Dungeons

Have you played Dungeon Keeper?  If you haven’t you should probably go straight to gog.com and remedy that.  But if you have, you are almost undoubtedly one of the millions of people waiting for a decent remake that doesn’t crash constantly on modern systems.

As an aside, I don’t know what it is about classic remakes… why do they always have to fuck with the winning formula of a great game when they remake it?  The only thing wrong with the original X-Com (aside from the buggy difficulty level which ended up becoming canon…) was that it was 8000 years old and summarily the interface was ass.  How many years did it take us to get a decent X-Com remake where they didn’t fuck with the formula and make it shitty?  Too many.  But anyway, Dungeons was announced and it has a pretty clear Dungeon Keeper influence, so everyone got excited.  And then it came out and it got really shitty reviews, so I didn’t buy it.

Then came a Steam sale where both the original Dungeons and its sequel/expansion Dark Lord were on sale for cheap, and I said to myself “Well it probably got bad reviews because it’s not Dungeon Keeper, but it looks interesting so it might still be good despite that!” and bought it.

Two things:

1. It is not Dungeon Keeper.

2. There is a reason beyond that for getting bad reviews :(

It’s still fairly unique but the flaws are pretty glaring, and it’s just bad design all around.

Even though they are substantially different the influence from DK is pretty obvious, and in an attempt to point out why the game is flawed I’m going to have to keep comparing the two.

The games are similar in that you are a dark lord who is running a dungeon, primarily through sending imps to dig out rooms and construct various doodads that do various stuff.  In DK, you do this as an omnipotent being who points and clicks and lets his/her dudes do all the dirty work.  In Dungeons, your lord is a physical being within the dungeon.

The inclusion of an actual player character as the lord is mistake number one.  In DK, you rely on your minions to carry out your wishes.  In Dungeons, you end up doing most of that shit yourself.  And even worse, you have to walk your happy ass over there to do it.  What is the point of being the overlord of a dungeon if you have to work??!?!

But it’s worse than that, actually.  In DK, the goal of the game was actually similar to tower defense.  You build rooms, adventurers come to loot and plunder and destroy, and you protect your dungeon heart by building and unlocking and levelling various minions in an arms race.  You build your dungeon in a certain way and certain creatures want to live in it and defend it for you.  The more adventurers you defend against, the more powerful your dungeon got, and the more powerful your dungeon got, the more interested the not-shitty adventurers became in trying to destroy it.  Eventually it is revealed just how bad your micromanagement skills are, and the adventurers destroy the dungeon heart.  Okay fine, so I sucked at Dungeon Keeper but I still had fun playing it.

In Dungeons, you ALMOST have the same goal.  You tell imps to dig out rooms and then place whatsits within those rooms, and you have a dungeon heart which you must defend.  The difference is that instead of trying to attract new kinds of monsters to come and live there, you are trying to attract new kinds of adventurers to come and explore.  Some adventurers want to loot gold, so you place gold piles.  Some want to find musty old books, so you build a library.  Some want to disarm traps and feel badass.  Some want to fight stuff, so you place monsters.  Some want to fight stuff, but they’ve got a fancy new sword and they want to get really big critical hits, so you need monsters who are squishy.  Some want to try their new armor, so you need monsters that hit really hard.  The ultimate goal is to satisfy the adventurers, and then just as they are pleased with themselves and turn to leave, you bash them over the head, haul them to a cage and suck out their soul so you can use the soul power to buy more doodads for your dungeon.

This is far worse than DK for a number of reasons.

One: It’s counter-intuitive.  You can’t place super powerful monsters near the adventurer spawns because A – they might not be the kind of monster that will satisfy the adventurer, and B – if the monster kills them before they’re ready to leave, you get nothing.  The adventurer has to be totally satisfied before they can be harvested.

Two: Because you can’t rely on your monsters to do it for you with a fine enough level of control, pretty much each and every harvest has to be done manually by your dungeon lord avatar.  You have to run your ass all the way over there and beat up the adventurer before they get back out.  Oh and while you’re running over there, you’ll probably run past eight other adventurers who all go “Look!  A dungeon lord!” and drop everything they’re doing to come attack you, which means they were likely not completely satisfied and full of soul energy, which means if you attack them back you are wasting a bunch of time and energy.  So you can run away and hope they lose interest and go back to becoming happy and full of harvestable energy, or you can kill them like the evil dungeon lord you are and just completely waste them.  It’s not good.  It’s not well designed, and it just feels cludgy and badly thought out.

And even if you DO get everything clicking smoothly, that’s about it.  You running from place to place harvesting adventurers is pretty much the whole game.  At least in DK you could look forward to your minions levelling up or try to build more desirable rooms.  The gameplay in Dungeons just feels shallow and repetitive.

And while it is sort of original, all of its good parts are borrowed from DK, and all of the originality is what makes it bad.  So I’m afraid I can’t even really recommend it for the novelty factor.  Unfortunate.

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About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

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