Dungeon Keeper is one of the most iconic games in video game history. The 1997 PC game spawned multiple sequels and spin-off games with it’s dungeon building/management genre and dark humour, and now EA and Mythic Studio have teamed together to give the game its second wind on mobile platforms. Regardless of whether you overlook the micro-transactions and in-app purchases, this freemium iteration of Dungeon Keeper is one that might remind you why it’s so very good to be bad, but only if you’re patient.
I do have to begin this review with a disclaimer: I’ve never actually played the original Dungeon Keeper, but I am aware of the reverence surrounding it and although I might not be able to draw nuanced comparisons with its 16-year old predecessor, I will be reviewing the game to the best of my eternally damned ability.
In Dungeon Keeper, you assume the role of a dungeon overlord, known as a Keeper, who’s job it is to oversee the maintenance and investment into the dungeon you’ve been given custody of. As Keeper, you will have to mine stone and gold, build rooms that aid in the defense of your dungeon as well as open up what is possible to be built, booby-trapping your dungeon against intruders as well as summoning minions that will be used in offensive and defensive raids.
Taking control of your dungeon, you’ll have quite a lot of creative control over how your dungeon is laid out. The centre of your dungeon,your command centre, if you will, is the Dungeon Heart. The rest of your dungeon will extend from here as you gain access to more rooms and traps to build, creating as best a labyrinth for intruders to never escape.
In Dungeon Keeper, for the most part, you will be mostly be taking care of the building and resourcing of your dungeon. Additional to this though, you can create minions, like trolls and ghosts from dungeon lore, and go on the offensive (or defensive) in a series of campaign missions or invade another player’s dungeon. The campaign missions can either be offensive missions, which teaches you sound ways to invade a dungeon, or defensive missions, which sees your own dungeon assaulted by waves of monsters to see if your dungeon can outlast the attack. Campaign missions will only net you currency (more on currency later); to get combat points and evil points, you’ll need to invade other Keeper’s dungeons and defeat them.
Finding a dungeon to attack is done completely randomly, so you won’t get to directly attack your friends who are also playing the game. This doesn’t matter so much as the game finds other dungeons extremely quickly, which is a huge plus. After defeating them, you will be awarded with currency in addition to combat and evil points. As you progress further into the game, combat points will eventually be a threshold that you need to surpass to make some upgrades to buildings. Evil points, on the other hand, are purely for gloating and you can see how you’re faring on the global leaderboard.
Being able to attack other dungeons is all well and good, but your own dungeon will also be able to be attacked. The neat thing about this is that the game will keep a replay of the intrusion and see how your opponent progresses in your dungeon, which is actually really useful for weeding out weak spots in your labyrinth. After watching this replay, you also have the choice to take revenge by returning the favour to the insolent Keeper who dared attack you.
There are also achievements in Dungeon Keeper, which are synced to your Google Play Games account, though currently it looks like only a handful of them from the game show up in Google Play Games. The Play Games connection is also good for syncing your save game across devices, which is very handy indeed. This does, of course, mean that Dungeon Keeper requires an internet connection at all times.
Currency in Dungeon Keeper comes in several forms: you have gold, stone and gems. Gold and stone is collected from mines and as time passes, you can collect the gold and stone by tapping on the icon above the mine. Gems, on the other hand, are much rarer; you start off with a preset number of gems, and apart from finding a scarce few while renovating your dungeon, this being an EA freemium game of course, the only other gems that can be found are in-app purchases.
Naturally then, gems are far more useful and can be used for purchasing more imps (with a maximum of 6) to do your bidding or used for the equally useful purpose of speeding up the construction of rooms and traps; both of these actions can significantly speed up the rate at which your dungeon develops. You will usually be short on gems, and while gold and stone is generated at a certain rate, if you’re lacking in patience, gems can also be used to purchase these as well. And if you’re even more impatient, there are a selection of boosts which range from improving the amount of resources or points netted per invasion to increased production.
For the most part, apart from giving you blinding production speed (which may or may not be your cup of tea), gems don’t really factor into the normal running of your dungeon; most rooms only cost stone to build, spawning new minions only requires gold and traps will need one or the other. Because of this, it’s actually quite possible to play the game very casually; for the past few days, I’ve only been playing it for about 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes while I’m in bed about to go to sleep. That said, if you’re intent on playing for a solid sitting of several hours like many of you would have with the original Dungeon Keeper, you’ll either have to save up lots of resources and be patient, pay up in cold, hard cash, or go back to playing the 1997 classic on PC.
The graphics of Dungeon Keeper have been touched up more than a little for its mobile outing, creating a great looking game. From the zoomed out view of your entire dungeon to the close-ups of your hideous minions, Mythic Studio has really done a great of keeping the Dungeon Keeper theme from 16 years ago, but with an updated, less gloomy and more comedic, cartoon-y look. And considering how small the game size is (from my experience ~60MB on Nexus 7, ~90MB on Galaxy Note II), you’re getting very good graphical bang for your buck.
Sound is similarly well done, with the background music a mixture of eerie music to banging rock songs. The occasional voice over of presumably the devil himself is also very well done and makes relevant comments about your lack of play if you haven’t logged in for awhile (“You’ve finally returned, Keeper”).
The character models are delightfully ugly, yet comedic, and really help to set the tone of the game, particularly when you need to slap your imps to give them a 2 times efficiency bonus. The only part of this where there is a slip up is that on older Android devices the game can occasionally become a bit choppy, which isn’t so much an issue as it is a fact of life if you do have a slightly outdated device. An unfortunate side-effect of this is, though, that the loading times can be rather lengthy, and where you might only see the loading screen for a few seconds normally, this may become an eternity of seeing this:
I had a blast playing Dungeon Keeper. As I mentioned at the start of this review, I haven’t played the original Dungeon Keeper, so I had no expectations coming into this. Even so, for the sum of its parts, Dungeon Keeper is definitely one of the better casual, freemium games out there right now.
Sure, you might say that with the in-app purchases, the way you’re supposed to play the game is jeopardized; there are a multitude of 1 star ratings on the game’s Play Store page, mostly appearing to be Dungeon Keeper purists who aren’t happy with the inclusion of microtransations. I can’t answer for that because everyone will have their own opinion on in-app purchases. But if you’re willing to be patient, or spend a few dollars to get ahead, you won’t be disappointed by the gameplay and the feel of Dungeon Keeper on Android. While it does wear the name of its revered predecessor, Dungeon Keeper on Android is its own take on Dungeon Keeper in the mobile age.
The game is available for free on the Google Play Store now, however the game has currently only soft launched in Australia, Canada and Singapore, with more countries being added in the near future. If you’re in those regions, hit the Play Store links below to pick it up, otherwise, hang tight and keep your eyes peeled.
Game: Dungeon Keeper
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