Back in Ardania
It is obvious that Dungeon Keeper has done a lot to inspire this generation of game designers and the team at Cyanide Montreal appear to be no exception. Working for the first time with Paradox Interactive to publish their game, the team has chosen to allow the player to take control of the bad guys in the Majesty universe and dig a whole new dimension under the land of Ardania.
Demon Dungeon Lord
Impire is a story heavy dungeon management game with some real-time strategy elements and role-playing game features. The story focuses on the demon Ba’al who has been summoned to the surface by an absolutely incompetent sorcerer. This leads the formerly 4 meter tall demon to appear as a puny yet malicious looking imp, much to his own dismay. Through the game, the demon will slowly but surely regain his formidability, allowing the player to customise him in the process.
The demon can be upgraded in three directions; the fighter, the sorcerer, or the commander paths, each allowing for a very different style of gameplay. His look can also be customized by making his claws or wings bigger and adding tattoos and such. The game will feature an in-game store where players can further customize the look of their demon if they so choose. The demon serves as your dungeon lord and can take active part in any engagement, but should he die, the player will be unable to summon imps, cast spells, or use any of his powers until the dungeon lord respawns.
The game will feature the standard bells and whistles of any decent dungeon management game, but what sets Impire apart from the hoard is that much of the gameplay will take place outside of the dungeon. While the dungeon serves as a base of operation and the hub for all of the player’s activities, units and squads can be sent to the surface to complete raids. Raids can earn the player anything from food to treasure, but some scenarios feature specific raids required to complete that scenario. The mission we saw at this year’s Gamescom, for instance, had the player kidnap an archaeologist, indoctrinate him, and then escort him back to his excavation site. You can always see and interact with your units in a raid and even bring your dungeon lord with you if you so choose. Setting it and forgetting it is also an option, but that becomes unwise later on as increasingly drastic surprises appear at higher levels.
Tech points are earned by completing certain tasks in the game and they allow for the unlocking of higher level rooms and units. In some rooms, such as the workshop, the player will be able to research upgrades for his units, not only altering their stats but their physical appearance as well.
Another addition to the standard dungeon management template is the squad system. When units are created, they can be lopped together into squads of four. These squads then have special abilities depending on the units they consist of as different units form different synergy between them. These abilities come into play as buffs and debuffs and can have a big impact on the squad’s combat efficiency.
Special cards can be selected by the player in the beginning of each scenario to tweak the game to his play style. These will, for example, allow for food to be gathered quicker or production times to be reduced. Cards are earned as the player progresses through the game but they can also be bought in the in-game store. It is at this moment people might start thinking that the player will be able to throw money at the game to become immensely powerful, but Yves Bordeleau, the creative brain behind the studio, stated that they would not be doing the “evil” kind of online store. Players would not be able to buy invulnerability but rather small items to tweak the gameplay to fit their style, such as the cards, and cosmetic upgrades such as skin-packs for the game’s different characters and their environment.
Up to 4 player online multiplayer is included and the game’s campaign can be played cooperatively. When played cooperatively, each player will have his own dungeon and the outside world is where they will join forces. In online matches, two factions will be available: the demonic hoards and the undead. Each faction will have a distinct gameplay style as they will not feature the same characters, traps, pets, or even tech-trees. The undead will not be able to heal themselves simply by going to the kitchen as the demons can, but must sacrifice captured heroes or even their own units in order to heal others. This should make for some interesting gameplay on and offline.
Impire follows in this genre’s proud tradition of including slapstick humour and a light-hearted mood in an otherwise dark and dismal world. If you fondly recollect the happy times spent playing Dungeon Keeper, waiting in fear for the narrator to say those two horrifying words: “It’s payday!” or if you simply enjoy digging tunnels, creating rooms, setting traps for unsuspecting heroes, or watching a sexy succubus prance around in her stilettos, then you should keep a close eye on Impire.