Dungeons 313th October, 2017
PlatformPC, PS4, Xbox One
Recapturing Dungeon Keeper and its popularity has been a recent goal of quite a few games. War for the Overworld, Impire and the Dungeons series by Realmforge Studios, which has now reached its third iteration. Over time the game has expanded, moving to the surface and the conquest that brings in the second game. Now, with Dungeons 3, Realmforge have polished it to a near shine.
Following on from Dungeons 2, where the [insert description here] evil has conquered the known world. After a long period of boredom and sitting in a closed room, more land is discovered overseas. As a result of 'comical' errors by the minions, there's no way to physically go over there. As such, the big evil is the protagonist but through its control over the Dark Elf Thalya.
A staple of the series and something that continues, actually to too large of an extent, is the comedy. Thalya, as a Dark Elf, is naturally evil. However, she's been fighting to not be evil until corrupted by the big evil. Only now her good and evil sides are constantly quibbling with each other. While it can be comical here and there, it's done just too often. In addition to this, the game relies a little too much on references to other media or breaking the fourth wall.
This actually happens with all of the comedy featured within the game. There are countless references to Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, World of Warcraft and more. Core antagonists include a Dwarf named Grimli and a Magician called
Jaina Proudmore Yaina Overproud who rules from Dollaran. Even though I was getting frustrated by the huge amounts of self-referential humor, there were times I found myself laughing. Getting criticised by the narrator when I was defeated in a mission or seeing the ongoing argument between Thalya and the narrator, only for the narrator to randomly drop some brown bears on Yaina as revenge.
Thankfully I can't complain about much more than the overbearing nature of the comedy. Unlike Dungeons 2, there's little innovation to the game. What matters is the level of polish that's gone into the game. Dungeons 2 brought in the idea of going into the overworld but had its issues in getting there. The waiting time for anything was dragged out to a huge level. None of your underlings had any real autonomy. Simply put, there was too much micromanagement.
Fortunately, this has been remedied. Waiting for anything has been lowered. You can't simply spam to recruit units and get them all instantly, but the time has been cut down dramatically. Building seems a lot quicker which means developing your dungeon is a lot easier. More than this, Realmforge have also opened up Dungeons 3. Where the previous title had you tied to just one faction, this has merged all three factions under one banner.
All of the rooms from the previous game make a return, with the understandable merging of the Guard Room and the Defensive Outpost, which have the exact same job. This offers a much bigger variety when you're actually building your dungeon. It's actually very addictive in the freedom that this gives you to build up your dungeon. Particularly so in the later levels of the campaign, or the skirmish, where everything is opened up.
It's very easy to get lost in the smaller details of your dungeon too. Creating the perfect layout so the Snots don't take too long moving crates from your workshop to the tinker, manned by Orcs or Goblins, that creates traps. Ensuring you have a large enough space dedicated to the bunk space for your horde. Meeting the needs of your minions is essential, as is keeping a balance of minions that keep your dungeon functioning well and the resources ticking in.
One of my major complaints are the limitations placed on your population. Even at its largest, Dungeons 3 only allows you a maximum of 15 Snots that build your dungeon and mine gold. In addition to this, you control 20 other units and Yaina. Essentially this means your dungeon can be vast and sprawling, just to manage 36 units, with exceptions that include a few units of the undead that don't count towards your unit count. In effect, you can only control a maximum of maybe 45 units with 15 of these being non-combatants who can't even defend your dungeon from invaders.
These are the aforementioned Snots. In addition to building and resource mining, they are the workhorses of your ever-growing dungeon. They're also part of the way you can build up your army. Any heroes that attack your dungeon and you defeat can be dragged to the graveyard, prison or torture chamber. The former will result in them being brought back as a zombie. The prison lets you starve them to death and have them fight for you as a skeleton. The latter, when manned by a Succubus, will eventually have them BDSM'd until they convert to your army.
To an extent it's understandable. Even the later levels of the 20 mission campaign, you never actually need more than the bare minimum of units. However, it certainly would be useful. Primarily this is due to the jobs that some of these units do. As earlier mentioned, Goblins and Orcs operate the tinkers workshop, essential for building traps. Imps work to generate more mana. Succubus works in the torture chamber to whip your enemy into submission. Your number of truly available units drops fairly dramatically if you want to keep certain areas of your dungeon running.
What is also punished by this limited number of unit slots is the use of the variety available. You have three faction trees that you build up: Horde, Demons and Undead. Each of these three trees have five units to choose from. Of these units the last of the five, titans, are limited to one at a time being extremely strong. It still leaves you with a very small number of slots, stretching yourself incredibly thin on the ground. Especially when you start fighting against units above ground, or any that invade your dungeon.
As much as I dislike this choice within Dungeons 3, it does make for some tense and exciting times. This is partly as a result of some of the missions in the campaign. These aren't fixed to the same system of fighting the same sort of battle over and over again. A number of them have special features. One, as an example, can be won by a battle of attrition as you attack resources that are being sent in on horseback. Directly after that offers a day and night cycle where your enemies are incredibly strong during the day and effectively suffer from sleeping sickness at night, where little can waken them up.
Dungeons 3 also looks and sounds brilliant. Despite my impressions of the forced humor, it's delivered fantastically by the voice actors. The quality of the audio in general is fantastic, including the music, which can change at the drop of a hat as you move quickly from idyllic scenery to your own corrupted territory. When you enter any conflict, the game also ramps up the audio to add to the excitement. It's the variety and the quality of the audio that really stands out.
Much like the audio, there's a high level of quality with the aesthetics of the game. That is, with the exception of one thing. One small, but niggling, frustration came from the UI. While regularly it's not too intrusive, as soon as you have to open anything up the screen is completely blocked out. One problem is that unless you memorize the icons, selecting which building or spell you want can't be done with any real speed. This is particularly annoying in the case of spells.
Other than that, I can't help but love the look of the game. It features a lot more polish than the previous games. All units and buildings are well detailed with great animations. Everything is very colorful and flashy, particularly in the height of battle. Even your dungeon, which could understandably be the glummest and drab thing around, is great to behold. Particularly with the cosmetic features as your Snots, looking for things to do, actually decorate the walls with a variety of lights.
Dungeons 3 is the closest a game has come to the charm of Dungeon Keepers since Dungeon Keepers 2. While it certainly has a few flaws, including an abundance of forced humor and limitations on unit counts. The UI can also be obtrusive. However, these are small issues with a game that features an addictive building mechanic, a great aesthetic design and absolutely brilliant audio. By far the best and most polished in the series, this is certainly a game I'd recommend if you're looking to scratch that Dungeon Keeper itch.
Dungeons 3 has taken the series to its highest point yet. While overbearing on the forced comedy, it can be genuinely funny. Most of all, though, it's addictive. Dungeons 3 features incredibly polished gameplay with great visuals and audio and the wide variety within the campaigns 20 missions never gets boring.
- Strong campaign with a good length and a wide variety of missions that keep things interesting
- Dungeon building has been expanded, offering a larger number of rooms and offers more choice
- Fantastic attention to detail, from the visual qualities to the detail in music as it changes depending on what exactly you're looking at
- Excellent voice acting throughout that can be very funny
- However, the comedy can be a little too forced
- Limitations on unit quantity, which is incredibly restrictive
- The UI can be obtrusive, particularly when you want to cast spells