Dungeons Preview (PC)

Do you know how long we've been waiting for a Dungeon Keeper clone or remake? Well, do you? The answer is far too long, and anyone else who was completely addicted to its evil pull will know exactly how we feel. It's fair to say that everything developer Bullfrog touched turned to gold, be it Syndicate or Theme Hospital, but Dungeon Keeper in particular really took our fancy.

It's quite understandable, then, that the announcement of Dungeons, an upcoming strategy game that looks (and sounds) decidedly like our old friend DK, really made us prick up our ears - but also had us a little anxious. Nobody wants to see one of their old favourites tore to shreds, and the fact that the developer in question - Realmforge Studios - doesn't exactly have a huge backlog of quality releases up its sleeve turned up our worry dial.

Time to start saying all those Dungeon Keeper catchphrases again

After a few hours with this most daring of tributes, you'll be happy to know that we've relaxed a little, and are now even a little excited. Dungeons does feel very much like the Bullfrog classic, yet throws its own concepts into the mix with some surprisingly good results. We're dubious as to whether it will steal Dungeon Keeper's evil crown, but there's definitely plenty to take note of.

You take control of a nasty Dungeon Lord, who has a sprawling underground kingdom, filled with evil creatures, huge piles of gold and dark lairs. Your dominatrix girlfriend Calypso gets a little too big for her boots, and opens up multiple portals to the good world, allowing an abundance of heroes to enter your realm, steal all your gold and weapons, and destroy your dungeon heart. Left with only your trusty sidekick left, you vow to rebuild your empire and destroy her once and for all.

From the get-go, Dungeons wants you to know that yeah, of course it's heard of this game called Dungeon Keeper, and yeah, some of the ideas are ripped straight from it - but you know what? No-one has managed to do it again properly since 1997, so why not let us take a crack at it? During the tutorial levels, there are even references to 'Keepers', as the game explains how it differs from the old classic.

And plenty does differ in terms of gameplay - but first, let's talk about what is borrowed. Your dungeon is built on a grid, with corridors taking up 1x1 spaces, and rooms being 2x2 or more. You've got a dungeon heart, and if the heroes destroy it, you lose. You've got worker creatures who dig up whichever walls you click on (although they are goblins in Dungeons, with imps taking up a fighting minion role).

The basis premise is the same too. You've got an area of influence (marked as a red circle - again, the very same) and building structures inside it will expand your range. Outside of your dungeons, the world is black, and you can only see further by building outwards. Heroes enter your realm via portals, and your minions will fight to the death for you.

Heroes will rob your riches, but don't worry - you'll have your revenge

However, this is where the action gets fresh. In Dungeon Keeper, your task was to take down any heroes quickly and effectively. Dungeons takes a slightly different approach - you actually want heroes to go deep into your dungeon, stealing gold, taking weapons for themselves and reading in your library. As they do so, they'll gain soul energy... and this is what you really want.

Soul energy is the main driving force in the game, and the longer you leave a hero alive, the more soul energy he or she will gather. Once they are full up, THEN you kill them and reap the reward. However, leave them too long, and they may well become too strong and easily overthrow your dungeon heart. It's a balancing act, and only the most careful Dungeon Lords will prevail.

Your method of control is completely different to Dungeon Keeper too. You have no control over your minions at all, and instead guide your Dungeon Lord around. Creatures will usually stay in the region of their pentagram (aka spawn point) and only attack heroes when they are in sight, so placing pentagrams down in bottlenecks where you know heroes will roam is generally a good idea.

Your Dungeon Lord is the one who will do most of the work, though. You control him via right-clicking, and he will level up, gathering special powers that are castable via a menu at the bottom. If the Dungeon Lord dies, he will automatically respawn at the dungeon heart, costing you valuable time - and time is of the essence, as an hourglass in the top left of the screen shows how long you have until the lord of the land approaches. That guy is tough, so you need to make sure your dungeon is well prepared before the time runs out.

Prestige is also another value you need to watch. Building special items such as piles of skulls or hanging chains will build your prestige meter up, allowing you access to more nasty rooms and structures. You can also build special items to give rooms more stature and allow for even greater options, such as huge prison cells to trap heroes in, and wring them for all the soul energy you can get.

Good life advice - don't bring a stick to a knife fight

The monsters you can acquire are again quite the mix of old school Dungeon Keeper and new ideas. Early missions see you playing host to spiders and imps, while later on you'll find wererats and huge fire angels. Part of Dungeon Keepers excitement was bringing new creatures into your realm, and it appears that Dungeons will follow suit. However, rather than fulfilling objectives to make creatures appear, in Dungeons you instead go hunting for them by digging around and finding nests and graveyards.

Our stint with Dungeons has made us hungry for more, and we'll definitely be checking it out in full once the game lands sometime early this year. Online multiplayer is promised, along with a full customizable skirmish mode. If you enjoyed Dungeon Keeper, then this is definitely shaping up to be something you'll want to partake in.

Dungeons will be available for PC on 4th February, 2011.

Most Anticipated Feature: We can't wait to see all the different demons available for recruitment.

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By chiefone (SI Veteran Member) on Jan 06, 2011
I want this now! I hope its better than the overlord series.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 06, 2011
I didn't even read the preview yet, since I already know I want this!

Waiting for this thing was a form of torture!

I'll start reading now.

Yep, nothing new for me, but still sounds awesome!
By whynot (SI Member) on Jan 06, 2011
What is this Dungeon Keeper you mentioned, never heard of it ;-). If this is half as GOOD as the "real" thing, then I'll play this "DK 2.5" for additional ten years.
Praying to the dark gods that this is GOOD.
I saw those trailers on a keeper fan site, looks I must.
By djole381 (SI Elite) on Jan 06, 2011
I really enjoyed DK so I hope that this is going to be equally awesome or even more awesome.
By hellweed (SI Core Member) on Jan 06, 2011
I like DK type games. Trailer looks awesome. And I think I am in love.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 06, 2011
One thing to keep in mind there whynot: Do NOT expect a DK III out of this. It really is quite different.

But just the fact that you're once again an evil lord of the dungeons! Aaaahhhh, there just aren't enough of these games!
By djole381 (SI Elite) on Jan 06, 2011
It's good to be evil :)
By whynot (SI Member) on Jan 07, 2011
@SirRoderick; I won't expect this to be DK3, trust me ;-)
DK3 was supposed to take place above the Dungeons, on the surface of the earth. And I agree with you, it must be different, an original is ALWAYS an original, but never the less, this can be quite GOOD, and I will repeat your statement: there just aren't enough of these games! true :)
By Azsinistar (SI Veteran Newbie) on Jan 08, 2011
I am sold. This one will definately be in my library. I just hope for release in the US soon! looks like Feb 4 for you UKers
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 08, 2011
I think it's a global Feb 4 release, no?
By djole381 (SI Elite) on Jan 13, 2011
A demo would be nice right about now.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 13, 2011
I agree, I'm pulling my hair out over this one!.
By DAmicoThunder (SI Core Veteran) on Jan 14, 2011
shutup vegg. damn spam. this is gona b so goooood im looking forward to it!
By DAmicoThunder (SI Core Veteran) on Jan 14, 2011
i agree, a demo wld b nice tho.