Kalypso Media – Dungeons review

Like Dungeon Keeper 3... only less evil
Photo of Kalypso Media – Dungeons

When it comes to computer games, it’s fun to be evil – just ask anyone who’s played Overlord II, Aliens vs Predator or Mafia II. But for more seasoned campaigners who relish their dastardly deeds with a dash of wicked humour then nothing has ever surpassed the sheer gleeful villainy of Bullfrog’s two Dungeon Keeper games.

Long-awaited sequel
Fans have been pining for a sequel to Dungeon Keeper 2 for over ten years, and while Realmforge’s Dungeons is emphatically not Dungeon Keeper 3, there are plenty of elements that DK aficionados will instantly recognise. For instance, the anti-hero is an evil Dungeon Lord who uses lowly minions to dig tunnels and help create dungeons, which are then used to ensnare heroes that have been lured in, who can later be tortured for fun and profit. Also, the centre of your ‘empire’ is the Dungeon Heart which must be protected at all costs – or your tyrannical reign will be over.

OK, so that’s pretty much where all the comparisons end, apart from the general colour scheme and the ability to alternate between a top-down overview and ground level interaction. What is completely new about Dungeons is the central premise of the gameplay, which revolves around inviting heroes into your dungeons, satisfying their desires and then killing them for their soul energy and their gold.

The aim of the game
Heroes are basically interested in one of three things – riches, combat or book-learning – and your job is to avoid immediately slaying them the minute they enter your domain (tempting as that is), but instead to entice them towards treasure piles, monster-generating pentagrams and libraries so that their soul energy becomes maxed out through their pleasure.

At the same time, you have to build up your prestige level by embellishing your dungeons with ‘gimmicks’ that not only increase your powers and reputation but also distract heroes from attacking your Dungeon Heart.

Another change from DK is that your Dungeon Lord can directly engage with heroes and rogue monsters, rather than using a third party to fight for you. So ability trees and spell books have been included as your heroes get tougher as the levels get higher and you need to be able to match them.

Working your way up
Dungeons also adds a storyline that begins with you being betrayed by your sexy demonic partner, forcing you to work your way back to your former glory as you seek your revenge.

This means fighting against three other Dungeon Lords who stand in your way, doing their utmost to launch surprise attacks and add demands to your workload. This at least provides some variety to what rapidly becomes very repetitive action.

The painful truth
There are two main problems with Dungeons that prevent it from coming close to the adoration of the DK predecessors. The first is a lack of control. Your goblins can be ordered to dig tunnels, but not much else – and your monsters can be summoned via pentagrams to appear at set points on the map. But they never leave them, and usually just become fodder for the heroes. You can’t even create a home-made dungeon or torture chamber, as all structures are pre-shaped.

The second issue is that Dungeons is just not, er, evil enough. It’s more like creating a battery chicken farm in which you have to judge when it’s the right time to wring the hens’ necks. If you truly want to be in charge of inflicting manic death and destruction, Overlord II still holds the ‘Joker’ award as the meanest kid on the block.

Company: Kalypso Media

Dungeons has deliberately made a concerted effort to win over the Dungeon Keeper fan base, but its 'battery farm' style of gameplay and limited control options mean that it ends up being a pale imitation of that milestone game.