Alright, this time I have an extra special treat of a review for you. And by that, I mean a game from a western developer, for various reasons which will be explained after the jump, so as to keep this brief.
Honestly, I found the current anime season on Crunchyroll to be…lackluster, if I want to be polite. So, I am doing what can be called in polite terms ‘writing reviews of other things tangentially related to certain topics while waiting for the next season in hopes it will be better.’ If you want to be honest, this review is basically faffing about, but still delivering you content and things.
Anyways, Dungeons: The Dark Lord is the stand alone expansion to the original Dungeons. If we want to be honest, it’s a sequel. A new game that picks up from where the first left off, runs on it’s own, and is a full length game is not an expansion.
Anyways, it is made by Kalypso Media, and I will admit I initially went into the game with a lot of hesitation, since I thought Kalypso was the developers of Too Human. Thankfully, checking their Wikipedia page showed they have made other good games, none of which was Too Human.
The very first comparison that springs to mind is the Dungeon Keeper series, since that series pioneered the real time strategy game that takes place in a dungeon you tunnel out and build yourself, room by room. It isn’t a bad comparison, either. If you want to copy a game for an RTS, then a DK game isn’t a bad choice. If you wanted to make an FPS, copying Valve would be a good idea.
The second comparison that sprang to mind for me was Overlord. Dungeons: The Dark Lord has the option where you can go into an over the shoulder third person view and control your lord that way, similar to Overlord. But while Overlord concentrates more on the action, Dungeons: The Dark Lord concentrates more on strategy.
And what a strategy it is: you build a dungeon and mine for gold to buy stuff. You then build rooms of things heroes like, such as libraries, armories, and other things. You can also add prestige items around your dungeon that heroes admire, plus they give added bonuses to your lord. When the heroes are enjoying themselves, you then kill them for a soul point bonus, and drag them to your prison, where they are drained of their soul points. Heroes randomly enter your dungeon from entrances you know about, so you need to plan your dungeon carefully, since chasing after one hero and bumping into another means you will end up killing both, and if the one wasn’t happy enough, you wasted potential soul points. This means that building a dungeon is an art form more than a cut and dried strategy.
Let’s compare it to Dungeon Keeper 2. DK2 has you mine out a dungeon and build rooms, but you then capture portals. Your rooms determine what creatures come through your portal. Building a library brings warlocks, and adding a temple to that brings in maidens. These characters do research which advances your spell powers. You can build a workshop, which allows trolls to come through and start building doors, barricades, and traps. Add a guard post, and dark elves come through. Heroes enter randomly through hero gates situated on the map, but it isn’t a continued process. Instead, unless you know where the gates are, they remain hidden, and a hero invasion is actually worrying and a rather bad thing.
While DK2 feels like I am the dungeon keeper, Dungeons: The Dark Lord has me controlling the dungeon lord from an aerial camera, making me less of the lord myself and more of a little voice in their ear giving them suggestions.
I fail to see why the third person camera was added as an option. Given that it greatly restricts the view, the easiest thing to do is stick to the overhead plan view all the time. This gives you the greatest view, plus it allows you to not have to deal with the very annoying move controls for the lord. On the plus side, you can rotate and zoom the camera, as well as go into a full overhead view in Dungeons: The Dark Lord while changing the camera in DK2 requires you to possess a creature, rotate until you have the angle you want, then de-possess them. Didn’t like the angle? You had better try again them, once you have enough mana to cast the spell.
Between the two, I honestly like them both about the same. Managing the paychecks and happiness of the creatures under my command in DK2 was a bit tedious, but the ability to have them do research for me that helped me, as well as the ability to torture heroes for information, turn them into skeleton warriors, or even vampires to fight for me felt a lot more evil then building a dungeon to please heroes that I must then go personally kill, instead of commanding my minions to do so.
As far as characters go, Dungeons: The Dark Lord has four different character who primarily differ visually. However, these characters are for multiplayer mode, and they seem to have no real difference apart from visual. I personally liked the character of Calypso, if only because I suspect there is some additional meaning attached to that character.
One thing the game does is have a sense of humor about it. While it isn’t always quite as funny as DK2, it instead relies a bit more on referential humor, but also comes off as a fairly brilliant satire of RTS games as a whole.
If I wanted one sentence to describe Dungeons: The Dark Lord, it would be this: “Will you walk into my parlor?” Said the spider to the fly.
Dungeons: The Dark Lord really is best described by that whole poem. You build a lair that mostly takes care of itself, lure heroes in and have them enjoy fighting some basic monsters, and right when everything is going well for them, they get slaughtered and their souls drained.
The main plot follows the lord Calypso fighting to gain power and eventually take on her ex for dethroning her. For a game about an evil dungeon lord, the story felt a bit underwhelming. Why revenge? That is a heavily used plot, but I can think of much better plot points for a game about being evil.
I would like to see a sequel to this, and I can think of a bunch of changes I would like to see. Obviously, this is where I suggest them. First: make the game goal about taking over and controlling the world. I’m evil, why not be really ambitious about it? Second: Instead of having heroes wander in through gates, allow me to build a dungeon, then put up entrances for heroes and things to entice them in. Make me entice the heroes to enter, not just entertain them. Third: steal most of the things from Overlord II. I want to feel like the dungeon lord, so either make them never appear on the map and people address me as the lord, or lock me into a third person camera. I’d prefer the camera, as it allows the lord to actually be in the dungeon. Give me the ability to directly command creatures and what they should do. As it is third person, give me a map that I use, not just a minimap, but an actual map I use to plan out where things go and how things should be laid out. Fourth: remove the RPG elements of points, and instead, have me build rooms for creatures under my control to do various tasks that benefit me. I raise my spell ability by having people research new spells. As dungeon space is limited, I could spread my resources between spells, traps, and other things, or devote myself to one primarily. Fifth: sandbox. Give me an open world to conquer. Maybe I want to take over Australia first, or perhaps build a giant, sprawling dungeon under the whole world and collapse it from within at once. Add more dungeon lords, allow me to choose the one I like best at the start, and let me take over the world. Each one can have a separate theme to their dungeon, minions, and spells. Seventh: Take a lot more ideas from DK2. Give me the ability to torture heroes until they join me, or for information or some other benefit. Allow me to take the slain and not just harvest them, but to turn them into undead that fight in my dungeon, or get information by torturing them.
Of those, I would love to see the game go all the way with using ideas from Overlord II, but I would also love to see the ability to directly command my minions. Adding a free mode where I can change everything about the map with the sole goal of building whatever pleases me on whatever scale would be nice.
Either way, I enjoyed Dungeons: The Dark Lord and will most likely buy a sequel. I will pre-order it if they use any of those suggestions. If they take ideas from Overlord II as well, I’d be telling them to take my money as soon as they mentioned the game.
Score: 4/5 good
Pros: of the dungeon games about being evil, it really takes it to a new level. Interesting mechanics really add to the fun to be had.
Cons: story is a bit hard to get into. It can get repetitive at times, but not as bad as many other games.
Verdict: It’s worth getting the demo for and checking out, although the demo doesn’t really do it justice. Get it if the demo seemed interesting, since the demo understates the game. However, if all you have is $20, I would suggest buying something like Antichamber first.