A bit like a game with a name that rhymes with Fungeon Leaper…
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so they say. But sometimes, quite often actually, the copied/”inspired by” article just doesn’t match up with the original. That’s not to say that there is nothing to enjoy with a good imitation, everyone loves a tribute band, right?
The problem with videogames is that creating a unique game will start a “genre” and then every developer that offers a game that seems to fit into that genre will inevitably have their hard work compared and criticized. This is what seems to have happened with Cyanide’s Impire. The game looks very similar to Bullfrog’s classic Dungeon Keeper and they actually have a lot in common. Fans of the Bullfrog game have likely got slightly over-excited and hurriedly picked up the game, only to find that it is not actually much like Dungeon Keeper at all. The result – lots of unhappy gamers and complaining.
Here’s the thing – Impire is actually more of an RTS than a dungeon management game. Within the game, you control minions. You have to send them to attack invading heroes, you have to get them to eat, you have to send them above ground for raids. The bigger picture of creating a dungeon is still there, but it has been simplified to put more emphasis on the controlling of minions. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning…
Impire is based within the fantasy land of Ardania, as seen in games such as Majesty and Warlock: Master of the Arcane. As is quite often the case with Paradox Interactive games that don’t fall under the Grand Strategy flag, Impire has its tongue firmly placed in its cheek, which becomes immediately evident as soon as the game begins.
The player takes the role of a badass demon who has, amazingly, been summoned by a particularly inept summoner and trapped within the feeble body of a lowly Imp. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the summoner then forces you to start building a dungeon with a view to taking over the land, which wouldn’t be too bad if you were not also forced to take revenge on his enemies (including former school friends) along the way.
So yeah, there is humour right from the start. Not quite the subtle humour that Dungeon Keeper fans may be used to – it’s a bit more silly than that – but there are still some chortle-worthy moments.
We then get down to the business of creating a dungeon. All of the staples are there – new rooms get unlocked as you progress and you can place rooms such as a spawning pit from which to coax little creatures and the all important treasure room. The problem, at least from a dungeon management point of view, come with the fact that everything is modular – the rooms are all prefabricated and simply have to be slotted into an available space within the dungeon structure. As things progress, this becomes more and more testing due to space limitations, making building a dungeon more like a demonic game of Tetris.
But that’s okay because Impire isn’t a dungeon management game. It is an RTS and it’s not too bad. To deal with any threats that may be found within the dungeon, prevent invading heroes from stealing your treasure, and take part in above ground raids for various reasons, the player can control each of their minions individually. They come in a variety of types with different abilities. But before long, trying to control each minion separately will become simply unmanageable, so the game encourages that they be grouped together into squads of up to four.
As they progress, they level up both individually and as a squad, giving way to new abilities. Part of the strategy is in what combination of different minions you place into a group, adjusting the way they react to threats. They also have an aggression meter which has to be topped up occasionally by sending them to eat, otherwise they become next to useless.
It’s quite enjoyable and easy to get attached to favorite squads, with the inevitable heart break should they eventually be “extinguished”. The controls are not too difficult to get used to, and the general mechanics of the game can be picked up quickly (although the game doesn’t actually do a great job of explaining stuff). Things do get repetitive quickly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean boring – if you are enjoying yourself it doesn’t really matter.
What does spoil the enjoyment are the glitches and bugs. There were a fair few problems with the game at launch, and many still exist. Graphical anomalies, AI issues and even crashes have been witnessed. But the one thing that I know about Paradox Interactive is that they support their games well, and required patches will be pushed out regularly until the everything is fixed.
Once again, Impire is not Dungeon Keeper. But it is a halfway decent squad-based RTS that is actually quite compelling, as long as you can look past the technical issues and repetitive gameplay.