Game Over Online ~ Diggles: The Myth of Fenris

GameOver Game Reviews - Diggles: The Myth of Fenris (c) Strategy First, Reviewed by - Westlake

Game & Publisher Diggles: The Myth of Fenris (c) Strategy First
System Requirements Windows, Pentium-II 350, 128MB RAM, 950MB HDD, 8X CD-ROM
Overall Rating 52%
Date Published Tuesday, July 16th, 2002 at 11:51 AM

Divider Left By: Westlake Divider Right

As a game reviewer, I typically review games to the bitter end. It’s my job to review the entire game, after all, and there’s always that slight possibility that a game that starts horribly will eventually get better if you play it long enough. But then there are some games I just can’t force myself to finish. Recently I reviewed Hotel Giant, and there was just so little going on in the game that I felt like I had done everything well before the end of the campaign, and so I didn’t finish it. Now I have Diggles: The Myth of Fenris, an odd real-time strategy game from German developer Innonics, and it’s just the opposite of Hotel Giant. It has way too much going on, and Innonics made so many bad decisions with all the things in the game that Diggles ends up being overwhelming, annoying, and tedious all at the same time. That’s just a bad combination, and eventually I couldn’t force myself to play it any more. So feel free to take this review with a grain of salt.

Anyway, in Diggles you control a bunch of dwarves from the Diggles clan. When the god Odin loses his pet dog Fenris in the underworld, he enlists your help in getting the dog back. After negotiating a suitable reward -- lots of beer -- you learn that all you have to do is find four magic rings so you can link the rings together into a special chain and then use the chain to subdue Fenris. Sound easy? Well, it turns out there are four levels to the underworld, with one ring in each level, and you’ll have to deal with trolls, dragons, and even other clans of dwarves to get the rings.

The Diggles themselves are charming. They look sort of like Santa’s elves, and they happily bounce from job to job and have funny conversations about food, rocks, and their living conditions. Plus, since the entire game takes place underground, Diggles offers a nice change of pace from regular real-time strategy games. There are still buildings, units, resources, and combat, but the emphasis is on digging tunnels and caves, and on exploring the underworld while keeping the Diggles happy, so Diggles also has a sim feel to it. And if that wasn’t enough, the Diggles can carry equipment, earn experience, and go on quests, so Diggles even has a role-playing aspect to it.

But something went wrong in between thinking up the premise and creating the game. It’s like Innonics just tossed everything they could think of into the game, but then neglected to check if the things actually worked. And so, for example, the Diggles have well over 50 types of buildings available, and that’s just too many, especially since most aren’t really necessary (like the bowling alley and brothel) and others are poorly defined (like the half dozen woodworking shops that all do different things). Plus, the buildings have different sizes (requiring different types of caves) and have different energy needs, and so they’re just unnecessarily confusing to keep track of. Moreover, you can pack up the buildings and transfer them between levels, or even relocate your base during a level, and the process is incredibly tedious because of how many buildings you’re likely to have.

Innonics didn’t show restraint in the size of the levels, either. I guess if you only have four levels in your campaign, you want them to be large enough that the game takes a while to finish, but Innonics forgot to fill them up. Each level has about four set areas (like a troll fortress or a dragon cave) where you get quests and find the rings, but everything else is dead space. That means while each level might take ten hours or more to finish, most of those hours will be spent aimlessly wandering around looking for quests, and relatively little time will be spent on the quests themselves. Worse, exploring has to be micromanaged because the explorers can run into enemies or solid rock, and because you can’t pause the game to give orders, it means you can really only have one exploring party at a time, adding to the dead time while you search for quests.

Lastly -- or at least the last problem I’ll mention -- the Diggles die after 24 game days (or about 12 hours). Innonics had good intentions here, because later generations of Diggles become more skilled but also require better accommodations, and so the game changes slightly as you play. But it ends up being a real killer. You only have about 15 Diggles at a time, and so you could potentially become attached to them and take the time to micromanage their development so they turn out just like you want them to, but if they’re just going to die soon, why bother? And if you don’t care about the Diggles in the game, there isn’t anything else to care about, and there’s little enough reason to play.

And it’s too bad. For all the problems Diggles has, there are other parts of the game Innonics handled brilliantly. The quests are interesting, and most have multiple solutions. The in-game cut scenes have a lot of humor, and the voice acting is even pretty good. And the graphics, while not great, go a long way towards making the Diggles the charmers that they are. It’s just a measure of the game that while I’m curious about what happens in the later levels (I only played the first two), I have absolutely no desire to slog my way through to find out. So unless you’re overly patient and forgiving, it’s probably best to give Diggles a pass.

(10/40) Gameplay
(12/15) Graphics
(12/15) Sound
(07/10) Interface
(07/10) Storyline
(03/05) Technical
(01/05) Documentation


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