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Evil Never Felt So Good - Dungeons Review

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Updated Thu, Apr 14, 2011 by Stow

Right from the start, let's correct a misconception: If you try Dungeons expecting Dungeon Keeper 3, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you’re able to free your mind from the the gripping nostalgia of those intense reverse dungeon crawls, you’ll soon find that Dungeons is a far more laid back game - and one worth playing. The ideas might be similar—construct a dungeon, invite heroes, and slay them. The methods and mechanics are different, however, and in ways that we found promising.

You start off as a powerful lord of hell and, since no one gives a damn about loyalty in hell, you're soon betrayed. You flee your throne and have to work your way back up, killing your superiors one by one until you get to the usurper that took you down to begin with. How do you do this? By attracting and torturing poor heroes to death, of course!

Dungeons is primarily played from an overhead perspective. You can rotate the camera at any angle and do some beating first person if you really want to see the blood fly. You control the layout of your dungeon, the paths, the traps, the monsters, and the treasures that lie within. You also can venture into battle yourself as the dungeon lord, and pound some pathetic hero’s face in.

Quests will come up from time to time from people other than your henchmen.  Here my boss orders me to water the flowers of his friend's grave, truly a job fitting for a demonic overlord.  Compliance is optional, but pissing off your boss often leads to them letting heroes 'escape' their dungeon into yours, at a staircase in a very perilous position!

But you won't wouldn't want to do that the moment they descend into your dungeon. Like any good villain, your lord gets his jollies by toying with his victims first! Slaying a hero from the start only gives you a pittance of gold that they were carrying on them. The other primary resource, Soul Energy, is from the heroes ‘enjoyment’ of your dungeon. I say enjoyment like that because some heroes are sadists that love pain, some just love stealing your gold, others will crave combat and killing monsters, and some just want to sit in your library and read for a bit. As heroes meet their needs, they gain soul energy, and then they’re ripe for the harvest to use in creating more shinies that both lure and impale adventurers!

So basically you’re playing The Sims with the lives of adventurers in the most maniacally evil way possible. Instead of playing with dogs and books, they play with hellhounds, spike traps, and ancient grimoires. Instead of going to work, they're sent to rot in your dungeons. Instead of watching them die of old age (or perhaps tragically in a tiny prison made of drywall), you'll harvest their soul energy and move on to the next hero. Is this idea of creating a tragi-comic experience for the heroes a worthy succession to the olden days of clickety clicking a ghostly green hand to dial up the punishment? Read on to find out!

Cautions

Dungeons is Rated M for Mature for some rather obvious violence mostly. It's all animated and not very realistic, so it's pretty safe for everyone. Nothing warrants an M rating in this title to be honest.

Gameplay

95OutstandingA life of a dungeon lord consists of your precious little henchman assigning you tasks for a level. Typically these involve survival, locating treasure, defeating other dungeon lords, or just being an asshole and increasing your Prestige. Prestige is a stat that boosts all of your hero’s statistics, which includes your typical strength, magic, constitution, and agility. The more of a badass you are known to be, the bigger the multiplier you get on your base stats for the level. This multiplier can max out at 400%, so it’s good to be known.

How do you become known? The best overlords build a wicked dungeon, not just filled with things that heroes want, but the little stuff that makes a dungeon a home—eerie lamps, bookcases, smoldering campfires, and random remains. These not only increase your prestige, but can be used to control the path of heroes, who often walk in the path of things to admire and not just desire. Increasing your prestige also grants access to bigger and better treasures and toys for adventurers to crave, to better satisfy their needs and then satisfy your needs when they’re slain!


The Dungeon Heart is the stronghold that must be defended at all costs.  Unlike most games of the genre though, you really don't have to defend it that often.  Heroes only charge it when they're bored.  Even if you fall in combat, you'll be resurrected at the heart with a penalty to the heart's HP, so there's little reason to be cautious of going after a juicy hero.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a dungeon without torture. Prisons and torture cells are available for extracting every last bit of a hero’s soul energy, but they’re not without a downside. On most maps, there’s a Champion hourglass that slowly ticks down with your most nefarious deeds, such as jailing and torturing. These Champion enemies don't care about your pretty gadgets and treasures, and seek out the heart of your dungeon to end your reign. They also incite nearby heroes to do the same, and thus need to be taken care of quickly.

Your lord is a badass, but he can’t handle a horde of heroes alone. Players have the ability to call in monsters of their own via pentagrams, which spawn a team of guardians to control an area. They also function as ways to please heroes who crave pain and dishing it out, but a cluster of hellspawn fighting alongside you will ruin any mob. These pentagrams extend your control, enabling you to build further out and specialize areas of your dungeon. You’ll need to do this to fufill the various quests that come up as you play. Some are easy—beat the mission, kill a certain hero. Others are more devious, such as satisfying X heroes completely, sacrificing resources to your boss, or even watering flowers.


As you progress through the trash and make it to hell to confront the usurper, the heroes that come into hell change as well. Mere adventurers will be battle-hardened barbarians, apprentices will be high warlocks, and even thieves and high priestesses will occasionally show up. They all have similar needs, although rather than walking into their demise from traps, most thieves actually have a desire to find and disarm them. If you built your dungeon right, the thieves’ job should be on par with Indiana Jones. They should barely make it past your array of traps, find wondrous treasure, and then be greeted by your Nazi demon overlord as they attempt to escape.

Bosses are a little more complicated, and often involve an enemy dungeon heart and summon/room mechanics that resemble a certain MMO with over 10 million subscribers. So long as you take your time establishing your prestige before going to confront them, you’ll have no difficulty dispatching them. If you’re done with the main story, there are sandbox missions to build the ultimate dungeon at your leisure and some survival maps to test your mettle. An evil lord’s job is never done.

Graphics

65AverageWhile zoomed in, the lighting and detail of the various gimmicks throughout your dungeon is impressive. Unfortunately, that’s about all there is to be impressed about graphically. The animations are passable. The initial tileset for the first set of missions is very drab looking, but as you progress into the catacombs and eventually hell, things liven up and get more colorful. If this sounds familiar, it’s about the same as Diablo! However, your dungeon lord looks pretty basic regardless of your prestige, and attacks rather anemically for an all powerful overlord.

Sound

77Pretty GoodPart writing genius, and part delivery, the main character voice acting is spot on. But like most titles of its type (and action RPGs aren't its type), the music is non-existent. The only time you’ll hear anything is when your dungeon heart is under attack, and besides that, you’ll hear generic one liners from heroes that wander your dungeon and attack. Those generic one liners are weakly delivered and inevitably relate to leveling up or experience, and it gets old after a while.

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