Cast your mind back to the late 90’s, back when games were challenging (but fun) and Bullfrog was still around and releasing hit after hit. One of their biggest titles at the time was Dungeon Keeper – an RTS which turned the tables and allows you to play as the bad guys by building a dungeon and fending off waves of attacks by ‘heroes’. The game spawned an official sequel and a mobile version, which we’ll pretend never existed, but officially there wasn’t a true sequel since 1999.
Enter Realmforge Studios, and publisher Kalypso Media – back in 2010 they released Dungeons which was a bit of a mess, to be honest. It took the premise of Dungeon Keeper but turned the main focus back onto heroes rather than the creatures – It was met with average reviews and, personally, I didn’t like it that much (sorry guys). However, back in 2015, they released Dungeons 2 which was exactly what I was waiting for – a spiritual successor/reboot of Dungeon Keeper (with no input or involvement from Bullfrog). We were back to controlling the ‘Ultimate Evil’, who is now a disembodied spirit after he was defeated by the heroes, and you create and control minions to help build an underground dungeon, summon creatures to fight for you and build various rooms and facilities to both satisfy your inhabitants needs and increase their stats and abilities.
This leads us onto the present, October 2017, Dungeons 3 has been released on the PS4, Xbox One and PC – I have had the pleasure of playing this game for the last week thanks to Kalypso Media, and I can honestly say that is one of the best resource management + RTS games I have played in a while. The game does have its flaws (some of which are quite major) but what it does, it does very well.
To begin with, the story is simple yet the dialogue is hilarious – you begin the game with a cutscene explaining that after the last game, the ‘Absolute Evil’ (you), had nothing to do after driving the world into blackness and despair. He would “spend his days sipping cocktails from the skulls of his enemies and forge new plans over grilled unicorn kebabs.” He ends up locking himself into his bedroom until he discovers a new continent to conquer! With a goal in mind and new heroes to terrorise, he sets sail for this new virgin land.
Once we get there, we begin as a shadow, the disembodiment of evil, and we are introduced to a few of the main characters – we get to see Grimli, who is a racist dwarf and nothing at all to do with Gimli from LotR, Tanos, the hero of the land and Thalya, the Dark Elf foster daughter of the hero who was once evil but has been trained to be good (however she keeps getting confused). Your first mission is simple, as a shadow, avoid the lights and possess Thalya and use her magical powers to kill all the guards and all the civilians who had turned up to see the opening of a new orphanage! Once this evil deed is done the game truly begins, Thalya retreats to the underground and becomes our new Dungeon Keeper, whilst we watch on from above and control everything from what rooms to create to who and what to attack.
The game is split into 20 missions, each with three objectives (each one resulting in a trophy if you achieve them), a standard Multiplayer mode, where you can play against another person, and a Skirmish mode where you pick a few pieces of criteria and the map/heroes are created at random. Personally, I haven’t put in a lot of time in the Skirmish and Multiplayer modes so my review will be based solely on the single player campaign. First of all, length. The website and the trailers all claim the story is twenty missions and over 20 hours long – I can happily say that I fully agree with that. I have completed ten missions so far and they have all taken me anywhere from an hour to three hours each to complete, so if the remaining ten missions have as much content then I can easily see this being a 30-40hr campaign (not including the time spent replaying levels for the objectives or to try and take on the level differently if you keep dying). Each level also has both a normal and ‘Hellish’ difficulty – I have only been playing on the normal mode.
If you ever played Dungeon Keeper, back in the day, then you will be really familiar with the gameplay mechanics, if not I’ll break it down for you. There are two main areas in the game, the underground and the overground, the overground is where you send your creatures in order to progress the mission – up here you control your creatures like a real-time strategy game (RTS), you can select all of them or just a few, command them to attack enemy units, take over mining areas or destroy hero spawning camps. You have to be careful though as you could send out all of your creatures and the heroes could invade and destroy your dungeon whilst you have no defences.
The underground is where your time and space management will take place and also the majority of the gameplay. You usually start out with a few basic ‘rooms’ cut out of the rocks, so you may have your dungeon heart, exits to the overground, a bedroom, a gobbler farm and one or two other initial starter rooms depending on the level. Think of this part of the game like theme hospital, The Sims and Tropico all merged into one big, evil lump of goodness! You must meet the needs and desires of your inhabitants (such as enough sleeping space and food supplies) whilst also ensuring you have the required resources to run certain rooms (for example the Tinker, who makes traps, needs to have crates which a workshop creates) and you must also have the right creatures employed in your dungeon (Certain creatures operate certain machines, like an orc will run the Tinker station but an Imp will run the Mana well). This could seem a bit daunting but the game slowly introduces you to new creatures and rooms in each level so you aren’t overwhelmed at any point and you always know who and what you need.
You have two types of inhabitants, the creatures, which you summon with gold up to your creature limit (which can be increased with research) and your ‘Little Snots’. The Little Snots are your minions, you select what parts of the ground should be dug out or filled in and these guys will drop what they are doing and run to perform the action. They also operate certain rooms, like the Workshop, and they will dig gold from veins and carry your supplies around the dungeon to the right rooms. These guys are very useful and I recommend you research getting more of them as soon as possible, but they are useless in battle – as in they can’t fight and can’t defend the dungeon from attackers. What they will do though is, (providing you have the right rooms) drag the unconscious bodies of any heroes you knock-out in the dungeon and place them either in the graveyard, where they will be buried alive and turned into zombies, or taken to prison where you can either leave them and let them turn into skeleton archers or you can pick them up and drop them in the torture chamber where a Succubus will whip and humiliate them until they join your army.
Progression comes in the form of a research tree (above) which starts off with hardly any items you can research into (the above is from mission nine). You use gold, which you have mined, along with ‘Evilness’, which is obtained by taking over landmarks in the overworld, to purchase the various new rooms/creatures or to upgrade existing rooms/limits if you have created a Lecture room. Again, this may look overwhelming, but you are introduced to a few new things each level so you get used to what you have to do in order to run a successful dungeon. The variety of rooms in Dungeons 3 is a little small (as of level 9) but each room has two-three upgrades as well, for example the torture chamber lets you increase its effectiveness and make it faster to convert the heroes, so there is plenty to upgrade and use your resources on.
The research tree also allows you to unlock numerous spells to use against the enemy or to buff your creatures, you also have a lot of different traps you can unlock, from the basic spike pits that will automatically injure the enemies who walk over them to exploding treasure chests which you can use to lore the heroes towards and then set off so they blow up in their faces! I have personally found myself replaying a few of the levels a couple of times just to try out different combinations of traps and rooms.
The music is awesome and really gets you fired up for the long levels (If you purchase the game physically at retail and obtain the ‘Extremely Evil Edition’, then you actually get the digital soundtrack with your order). The voice acting and dialogue is where this game truly comes alive though, – the narrator is the same guy from the Stanley Parable (if you have never played or seen that game, go look it up as it’s one of the funniest PC games of 2013) and he has brought his witty, sarcastic tone with him!
The game is constantly breaking the fourth wall and has so many references to pop culture. From small things like having Grimli, the racist Dwarf, as a mock of Gimli from LotR and quotes from Anime series’ like Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z to the creatures you obtain being given names like Ben’Aflam, Naga’Minaj and Mist’Burns, which I know is only a small touch, but it really got me more dedicated to keeping my team alive! I was heartbroken when Naga’Minaj died and wouldn’t resurrect! The game doesn’t take itself seriously at all and I love it, in one level the narrator keeps slipping Star Wars puns in most of his speeches and constantly has digs at the previous games in the series.
The game has been updated to version 1.3 (if you have the physical version, please ensure you update to this version or higher) which has resolved all of the game-breaking crashes I had when I first reviewed this game. However, it has introduced screen tearing and occasional slowdown once there are a lot of units on screen. This is much better than the game crashing and losing progress and is more than playable now.
Dungeons 3 is one of the best spiritual successors to Dungeon Keeper out there. There are plenty of missions with multiple objectives which will keep you busy for hours upon hours. As long as you ensure you have at least version 1.3 installed, I believe this game should be in anyone’s library who enjoys the RTS and strategy genre.
- The dialogue and writing in regards to description and story is amazing
- The voice acting is spot on – I love the Narrator, we need him in a lot more games!
- The gameplay mechanics are much more refined and solid than the previous games in the series
- Tonnes of content on-disc with the MP, Co-op, Campaign and Skirmish missions
- The pop culture and MEME references are hilarious and makes you laugh out loud (if you get them)
- The trophies are purely all 3 objectives on each level, nothing else – Some are pretty hard too
- Level variety is small, the layouts are different but you have an underworld and an overworld – both of which look the same on each level
- Not a massive selection of creatures or rooms. There is quite a few but after a while you will get into a routine of building almost the same thing each time (this could increase though as I’m only on level ten out of twenty)