Dungeons Review (PC)
Posted by Jim Cook, Feb 10, 2011 07:09
Some of you reading this review are no doubt fans of Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper, a game that even cursory research suggests that Kalypso’s Dungeons is clearly paying homage to. Sadly, I have no experience with that game and can only relate my experiences with Dungeons itself. Yet even without any nostalgia helping it out, Dungeons manages to be an entertaining mix of sim-style dungeon building, tower defense, and real-time RPG combat similar to Diablo. Openly silly and playful, Dungeons puts you in the role of a dark lord out to expand his power and crush various high-fantasy (think Tolkien, D&D, etc.) heroes who enter his realm. There is one interesting twist to this idea: you want the heroes to show up, entertaining them with loot and monsters to fight until they are content... at which point you strike them down to harvest their ’soul energy’ for your own use.
Primarily played from an overhead view, Dungeons asks the player to tend to several tasks followed by a lull to prepare for the next wave of trouble. With several resources to manage, you direct your goblin underlings to excavate underground walls both for the gold within and to clear out enough room to build your dungeon. Once you have room, you have to deploy monsters through the area, provide treasure for heroes to find, decorate the area with neat items that both boost your lord’s prestige and power, and defeat those who oppose you. If this sounds like a lot to keep track of, it is; the only reason it isn’t overwhelming is that you usually get a short break between fights in order to sort all this out.
The ’sim’ construction elements are probably the easiest to learn. It doesn’t take long to figure out how to get your goblin workers to carve out useful areas to work in, and placing things within your dungeon is quite easy. Generally speaking, you want to figure out what path the heroes will take, lay down treasure on that route, then use decorations to ensure they notice the things you want them to see and follow your expected route. Different heroes have different needs, so you’ll have to do your best to handle that. Some just want gold, while others may want both that and a satisfying fight against generic monsters you deploy. Others still will seek out new weapons or arcane knowledge, and heroes that don’t find what they want may get angry and decide to violently take their complaints to your Dungeonheart; a magical artifact that is the source of all your power and thus must be protected.. On the other hand, satisfied heroes will try to leave the area; you’ll have to chase them down before they escape.
You go to all this trouble because a happy hero has a lot of ’soul energy’, which you absolutely need in order to win. A defeated hero is taken to a prison cell, where this energy will be drained and made available for you to use by making your monsters stronger, constructing new items and rooms, and more. You’ll need these things to keep increasingly sophisticated heroes happy, as well as to maintain an army able to keep you safe. The end result is that you are essentially taking care of the heroes until they are ready to be ’harvested’, which is a pretty interesting idea.
Since you have to defeat the heroes, combat is inevitable. The monsters you deploy will handle some of the work themselves, but your lord is usually the strongest unit you have and will be needed to finish off heroes that have been softened up. Anyone who has played Diablo or a real-time strategy game will figure this out quickly, as you simply click around the map and then on the hero you wish to fight; your lord will handle the rest. It’s not always that simple however, since you have an array of special skills and spells to use against more powerful heroes. Put another way, using your lord is like playing Diablo while your AI-controlled monsters are playing tower defense. This makes for a reasonably enjoyable experience across several campaign stages and something reasonably close to a sandbox mode.
The only significant issue with all this is that Dungeons becomes repetitive after a while. It adds plenty of new rooms, monsters, and spells to play with as you go through each stage, and also offers lots of side-quests to increase the challenge, but they’re not a cure-all solution. The same cycle of ’fight, rest, repeat’ that makes the game not overwhelming also tends to drag the experience down somewhat, and this is unfortunate. Dungeons’ developers may have been aware of this however, as they regularly tried to inject various humor about how over-the-top and evil your dungeon lord is while many heroes show themselves to be shallow and materialistic; they take pride in their "+1 swords" and openly talk about how they hope they "level up" soon, along with several other things that poke fun at RPG cliches.
Dungeons is a fairly good game that will appeal to a specific crowd. With very little in the way of twitch-reflex action, it is a cerebral game that tries to win you over with humor and a clear affection for Dungeon Keeper. If the idea of ’Diablo meets dungeon-construction sim combined with tower defense elements’ sounds fun to you, rest assured this game is a decent take on that idea.
Rating: 0.0, votes: 0