategists and management fans alike.
  • The amount of content. This Gnomoria review doesn’t even cover the happiness system, the traps gnomes can set, magic to be released in a future update, and so on.
  • Who needs an ant farm when you can observe your little antlike workers as they go on about their business.
  • A charming soundtrack with retro or orchestral option.
  • The developer is in touch with the community with proper communication.
  • The €6,99 price tag.

The nay:

  • The high learning curve.
  • Making progress can be frustratingly slow.
  • The somewhat uninspired look of the game.

The final say:

If you enjoy strategy, management, or simulation games this is a game worth checking out especially since this game has a big list of things still to come.

Additionally there is the beautiful game Banished to check out.