Remember Dungeon Keeper? The delightful, Peter Molyneux-created dungeon management game? Remember how you always wanted a Dungeon Keeper 3, but it never materialized? Well, Dungeons isn’t Dungeon Keeper 3, but it’s as close as you could reasonably expect to get.
Dungeons isn’t shy about its Dungeon Keeper love, right down to using the same names for certain in-game items. That’s what makes Dungeons’ ability actually differentiate itself from its inspiration all the more impressive.
The formula behind Dungeons feels familiar right away. You’re a Dungeon Lord, and you’re ruling over all the evil minions within your underground realm. Unfortunately, you’re betrayed at the beginning of the game by your girlfriend Calypso, and forced to abandon your throne. Now, you’ve got to start at the bottom and work your way back up.
Dungeons (PC [Reviewed])
Developer: Realmforge Studios
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Release Date: February 10, 2011
You start out with small dungeon areas to manage. Your mission is to craft a dungeon that will draw in heroes and fulfill the needs they have, whether they want treasure, equipment, or enemies to fight. Once you’ve pulled them in and satisfied their desires, you have to dispose of them before they can escape back to the outside world.
Doing so will earn you Soul Energy and Gold. Soul Energy unlocks new knick-knacks for your dungeon called Prestige Items, which make your dungeon more attractive to heroes. The Prestige system also increases your personal combat prowess, which is necessary to keep pace with the ever-improving heroes.
Heroes aren’t only stronger as you go, they are also more demanding. They don’t just want gold, now they also bring their friends who just want to get the hell beat out of them (but not die!) by monsters. This doesn’t even mention the occassional Champion who will wander in, intent on your destruction, if too many heroes meet their fate in your halls.
How important is it to keep the heroes happy? Well, unhappy heroes will complain to each other, and if they’re angry enough, they’ll band together and head straight for your Dungeon Heart. That’s bad, because the Dungeon Heart is your lifeline. As long as the Dungeon Heart survives, you can’t be killed; you’ll simply respawn at the Dungeon Heart.
There are a wide variety of missions to complete as you attempt to regain your dark throne, ranging from sowing Seeds of Discord, to breaking into cellars to terrorize their owners, to watering plants for your boss, the Zombie King. Don’t be surprised when a few of them get hectic. Often times you’ll find yourself resource-poor and facing a champion while the Zombie King demands tributes of gold, Soul Energy, and heroes. These moments can arise out of nowhere, making a game that was comfortably in hand quickly turn uncomfortable.
The reason many of those moments get uncomfortable is that there is a lot of micromanagement needed here. You’re not warned when a satisfied hero is attempting to leave your dungeon, necessitating you keeping an eye on all the heroes wandering there. Your goblin minions will dig, maintain the dungeon, and gather up loose treasure, but they’re sent scurrying uselessly about when threatened by heroes. It’s not unusual to think you have things well in hand, only to have multiple heroes escape your grasp without any notification until they’re already gone.
Speaking of micromanagement, you also have to see to each hero’s death yourself. You can even switch into a third-person view, and take direct control of your Dungeon Lord in these fights, using an MMO-like skill bar interface. The moments when you do this are few and far between, because you can’t manage your dungeon in this mode. It’s much easier to let your Dungeon Lord fend for himself while you attend to other matters.
Once you’ve finished up the campaign, there are some scenarios and three sandbox maps to entertain you, but they lack the tension of the campaign’s multiple goals. It’s unfortunate that there’s no multiplayer option, as going toe-to-toe with other Dungeon Lords could be quite enjoyable. You’ll get to do some of that in the campaign, but only against the AI.
While Dungeons isn’t the prettiest game that’s ever hit the PC, the graphics are acceptable, and they feel right for the type of game it is. Glowing wererat eyes, burning skeleton lamps, and a bloody zombie butcher set the mood. Adding in coffins oozing fog and green slimes just makes the game feel like something out of a tabletop role-playing game.
Much about Dungeons is tongue-in-cheek, and seems aimed at making the game humorous and enjoyable. You’ll get a chuckle or two out of the dialogue of your goblin sidekick, who praises you for your wretched evilness and then offers you a caramel cookie. Heroes leap into combat uttering classic lines like, “Taste my +1 sword!” It’s not a laugh-a-minute, but the humor is definitely intentional.
Overall, Dungeons is a fitting addition to the genre that Dungeon Keeper created. While much of it will feel familiar, there’s more than enough that’s different here for Dungeons to hold its own. It’s not Dungeon Keeper 3, but you’d be forgiven for considering it as such. It’s a fun take on the formula, and one that any fan of the Dungeon Keeper series should consider giving a try.
- Familiar gameplay
- Amusing dialogue
- Enjoyable and challenging campaign
- A lot like Dungeon Keeper
- Tons of micromanagement
- No multiplayer
- Campaign lacks replay value