Dungeons Review


If you were into PC gaming ten or so years ago, then you've probably at least heard of Dungeon Keeper. If you haven't, the developers of Dungeons sure have. The similarities between the two games are too numerous to be purely coincidental. Unfortunately, the parts that aren't lifted from Dungeon Keeper aren't particularly enjoyable, and overall the game is rather tedious.

The game casts you in the role of a dungeon keeper, I mean dungeon master, named Deimos who's been wronged by his demonic girlfriend. To exact revenge and regain his rightful place in the demonic pecking order, Deimos must work his way back down the ladder. To do so, you've got to meet certain goals for the current dungeon level, after which a doorway will open allowing you to move to the next level down where the cycle repeats itself.

As the dungeon master, you can add various amenities to your dungeon such as monster spawn points, traps, and special rooms such as libraries and armories. The goal of all this is not to build a nice den of evil for yourself, but rather to create a Disneyland of sorts for any heroes that venture into your dungeon. The more ghastly decorations that they see, loot they have to pilfer, and monsters they have to fight, the more "soul energy" they generate. Then once they have their souls full and their pockets overflowing, you've got to kill them to harvest their energy and keep them from taking your gold away. And what does that soul energy get you? It's the currency with which you buy new items for your dungeon so that you can entertain the next batch of heroes that arrive.

Now you'd think that a dungeon master with the ability to create monster-generating pentagrams would have plenty of minions to do his dirty work, but unfortunately that's not the case. The monsters in your dungeon don't venture far from their generators, and when a hero happens to wander into their midst they don't put up much of a fight. This means that it's up to you to kill each hero at the right moment personally with Deimos, which invariably involves a lot of running around your dungeon from one exit to another to engage in point and click hand-to-hand combat to prevent each and every hero from leaving. You've also got to protect your dungeon's "heart" from overzealous heroes and rival monsters, giving you yet one more location to add to your rotation. It's not very much fun, but then again, neither is the dungeon building.

Personally, if I was going to design a dungeon game I'd give the player a lot of free reign in personalizing the dungeon. Not just for creative reasons, but for strategic ones as well, letting players try different layouts in an attempt to make it easy for heroes to get in but not to get out. In Dungeons, you start out with a number of rooms and hallways surrounded by rock walls with a spattering of isolated rooms embedded in the rock. To carve out new areas you need to designate which rock blocks should be dug out by your goblin helpers, and then wait until they get around to clearing out the rock. You only have a few goblins at your disposal at a time, and they work on their own schedule. Not only that, they have other dungeon duties to perform such as filling treasure chests to entice heroes, so it's always a waiting game when it comes to expanding your dungeon. Furthermore, some rock is impenetrable, so there's not really much leeway when it comes to deciding what shape your dungeon will take. The developers have predetermined how each dungeon should expand and at what rate, so there's not much thought required or necessary on your part.

And that's not all that the game has going against it. The game does a very poor job of letting the player know what's going on. You'll be told that you failed some objective that you never knew you had, be given objectives that don't make much sense, or have arbitrary limits imposed on you that you won't be aware of until it's too late. For example, the monster-generating pentagrams are also used to expand your "influence", which determines the area within which you can expand and add new things to your dungeon. You might plop a few down and then find that you can't build any more, so if you didn't put them in the optimal positions you'll be basically out of luck for that level and may have to restart it to accomplish your goals. The game tries to mix things up on occasion by throwing some different types of goals your way, such as finding some treasure hidden in the rock or escorting some weak creatures while protecting them from hero attacks, but these tend to be even more tedious than the already tedious basic gameplay.

Dungeon Keeper started with a good idea, but then it backed up that idea with some enjoyable gameplay. Dungeons takes that same idea, but misses on just about every point of execution. It's certainly time that gamers had another dungeon master type of game to play, but they'll just have to keep waiting for a good one.

Final Rating: 58%. Apparently dungeon mastering is a pretty tedious line of work.