by Marjolein Verheij
previewed on PC
What you’ve been waiting for
When Dungeons was released, it was not universally met with cheers. Kalypso never said it was making a spiritual successor to Dungeon Keeper - which it wasn’t - but it was clear that Bullfrog’s classic was the primary inspiration for their playful dungeon sim.
I have good news for those who were disappointed: Dungeons II - is - the spiritual successor you’ve been waiting for.
Dungeons II puts you back in the role of Dungeon Lord, master of evil and tormentor of minions. For unknown reasons, you are unable to get up from his chair. We asked, but the tormentors of reporters - developers Realmforge - would only tell us that this is tied into the story somehow.
Fortunately you still get to control your minions with your ominous ‘Hand of Terror’ (okay, it’s your cursor, but you catch my drift). You can pick up your minions and simply drop them somewhere else or read their stats and abilities, but slapping them around is more productive as it makes them work harder. And all the while, a sarcasm-prone narrator with a dry sense of humour comments on what is happening in your underground kingdom. Lines such as “just upgrade the silly thing” sure had me chuckling throughout the presentation.
Slapping Snots around, my specialty!
You start out with your basic building minions, called Snots, who hack away at walls and gold deposits, building rooms and doorways in the process. To keep them happy, you will have to provide them with… beer - this is a German made game after all. When you have excavated enough gold, the first thing you build is a brewery. You simply ‘zone’ a space, select what type of room you want to build and wait for the Snots to finish building it. The twelve basic room types include a brewery, treasure chamber, hospital ward and tinker room. That last one acts as a research station for your Goblins, opening up the various types of rooms and accompanying upgrades. Doing evil gains you Evil Points which can be spent to upgrade your dungeon’s overall level. The throne room upgrades instantly, while the rest is upgraded by Snots who are not working on anything else.
Besides the Snots and Goblins, you also get Orcs, who are specialised in… ehm… motivating Snots to work harder. When they are not abusing Snots, they also act as your primary military units. Nagas - snake-like units with ranged attacks - can also hold their own in combat and use their spare time to harvest mana from crystals with which you can cast spells. More units will become available when you progress in the game but we are still missing some details here. We did see a tank-like creature shuffling about in one of the battles during the demonstration.
Realmforge wants you to care about your minions. Each unit has a name, giving them a bit more personality in the hopes that you will grow so fond of them that you want them to survive. Key to this, is planning your battles wisely. When battle is nigh, you pick up some Orcs and drop them near the action zone. It is fun to see them dangling from your hand, but the way they drop to the floor and scramble up again is even funnier. In time, you get access to a device that you can use to revive fallen units - at a price of course.
Dungeon? Yes. Keeper? Yes!
This time around, your goal isn’t to entertain heroes who find themselves stumbling into your dungeon. Quite the contrary, do-gooders need to die and you need to expand. A minimap shows the parts you have excavated and reveal exclamation marks where things might get interesting. It could be more rooms, a lair of spiders or a gold mining operation from pesky surface dwellers called Humans. The latter will probably have a gate to the overworld, and this is where Dungeons II is taking a flying leap forward.
The overworld offers a completely new map to conquer and explore. Sending troops to the overworld you fight against the Humans, Elves and Dwarves on their turf, RTS-style! Or you kill fluffy pink rabbits, cute sheep or unicorns. Your call really, you’re the master. Every time you win a battle, that bit of world turns from lush green to shadowy-dark in a proces called Evilvication - and it looks very neat. Where ugly green trees and colourful flowers once stood, brown rocks now line the terrain, tentacles spawn from dark openings and sparkly blue streams turn into ominous lava flows. In the overworld you may find your minion’s kin, trapped in cages or bullied by Humans into working for them in the mines. New recruits, all of them. To keep track of both worlds simultaneously, the overworld has its own minimap.
One hell of a game
Overall Dungeons II is shaping up to be one hell (pun intended!) of a fun game that can be played either alone or together with other wannabe dungeon lords. I’ve got an evil eye out watching for this one.