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Dungeon Keeper (PC) artwork

Dungeon Keeper (PC) review


"Most games cast you as a simpering, whiter-than-white hero, who (most RPG games excepting) has virtually no character flaws and is always tall and handsome, or thin and pretty. The sort of people who in real life everyone would just hate ! And so it is with great pleasure that I tell you that Dungeon Keeper by Bullfrog encourages you to bring merry hell upon these people, and then some. At last, justice is served.... on a platter! "



Most games cast you as a simpering, whiter-than-white hero, who (most RPG games excepting) has virtually no character flaws and is always tall and handsome, or thin and pretty. The sort of people who in real life everyone would just hate ! And so it is with great pleasure that I tell you that Dungeon Keeper by Bullfrog encourages you to bring merry hell upon these people, and then some. At last, justice is served.... on a platter!

Dungeon Keeper is a few years old now, but it is still as captivating as the day it arrived. The basic concept is simple. You are a villainous dungeon keeper (hence the title of the game, Silly!) who basically must conquer (and generally make a cesspool of) your local area. This is achieved via twenty massive levels, in which you must build your dungeon and raise an army of evil, before mercilessly slaughtering the lord of the land to move on to the next level, and to more of the same. The most vital area of your dungeon is the Dungeon Heart - the glowing orb that is the key to your operation - if the heroes destroy this then your evil empire crumbles. Other than this only one room is ready made when you begin a stage - the portal, although this must first be excavated, then claimed, by your imps. Imps are your standard minions - useless in battle, although the only little blighters around your dungeon to do any work. They dig, hollowing out the area you want to make a room, they then 'claim' this area, turning it into workable land, they fortify walls making them impervious to all but the mightiest of magic, dig out gold and gems, and best of all they can claim enemy rooms (if the enemy don't realise and kill them first). Best buy as many as possible, really. Other creatures arrive through the portal when they see something that like in your dungeon - a nice big hatchery giving lots of fresh chicken, for instance, or a big lair. Later on in the game more powerful creatures arrive, such as the Dark Mistresses, who are attracted to torture chambers (oo-er). The torture chambers are very useful - torture a prisoner and they may join you in your army of the damned. If they don't then they will die, and you will have a ghost for your army. Similarly, heroes that die in your prisons rise again as skeleton warriors. This is especially useful, as having large numbers of troops is vital - later on it won't just be the good guys you have to worry about: rival keepers are also vying for control of the land. Thankfully you can lay booby traps in your dungeon, and unleash magic spells on them, all in the name of villainy. Whilst this all sounds terribly complicated, I can assure you that you'll be gripped in no time, intent on creating the best dungeon and the best army that you can. The game is so very accessible that you'll find yourself hooked in no time, and there really is so much depth here that I can only scratch the surface - much of the joy of the game is discovering things for yourself, so obviously I can't spoil too much here.

The graphics in this game are very good. All your minions are well animated, and it can be fun to just watch them go about their business, or just slap 'em - try doing this to a Bile Demon and see their response!! Ultimately the graphics in games of this genre need to be good so that you can easily tell what is going on. This certainly is the case here, although on some lower-spec PCs (such as mine, unfortunately....) if two very large armies meet the whole game slows down almost to a grinding halt. However, get a more powerful PC (which should be most of them seeing as the game is now quite old) and there should be no problem in this regard. The intro sequence to the game, too, is superbly animated, and is one of those laugh out loud moments. The sound is much more sparse - music is virtually absent, although there are lots of background noises (such as the shrieks of pleasure from the Dark Mistresses using the torture chamber for... recreational purposes) to give the game atmosphere.

The control interface is quite baffling at first, although by the time you get through the first mission you will realise that it is an almost perfect way of controlling the game. In fact, the only time the control is less than spot-on is in the first person scenes (yes, first person - it is possible to possess your minions and lead them into battle from within their head...), and this only takes about half an hour to get used to.

Bottom line is, it's good to be bad. This game is thematically such a break from the norm that it is a real breath of fresh air, and the fact that it is possibly one of the finest games of it's genre available is a real bonus. A classic.

Rating: 9/10

tomclark's avatar
Community review by tomclark (February 03, 2004)

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