Making heroes happy is a full-time job.
Many years ago, back in the dark ages of PC gaming, a company called Bullfrog released a game which allowed players to be something that many players had always secretly wanted to be. The game was called Dungeon Keeper and it allowed players to be evil. Since then, a number of different games have allowed the player to express their evil side to some degree or another although most of these games carry with them consequences which make the evil side slightly less appealing. However, with Dungeons from Kalypso the player can once again fulfill their evil desires and even act out their sadistic tendencies, within reason. This is just a game after all.
Dungeons offers more than just a wink of acknowledgement in the direction of the classic Dungeon Keeper. There are in fact many things about this game that will bring a tear of nostalgia to the eyes of older gamers. The game revolves around the relatively simple idea of switching sides, putting the player in charge of the dungeon and leaving them to deal with the pesky, freeloading heroes who think it is their god given right to steal all of the gold. That being said, things get a little more complicated.
In a classic story of betrayal, the player takes on the role of a dungeon master whose slightly well-formed girlfriend has just betrayed and removed from power. Along with your trusty sidekick, our anti-hero must make his way back to former glory by starting with a simple dungeon and gradually taking over other dungeons and expanding their influence until they are in a position to exact a terrible revenge.
The game uses the learn by doing method of teaching the various mechanics and as such takes a little while to get going. There are three things that the player needs to worry about: Prestige, which is required to advance, Gold and Soul Energy. It is this Soul Energy about which the game revolves. Players will open doorways into their dungeons through which heroes will come, intent on filling their pockets with your gold. “Kill them all!” you say? Well, no. At least, not straight away. You see, the most important resource is this Soul Energy which will allow you to buy more suitably menacing props for your dungeon and such. Soul Energy is harvested from heroes and the happier the heroes are, the more Soul Energy you get. For this reason, a wise dungeon master will give the heroes what they want – gold, a library for knowledge, an armoury for new kit, or even some monsters for them to beat up. Then, when the heroes are as happy as the proverbial pig in ****, slap them down and take the Soul Energy. Or even give them a little slap and then take them prisoner, just to see if you can squeeze out a little more of this important resource.
The player controls the entire dungeon, from where to put treasure chests or hordes of vampire bats, to the excavation and expansion. But they also control the dungeon master himself. The dispatching of heroes is such a personal thing and the player will have to guide their anti-hero to the offending heroes and get their hands dirty. Any other monsters within the dungeon act only as entertainment for the heroes, all of the dirty work will come down to the player. To aid in this, the dungeon master is not only pretty handy in a brawl, but also has access to a number of useful spells. The dungeon master can even level up, of sorts, although this is more linked to challenges within the game, rather than any form of experience.
If the player is ever going to be able to reach their former lover and exact revenge, they will have to deal with more than just the annoying heroes. Expansion will mean dethroning a number of other dungeon masters and they will not take this lightly, sending their own minions to destroy your dungeon heart, spelling game over.
It is not all black roses and blood red candles though, as the game does have a few issues and a rather glaring omission. Given the fact that on occasion the player is tasked with defeating another dungeon master, it would have made sense for this to be the basis of a rather good multiplayer mode. Yet none is provided.
On the issues front, the game does suffer with slightly repetitive gameplay. It seems as though all of the ideas were used up relatively early in the game, leaving the remainder with the same things on a higher difficulty. Also, things do get very busy on screen. Visually, the game looks quite good and offers a suitably menacing atmosphere. But the overall darkness of the game, combined with the relatively low detail on screen, makes things get a little confusing, especially when zipping from one end to the other of a rather large dungeon.
Dungeons has a certain dark humour about it which works really well with the setting, and has quite a few missions to keep the player busy, along with a sandbox mode for the player to create their perfect dungeon. Although it has a lot of similarities with the classic Dungeon Keeper, the game goes in a different direction and offers a new experience. It is not perfect, but that doesn’t stop Dungeons from being damn good fun. Let your twisted side have some fun and teach those self-righteous heroes a lesson or two.