Review: Dungeons (PC)
by A.J. Hess on March 1, 2011

Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Realmforge Studios
Genre: Strategy
Release Date: February 10, 2011

If you are tired of putting on your armor, shining up your shield, and riding off to rid the world of evil, Realmforge Studios and Kalypso Media have developed an alternative for you. Dungeons turns the heroic fantasy setting around and places you in the spiked armor of an evil overlord bent on bringing darkness to all the realms. Is it any good? Let’s take a look.

1. Story/Modes
At the start of Dungeons, you are at the height of your villainous powers. Of course, the female of the species proves to be more dangerous, and your girlfriend betrays you and wrecks up your sweet underground realm of suffering. This puts you back at square one, with a tiny little cave filled populated by not much more than some vampire bats. There’s a narrator henchman who will happily tell you how to get your kingdom back, and from there you’ll play through a series of maps designed to prepare the world for your rise back to power. It isn’t the most original story, but the presentation keeps your interest. There is also an custom dungeon mode if you want to see who can make the best dungeon.

Story/Modes: Enjoyable

2. Graphics
For taking place entirely in a series of dark caves, Dungeons looks pretty good. You can zoom and or out to meet your needs smoothly, and the dungeon decorations you’ll be creating and building all look well-detailed. There’s some chugging when you have a few dozen heroes running through the dungeon along with a half dozen worker-goblins and fifty or so minions, but adjusting the settings to a bit less than what your system can handle should take care of that. Most of the character models for the heroes repeat after a while, but the elite heroes all look good. Lighting is strong too, which is a great thing for a game featuring flickering torches and underground caverns.

Graphics: Great

3. Sound:
I was pleasantly surprised by the voice work in this game, especially for the heroes. They are equipped with a decent amount of taunts and screams and all of these do a good job referencing other games. Mr. Sidekick has a pretty good voice too, even if it is a straight up ripoff of Gnarl from the Overlord series. I do wish you could have more ambient moans and eery sounds coming from the dungeon itself, but none of the music or sounds are going to make you turn off the sound.

Sound: Good

4. Control and Gameplay
This is a game that asks players to manage several different mechanics at once. For the most part you are doing basic resource management; you need X to build Y, and so on. However, one of the key resources is the soul energy of the do-gooders who will tramp around your dungeon. You have to make the heroes happy to harvest the most energy out of them. It is kind of like running a game of Dungeons and Dragons. It is easy to tell the players that they are looking at a hallway, but you can make their experience much more rewarding if you tell them that they are looking down a dark passage, littered with skulls on the floor and dimly lit by flickering torches every few yards.

The other aspect of the game is the combat. The heroes and the champions must be dispatched when they become ripe, and Dungeons plays like a Diablo clone at that point. You have a quick spell bar at the bottom of the screen, and experience points let you earn and unlock various abilities via a skill tree. The game also features an option to use an over the shoulder view, but the game controls horribly from that mode.

Control and Gameplay: Good

5. Replayability
Despite the intricate control scheme and the fun setting, there really isn’t a lot to keep dark lords here after the final dungeon is conquered. There are a lot of different ways to configure the three skill trees to give you options to customize your overlord. The game tries to give players a reason to stick around with the custom design feature, but it still comes down to the same game of build a better mousetrap and stick the heroes in the cells.

Replayability: Mediocre

6. Balance
Dungeons allows you to play at a very relaxed pace if you choose. There are timed events that require you to complete tasks within a time limit, but the punishment isn’t that bad. Occasionally you have serious challenges with a group of elite heroes jumps in and makes a bee-line for your dungeon heart. In favor of the player, you can easily set up the game in a manner that allows you to play at your own pace and have a good time.

Balance: Enjoyable

7. Originality
This is where Dungeons falls flat on its armored ass. This game fulfills the prophecy of what would happen if Dungeon Keeper and Overlord had a baby and let Diablo raise it. In the early training sessions, your narrating henchman Mr. Sidekick even makes a point of saying how much smarter you are than other “Keepers of Dungeons.” There’s also a line about how “Diabolo” has nothing on you, but the voice leaves out that first O entirely.

Originality: Bad

8. Addictiveness
Fortunately, for such an unoriginal game, Dungeons is a lot of fun and will keep budding overlords busy. The simplicity of some of the gameplay keeps things simple, and once you get the hang of the controls and the theory of dungeon-crafting, you can spend a lot of time managing your dank, evil hole.

Addictiveness: Great

9. Appeal Factor
Considering that is has been over a decade since the last Dungeon Keeper game came out, Dungeons has a lot going for it. Yes, the Overlord titles are great, but those are third-person action games. Evil Genius is more recent, but still is kind of dated when it comes to game design. Dungeons has a ton of humor and does a good job of letting you enjoy the micromanagement aspect of the gameplay.

Appeal Factor: Very Good

10. Miscellaneous
If you ask any gamer how a Real Time Strategy title starts out, they’ll tell you that you start with nothing and unlock a few new items every level. Dungeons takes the action game path, which I think is a huge mistake. The first level that you are in has your evil lord at full powers, with all of his dungeon items and spells at his disposal. You’re put in a situation where you have to escape, and without a gradual explanation of how the game is supposed to work, escape becomes a frustrating task.

Miscellaneous: Mediocre

The Scores
Story: Enjoyable
Graphics: Great
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Enjoyable
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Very Good
Miscellaneous: Mediocre

Short Attention Span Summary:

Dungeons allows players to create their own personal hell, fill it full of do-gooders, and torture them. You will find a game that plays like a couple of great gaming franchises rolled into one, but the package is very enjoyable. Good graphics and fun sounds with some genuine humor-and some eye rolling-will keep you happy while you build and expand your underground lair. There isn’t a lot to keep players coming back once they’ve finished with this title, but Dungeons will easily hold your attention while you play. If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at evil, this should give you plenty of enjoyment.

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