Review

Dungeons Review (PC)

Before we start, let's make one thing absolutely clear about Dungeons: If you're hoping for another Dungeon Keeper, then you're going to be disappointed. Dungeons is not that game. Oh sure, visually it's got Bullfrog written all over it, and there are more than a few homages to the classic evil-em-up thrown in here. When it comes to gameplay, however, Dungeons is not what you're hoping for.

With that out of the way, we can now celebrate what Dungeons is - a ruddy brilliant twist on the tower defense genre. Bet you didn't see that coming, huh? When those heroes come charging through the gates and into your hellish dungeons, you actually want them to kill your demons and steal your treasure, albeit in a controlled environment.

Replace wererats' eyes with lightbulbs - check!

The gameplay is fresh and clever, and with the perfect balance of strategy and simplicity. Contest-wise it's screaming for a multiplayer mode, and there are perhaps one too many bugs and glitches during play, but this is still an experience that will feel so oddly familiar, yet wonderfully different at the same time.

So here's a tip - if you're going to be an evil Lord of the Underworld, don't choose a psychotic crazy woman as your lover, no matter how big her boobies may be. This particular Lord is overthrown by his lady friend, and cast out along with his sidekick minion. The duo have nothing left to do besides start from scratch, reclaiming dungeons throughout the land.

Straight away the comparisons to Dungeon Keeper can be made. On each level you must protect your dungeon heart from good heroes; goblins (read: imps) mine away at any walls you highlight, creating rooms and corridors; nasty creatures join your cause, ready to give their lives for you; even the overmap is familiar, with the sinister voice of your sidekick reading the name of the town and the explanation as to why you should hate the inhabitants.

Realmforge Studios knows what it's doing. Gamers have been longing for a proper sequel to Dungeon Keeper for just over ten years now, hence Realmforge has purposely modelled screenshots, videos and pretty much anything it can get away with on the classic game in the hope of snaring a huge audience. Dungeons is not Dungeon Keeper - but it is brilliant, just in a different way.

Heroes begin spawning through various gates around the level, and rather than cut them down quickly, you are tasked with building a dungeon that they will enjoy! Placing down interesting scenery for them, with huge piles of gold to steal from, libraries to enrich their minds and armouries to get kitted out in. You're essentially creating the perfect environment for them.

Not only that, but when you invite evil creatures to live in your dungeon, you're actually using them as bait. Heroes have needs and desires, and you want to make them as happy as possible. Some heroes like to kill things, and so you offer them wererats, skeletons and vampire bats to lash out at. There is no training room for your creatures, or casino, or anything else fancy - they are here to die and nothing more.

Once the heroes have reached their maximum enjoyment levels, that's when you strike. Taking control of your Dungeon Lord - you can't, in fact, ever stop being in control of him - you approach the heroes when they are the happiness, and steal their smiles away in the form of Soul Energy. This is used to expand your dungeon, beefing up the stats and adding even more fancy things for the heroes to enjoy.

Once a hero is completely happy, he may do one of two things - turn around and leave, or attack your dungeon heart. This is where the tower defence element begins to rear its head. By making the route from the hero gates to the dungeon heart as long as possible, with gold and goodies (i.e. towers) all along the way, you control the path the heroes take, and can strategically work out when to cut them down.

A good thing?! Next you'll be telling me you're glad there was no Theme Hospital 2!

It's so simple, yet so entertaining. You've got three values to keep balance over - your 'prestige' (how well known you are), your Soul Energy and your gold, and wringing the necks of those good guys at just the right moment is the key to total victory.

Admittedly, Dungeons feels a little slow-going at first, but gradually you come to realise that the game is implementing the 'learn by doing it' method of teaching. As heroes enter the dungeon, there's such a terrible urge to rush your Lord forward and kill them all instantly, but when you find that the Soul Energy isn't rolling in, it all clicks into place. This is a game about patience and forward-planning, and the rewards for your well-crafted corridors feel well deserved.

There are a number of RPG elements thrown in to keep the stat-lovers happy. Each level has a plethora of challenges to complete - things like 'get 1000 gold' and 'kill 30 heroes' - and whenever you accomplish a milestone, you're rewarded with scrolls or character points, both of which will make the battling much easier. Your hero has Magic Points and a whole row of spells to utilize.

Once you've gotten a little tired with killing heroes over and over, opposing Dungeon Lords are introduced. On these levels, you still need to worry about heroes reaching your heart, but also about expanding out and destroying the enemy demons. Only by taking the opponent's 'Pentagrams' and crushing his heart will the land truly be yours.

Dungeons is not without its faults, mind you. Since you're constantly in control of your Dungeon Lord, it's rather easy to accidentally right click and move him to the exact place you didn't want him. Strategy games have taught us that right-click is used to cancel out of menus - but not in Dungeons. Right-click while in a menu, and the Dungeon Lord will still head over to see what the fuss is about.

The game also begins to run out of content around the mid-way point. After only half a dozen missions, you'll already have seen everything Dungeons has to offer, and from then on it simply repeats the same ideas, structures and missions but with slightly harder difficulties. Still, you'll play for a good six or seven hours before the twinge of repetition will appear.

This could have been diluted with a decent, competitive multiplayer mode... and quite why none is supplied is beyond us. The Lord vs Lord action appears perfect for online romps, and we're keeping our fingers crossed for an update sometime in the near future that will patch it in.

And next on the catwalk we have Mr. Lord, sporting a rather fetching demon thong

Our final and most glaring issue with Dungeons is its general stability. On numerous occasions, we encountered bugs that broke the immersion, and even a couple of instances for which we had to kill the game's process and restart the entire thing. Cutscenes not loading properly; strange problems with the shadowing effects; Character models going through walls and the like. Dungeons is not a pretty game, but then again, you are in the depths of evil.

Don't let any of this put you off though, as you'll be seriously missing out on something special. Dungeons is not what we were expecting, and that's completely fine with us. With clever and enjoyable gameplay that turns the tower defense genre on its head, this one is a real keeper.

Top Game Moment: Discovering the different creatures that are available.

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Videos

Comments

By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 02, 2011
SirRoderick
I love it! I'm so happy to see it's not been a collosal crapup! I can honestly sa- ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD
By nachocheese (SI Newbie) on Feb 02, 2011
nachocheese
This game is overall a huge disappointment. I have an imported copy from germany (good: international version) and had to almost cry about this broken soul-harvest lousy job. By broken i don't mean the many bugs (without a huge patch 1.1 unplayable, as they did not betatest it), but broken game mechanics. It has a horrible tutorial: you learn how to go with WASD, but don't get the important info on the prestige objects and have to really guess by trial-and-error. Also its hardly unbalanced, as your game is very slow but try lying to you, with optional and hyper-hectic quests repeated again and again. This game also punishes the gamer a lot (I want to punish the heroes, not myself ;) ) like your monsters getting a 70% damage on soul energy, if they kill a hero (and yes, this is not explained) or the sentence, like “you failed to get this achievement, haha”. That’s dumb. So at the end, you have only two figures who can kill a hero without penalty and you get many pleased heroes at the same time. Don't forget about the pause-function, its broken too: cause paused no of your commands seams to work, and even the digging land isn't lighten up.

Yes the graphics are nice and the humor decent. But same was MUD TV and had same error. The developer learned nothing, so 8,5 sounds really toooooo high. I didn't play Dungeon Keeper, so I can't compare both games, but, I really don't understand how you can implement so truthfully masterpiece ideas of Tower Defence so bad in a good looking game? It's a shame.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 02, 2011
SirRoderick
Big wall of text there, I gather you managed to play an UNRELEASED game? The game only has a German DEMO out.

Next time you drag your pirating ass into a message board, check that the game is actually released you twat.
By RaveofRavendale (SI Newbie) on Feb 02, 2011
RaveofRavendale
nachocheese: I played a preview copy a month ago that featured many of the issues you describe. However, when I played the final version this week, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of these problems were fixed.

I'd suggest you try out the demo (which I assume will be released sometime soon) and see what you think.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 02, 2011
SirRoderick
You played the final version too?!

Unless everyone is suddenly a reviewer getting sent copies early this is ridiculous.

And I'm well aware of the demo, in German. The english isn't even out yet.
By RaveofRavendale (SI Newbie) on Feb 02, 2011
RaveofRavendale
SirRoderick: I'm the writer of this review :)
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 02, 2011
SirRoderick
Ah.....is that so? Well why aren't you called Mike Rose then? And a SI newbie?

I can't be blamed for that mixup I think :)
By nachocheese (SI Newbie) on Feb 03, 2011
nachocheese
@SirRoderick look in official forum: http://forum.kalypsomedia.com/showthread.php?tid=8220 the german game (it's out in germany, so you can get your import version now) has english files included. @Rave yup, like the feature to speed up the time. Still it's a huge disappointment for me
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 03, 2011
SirRoderick
Ah, so it's modding to use unfinished english or something then? Fine thne I guess :)
By Backslider (I just got here) on Feb 04, 2011
Backslider
So, they're well aware of Dungeon Keeper's fanbase, and are willing to exploit it by mimicking its look, while not delivering gameplay that's remotely similar.

This honestly sounds more like Dungeon Adventurer Tycoon than anything else. Pleasing heroes is a horrible mechanic in a game that's supposed to be about being evil, regardless of the reasoning behind it.
Hell, the fact that dungeon creatures are nothing more than target practice for heroes is a huge waste of potential and enjoyment alone, in my opinion.

Too bad. I really wanted to like this game. :(
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 04, 2011
SirRoderick
You do realise you're "pleasing" them so you can suck out the souls right?
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Feb 05, 2011
JamieSI
Demo should be released early next week for anyone that wants to give it a test before buying. We'll have it up on Strategy Informer's servers.

It was meant to release last week.
By Backslider (I just got here) on Feb 06, 2011
Backslider
Yes, Rod. That would be the "regardless" part.

Dancing around in a radioactive tutu in order to somehow bring about the end of the world might make you evil, but it's still going to scream nonsense. But, to each their own.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 06, 2011
SirRoderick
"But, to each their own."
I'll agree to that :)

Personally ,I quite like the game but I can't help but feel it could do with something more.
By Nicolas19 (SI Core Veteran) on Feb 06, 2011
Nicolas19
I still play DK2 (runs fine on Win7), so will definitely check out the demo. Promising review, I'm willing to overcome minor faults for the sake of the good ol' evil atmosphere:)
By TheCheckz (I just got here) on Mar 26, 2011
TheCheckz
I LOLZ at sirRoderick getting pwnt several times here... U can be blamed for the mixup beacuse you assume much and know little. And you know what they say about what happens when you assume things... LOLZ!
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Mar 26, 2011
SirRoderick
I don't actually. Does it cause the need to randomly insult strangers on the internet without provocation? Or perhaps appaling spelling and sentence structure?

I think you'll find it's hard for people to be offended by someone that fails to show any signs of sentient intelligence. Or minimal control over his keyboard for that matter.