by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
Now the other foot gets equal time
Everyone is (or should be) familiar with Dungeons & Dragons (1974). It was the first game that took us into the realm of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings". It gave you the opportunity to step into the sandals of fantastical heroes and champions, battling dastardly villains and creatures across a myriad of fantasy worlds. It was soon followed by an unending parade of RPGs, each vying to get a piece of the gaming pie. With the advent of the PC, it was inevitable that the genre would crop up there like a field of kudzu. In fact, new fantasy RPGs still keep cropping up. So many games, all revolving around the player's character pulling on all manner of garb and equipment, taking up some weapon or another, then sallying forth to combat fantastic foes.
But did you ever wonder what it was like to work for the other team? That is, to be a Goblin, instead of an Elf? To be a Troll, instead of a Dwarf? To be an inhabitant of the dungeon those over-muscled, over-armored, over-zealous surface-dweller yahoos continually invade? In 1976, Metagaming released Monsters! Monsters! which gave players the opportunity to turn the tables by allowing the dungeon denizens to get a little payback by invading the towns and villages where all those nasty heroes came from.
For some reason, MM never really caught on. (Probably because nearly everyone sees themselves as "the Good Guy", no matter how they may actually behave.) Tempus fugit and we saw fantasy RPGs migrate to PCs and dedicated game consoles. However, the shoe-on-the-other-foot version of a fantasy RPG appeared in the form of Bullfrog Production's Dungeon Keeper, released in 1997. That was well-received enough that it had a sequel in 1999. A hungry fantasy gamer market prompted the appearance of several other Bad-Guy-as-protagonist games, such as Overlord (2007).
The world and struggles of goblins
Now, here comes Firefly Studio's Dungeon Hero. This is NOT a game where your budding Hero goes down into a dungeon in order to garner fame and haul some wealth back to some village or town. This is a setting where your character strives to become the Hero of the dungeon's _residents_. That is, to save and serve the Goblins that built the dungeon in the first place. (What? You think all that stone got carved out on it's own?) Like every other flipped-over fantasy RPG, the dungeon dwellers are provided substantially more depth than you would ever see in a regular fantasy RPG. ("If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?") Firefly does a fine job of giving us a Goblin-eye's view of the underworld. Surprisingly, it turns out that Goblins have pretty much the same behavior and reactions as you would expect to find in a Human settlement up topside. They are also subject to the same foibles as any other Human society. In particular, politics.