by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
A bored Evil
Dungeons 3 puts wannabe dungeon masters back in the shoes of The Ultimate Evil. After conquering every conceivable dungeon and the entirety of the overworld in Dungeons 2, Evil has grown restless and bored and is looking for some fun. The Kingdom to the West is looking very promising indeed but is just out of reach. Although… A Dark Elf named Thalya resides in the Kingdom. Raised by a do-gooder hero of the kingdom, Thalya has all but lost her evil streak. Leave it up to Evil to stir things up and draft Thalya to his cause.
Starting the game felt like submerging myself in a warm bath of familiarity. Dungeons 3 looks and feels very much like its predecessor, which is a good thing if you loved that game as much as I did. In fact, at first glance you could easily mistake Dungeons 3 for its older sibling until you go a little deeper and reach the areas where the developer Realmforge Studios played around with and tweaked some of the game’s core concepts.
The campaign has doubled in size and offers a bit more variation in its 20 missions. Gameplay still revolves around digging tunnels, building rooms and conquering the overworld with your creatures but every new mission has something to set it apart from the ones that came before. There are some missions that have a bit of time pressure, one or two in which your dungeon’s heart is at significant peril and a few that throw in something entirely unexpected. My favourite mission initially startled me by presenting me with the “game over” screen in a matter of minutes. I don’t want to give away too much but in this particular mission the objective is to maintain a rather strained balance between good and evil until you can swing enough power to tip the balance in your favour. This, as it turned out, is easier said than done. The mission is set up in such a way that you’re constantly on your toes with a balance that shifts all the time. I often found myself dashing between the over and under worlds at a frantic pace, barely keeping things going and then driven into a mad frenzy after receiving a warning that I needed to scramble my creatures or see more of the game over screen. This is but one example - Dungeons 3 has several of these surprises in store and the missions remain interesting throughout the campaign.
A major new element is that you get to play with all three dungeon factions at the same time. The bulk of your dark army is still made up of the trusty Horde faction, comprised of Orcs, Goblins and the like but you’re free to mix and match with, to name a few, Succubae from the demon faction and Wraiths from the undead. Each faction brings something unique to the table and broadens the scope of what you can do. The campaign does a good job of introducing you to these differences but sometimes you’ll just have to figure these out by trial and error or spend time reading the game’s in-game encyclopedia. Being the stubborn manual-hating male that I am it took me a bit of time to realize that Wraiths could not be healed in the field. In my defense, I did catch on to the regenerative abilities of the demon creatures pretty quick. There are a few areas where the factions strengthen each other. After building the undead dungeon, I got great satisfaction out of seeing dying heroes return as undead archers and adding them to my defenses. Yet things got even more fun when my resident demon Succubus expressed herself by torturing captured heroes to turn them to my side.
An absolute godsent is the ability to cast magic spells anywhere in the overworld instead of just the Evilfied areas. Allowing this was perhaps a bit of a risk when it comes to game balance during the campaign but it has worked out pretty well. I felt positively invincible during some of the easier fights but there were quite a few where I was alternating between destructive spells and buffs like a madman in order to break through the enemy defenses. Equally welcome are the new and improved traps. Not all traps will trigger automagically now, but the ones that you work manually do great amounts of damage and make you feel a bit more involved in your dungeon’s continued well being.
The casting UI, however, could have been a bit better. Spells are part of the somewhat twitchy action menu that is hidden on the left side of the screen. The menu also gives access to room construction, creature hire, trap building and research. In a game of “which does not belong here”, Spells would be the odd man out. Unlike the other menu items, spells are usually accessed in a hurry and have cooldowns that you want to have visible during the entirety of the battle - especially so for the more lengthy ones. All of the menu panels are quite large, taking up about a third of the screen. If you want to keep an eye on the cooldowns you’ll have the panel blocking your view throughout the battle.
It has to be said that Dungeons 3 is not as innovative as its predecessor. That’s neither unexpected or negative. When you are managing an underground empire it’s a natural step to extend into the overworld, but once you’ve made that step you’re kind of running out of options to make a big splash. The devs set out to make smaller splashes and managed to create a few that the fans will love. Chief among those are the skirmish mode and the random map generator which will are certain to extend the game’s longevity.
Dungeons 3 proves that you do not need earth shattering changes to make a great sequel. The game very much feels like a loving update to its predecessor and the small splashes do more than enough to freshen things up. Easily the most polished and refined Dungeons game to date and Evily as good as the game that started the genre 20 years ago.
Good mission variety, very refined.
Spell casting UI could be better.