by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
Which Came First?
Iíve spent a good amount of my in-game life wandering through caves, crypts, and dungeons full of goblins and ogres and animated skeletons. Why? Well, thereís gold down there Ė lots of gold. Equipment too. There are swords and shields and mithril plate mails, not to mention magic scrolls and books.
But how does all that stuff get there? I always thought it was all left by other adventurers who maybe shouldíve leveled up a bit more before venturing forth. But then I would think: why did those adventurers go into the dungeon? How did the treasure they were after get there? Were there adventurers before them? The whole thing would spiral into a chicken-egg situation: Which came first, the adventurer or the treasure? Thatís when my head would start to hurt.
But finally, Kalypso Media has explained the whole situation and allayed my pain with the simulation, role-playing game Dungeons. You see, that gold and those weapons and scrolls arenít left by adventurers; theyíre strategically placed by dungeon lords to, wait for it, harvest Soul Energy.
Spiritual Successor, Doesnít Matter
Before I continue, I should make one thing clear: I havenít played Dungeon Keeper or its sequel. Those who have been following Dungeons know that itís supposedly a spiritual successor to the 1997 dungeon management game. I donít know if thatís actually the case, since, like I said, I havenít played Dungeon Keeper. I have, however, played Evil Genius, which is a similar type of game, but different from both Dungeons and Dungeon Keeper in some major ways.
With that out of the way, onward.
A Good Dungeon Lord
Dungeons follows the Prince of the Underworld, a dungeon lord of the highest order. Well, he was Prince of the Underworld until the worst breakup in dungeon lord history: His ex-girlfriend Calypso deviously ousted him and took his place as the supreme dungeon lord. So, he must claw his way back up, or back down to be more precise, the dungeon hierarchy and regain his place. Fortunately, he has a trusted old goblin to provide guidance along the way.
The core of the game is dungeon management. There are two main currencies: gold and the aforementioned Soul Energy. Both come from heroes. The former is ready for the taking as soon as a hero walks through a dungeon entrance. The latter must be built over time by meeting a heroís needs, and different heroes have different needs. Some are masochists and want to take a lot of damage; others are sadistic and want to deal a lot of damage. Some heroes desire equipment, while others seek knowledge. And pretty much all heroes want gold.
So, a good dungeon lord leaves piles of gold around for heroes to collect from. He tells his goblins Ė not the old guide, but younger, dumber goblins that do all the manual labor Ė to dig passageways and rooms, and he fills those rooms with bookshelves and chairs and lecterns to create a library or he fills them with anvils, armor stands, and weapon crates to create an equipment room. A good dungeon lord also creates pentagrams, where monsters of varying types periodically respawn and attack heroes. Itís all done to satisfy heroes.
But, if a hero is completely satisfied, heíll try to leave the dungeon and take any gold heís pillaged and all that Soul Energy heís accumulated with him. On the other hand, if heroes are unsatisfied for too long a time, theyíll become angry and attack the Dungeonheart. And if the Dungeonheart loses all its life, thatís game over.
So, a good dungeon lord tries to create scenarios in which heroes satisfy their needs to a certain extent, and then die to monsters or even the dungeon lord himself. Afterwards, the goblins carry those heroes to prison cells or torture devices, both of which also have to be built, to extract that delicious Soul Energy.
The game does an admirable job of periodically introducing concepts and increasing difficulty throughout the campaign. The first mission starts with only one hero entrance and heroes that only desire gold, whereas mid-campaign maps have five entrances and heroes with three different needs. I was never confused about what to do, but I was overwhelmed plenty of times.
Building up a dungeon can be a frustrating affair, especially since goblins donít take direct orders; they perform set tasks in seemingly random orders. There were a few occasions when I wanted my goblins to dig a new passageway Ė it needed to be done immediately Ė but they were already busy carrying defeated heroes to prison cells and hammering away in equipment rooms. And there were plenty of times when I wanted to spend the little gold I had on a room item or pentagram, but a goblin would take that gold right out of my hand and use it to replenish a pile of gold. So, Iíd have to wait for a new hero to enter the dungeon, kill him, and then spend his gold quickly before a goblin could again bankrupt me. It was very annoying.
Satisfying blend of dungeon management and action RPG mechanics, Humorous
Nothing of quality outside the campaign