Back to being evil.
When the original Dungeons game was released, back in 2011, it raised hopes that the game would effectively be the spiritual successor to Bullfrog’s original dungeon management game, Dungeon Keeper. However, developers Realmforge Studios made a few missteps with Dungeons and the game failed to satisfy.
Jump forward to now, and once again gamers are given a chance to be evil with the sequel, Dungeons II. Realmforge Studios seem to have taken on board the criticisms of their previous game, whilst keeping in mind that gamers expect more. Mind you, with War for the Overworld recently being released, and working on a very similar premise, Dungeons II has some competition. Still, it’s a good time to be evil.
And being evil is the way to go in Dungeons II, which casts the player as a disembodied hand which is able to pick up minions and slap them around if they deserve it, which they usually do. Of course, they didn’t start as just a disembodied hand, but were in fact the ultimate evil overlord until those goody goodies from the overworld became fed up with the evil. Nothing new there, but now, as a floating gauntlet, the player can get their revenge by not only building and managing a substantial underground dungeon and defending it from heroes, but also by taking their army above ground, defeating the nice creatures and turning the landscape into something much more evil. Revenge is sweet, and sticky.
The path back to being the ultimate evil overlord is not and easy one, and players will need much more than an internal evilness to finally get their revenge. They will also need some rather capable management skills to get things moving. Building a dungeon, researching spells and setting traps, and hiring the troops required to not only build an army, but also maintain it, is going to take time and resources.
The little Snots, the minions of Dungeons II, are your workers, and they can be sent off to start mining for gold, the all important resource. There is plenty of gold to be found in the dirt of your ever expanding dungeon, but it does take a while to amass, and when the workers decide it is payday, stockpiles can be reduced with alarming speed. Beyond the gold, players will have to deal with other resources such as Mana and Beer, which certain units require.
Then there are all of the different rooms which are needed to keep your units happy, heal them if they have been damaged, and train them up into something even more impressive. Research is something else that the player will have to deal with, along with caps on the population which will slow the speed of expansion. There is a lot to think about, and when those darned heroes decide to raid your dungeon and put a stop to your rise to power, things get even more complicated. The player will have to hope that the traps they have researched and set hold back the heroes until the player can convince their monsters to get into the action.
It is all very Dungeon Keeper, although on a smaller scale. The game has two different factions to choose from when playing, the Horde with its green skinned units, and the Demons. Each of these races offer some difference in gameplay, but the actual number of units available feels small. The same can be said for the different rooms that can be built, there just aren’t as many as I would like. That being said, there is the possibility of this being expanded upon in the future with DLC.
Where things get changed up is when the player decides to assault the overworld. You have raised an army and you have plenty of traps set to confound any wandering adventurers, so the next step is to take your army above ground and replace all of that happiness with evil. Here the game is much more RTS and less management. As the player works their way across the overworld, conquering the armies of good, they will find themselves commanding their army and casting spells, all as the landscape changes from good and lush to evil and barren.
The gameplay above ground is quite different to the management below, and changing between the two does require a certain amount of transition. However, the overground RTS side of things never gets too deep, which is either good or bad depending on what you were expecting, and is quite good fun.
It has to be said that Dungeons II really does look good. Quite often with dungeon management games, things can look a little dark and muddy. But the developers have not only added the brightness of the overworld to raise the player’s spirits (especially as they turn it to evil rock), but also ensured that the dungeon itself is filled with colourful evil hues and tones. It is surprisingly colorful, and the wonderfully animated units going about their business fill the game with life.
The sound work is also nicely done, but the real star of the show is the narrator. Constantly guiding the player, or more often forcing them to hurry up, there are some great one-liners and pop culture references which are sure to raise a smile. There is a great level of humour in the game, which is handy as who would want a serious dungeon management game?
Beyond the campaign, there are skirmish and multiplayer modes, so there is plenty of gameplay to be found here. The management can be quite tricky as the game progresses, but the game does a great job of introducing the player to the different elements and giving them time to work things out.
Dungeons II doesn’t hold to the Dungeon Keeper formula, bringing tactical overworld action into the mix. This works really well and adds some variety to the gameplay. There may be a few issues in the game, a few hiccups that prevent Dungeons II from being the true Dungeon Keeper spiritual successor, but the game brings a dark humour and enjoyable gameplay that is well worth checking out if you are eager to set your dark side free.