by Marjolein Verheij
previewed on PC
Not quite Dungeon Keeper
Ah, Horny the Horned Reaper… We miss you fella. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look him up on Youtube, you’ll have a blast. Horny was the first thing I thought of when Kalypso announced Dungeons. The accompanying screenshots oozed Dungeon Keeper, a franchise last active over a decade ago and long presumed dead.
The setting and tone in Dungeons are similar to Bullfrog's creation, borrowing many game elements from the old classic. But that doesn’t mean that we’re looking at something of a spiritual successor to Dungeon Keeper here. Quite the contrary, development studio Realmforge have set out a different for the game, creating something surprisingly unique.
Realmforge’s managing director Benjamin Rauscher and its creative director Christian Wolfertstetter were kind enough to demo their game to us. Both men were obviously very excited to go finally go public with their project and it didn’t take long for us to share their enthusiasm.
They showed us a huge underground map that could easily be mistaken for one of the famously cartoonish maps in Dungeon Keeper. A maze of tunnels and rooms of various sizes littered the map, each filled with colorful objects and items to clarify its purpose. Treasure rooms, training rooms, libraries, they are all there and Goblins were standing at the ready to create more. So far, it sounds a lot like Dungeon Keeper right? But things were about to change.
You see, instead of keeping your monsters happy, Dungeons is about luring heroes into your, well… dungeons and keeping them entertained. Your goal is to build the most attractive dungeon possible for the heroes that enter your domain and make them as happy as you possibly can. Why? Well, it’s a bit like fattening a pig for slaughter. You see, happy heroes have more soul energy and this, in turn, powers your magic after you have drained it during their imprisonment.
So in some ways, your enemies are also your customers and like most businesses, you will have to diversify your range of ‘products’. Different heroes have different needs and interests and you will need to design your dungeon in such a way that it appeals to a wide variety of them. Imagine the challenge catering to each of the 15 different hero classes: warriors that want to fight monsters, magicians who want to expand their knowledge in your libraries and thieves who go mad in your treasure rooms. Heroes may have additional interests beyond the obvious and these are depicted by icons above their heads.
It is important to design your dungeon in such a way that incoming heroes are distributed in multiple directions, lest you end up with having to deal with a group of them. A well prepared dungeon can satisfy multiple needs but it is also possible to provide ‘entertainment’ on the fly to quickly lure a particular hero in a direction more advantageous to you. By marking walls for demolition, your minions – Goblins in this case – can create new rooms, sometimes revealing existing chambers ready to be filled with goodies. This way you can customize and expand your domain to suit your needs.
One might ask what happens when a hero enters your dungeon and becomes bored. The answer is simple: they take a shot at taking you out. If you fail at directing a hero towards a pleasurable experience in your dungeon, he will attack your Dungeon Heart. If he succeeds to destroy it, the game is over.
Oh, there is one minor issue with tearing down walls: you could accidentally open up a passage way to a neighboring dungeon. The chances are that its occupant won’t appreciate the company and will come looking for a fight with your Dungeon Lord. If you win you take over his domain. And what if you lose? Don’t worry, Lucifer provides: you will respawn at your Dungeon Heart and have another chance to defend it.
The Sims: Dungeons
Decorative objects such as barrels, torches, cobwebs and chairs can be placed in your rooms to liven them up, but also to provide you with prestige points. These can be used to buy even more stuff or to upgrade your Dungeon Lord. A skill tree provides upgrades for your lord in three areas, namely Offense, Defense and Build. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to go into the skill tree any further than that but it sure sounded intriguing.
With dungeons as big as 400 tiles, there will be ample room to experiment to your heart’s content with rooms, optimum paths and setups for luring heroes through your dungeon and, of course, duking it out with the neighbors. It will be a while still before the game is released but already it looked very promising indeed. Perhaps Dungeons is not quite Dungeon Keeper 3, but it holds enough unique and fresh gameplay to stand on its own. To be continued…