Dungeon Keeper 2
Welcome to the game where it’s good to be bad. A few years ago Bullfrog introduced a unique game called Dungeon Keeper that scored well with gamers and critics alike, and they’ve followed up with another winner that has a couple of surprises tossed in for good measure.
Like its predecessor, you’re an overlord in the gloomy underworld trying to make the evilest dungeon around in the hopes of attracting a few unsavory sorts. You get to prove you're the nastiest rat in the outhouse by strategically dropping your army in the midst of battles or taking over one of your minions and bludgeoning a few goodly folks yourself. Your ultimate mission is to overthrow King Reginald, who is in control of the Sunlight Kingdom aboveground. To accomplish this, you will battle the sickening forces of Good with the help of your horned reapers and the portal gems you collect along the way.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Gameplay was great in the previous game, but they’ve made it even better. The game takes you through the early stages at a leisurely pace, introducing you to the ins and outs of each room you can create, the monsters and the spells you research. Newcomers get the scoop on the minimum size a room should be, the type of creatures it attracts and any gotchas involved with building it in various spots. Once again your cursor is the Hand of Evil, which you can use to pick up your monsters, cast spells, build rooms or direct your imps to dig. If your imps aren’t working hard enough, you can slap them to get them moving. One of the changes this time around is that when you drop a monster it will be momentarily stunned, so it’s usually a good idea to drop them a little way away from the action. The old monsters are still around, chumming with some new ones like the Black Knights, Dark Angels and Dark Elves. Once you’ve attracted some monsters you need to keep them happy by building them a lair, a hatchery, and by having plenty of gold on hand for payday. The monsters usually aren’t too picky about the facilities, but at times you have to be careful and build separate lairs as some of the monsters don’t get along with each other.
One of the things that separates this game from other real-time strategy games is that you can possess your creatures so that you can see everything from first-person perspective like Quake. It’s even more interesting this time around because some of the levels depend on you possessing a creature and performing a task -- for example, becoming a sniper and using a Dark Elf’s incredible eyesight and crossbow to assassinate a guard before he can warn of the coming invasion. There are also some cool new traps like the cannon and the spikes, although your creatures sometimes stupidly get trapped in them and die.
One of the complaints with the original _Dungeon Keeper was that it only ran in software mode and it took Bullfrog a long time to come out with a 3D patch. You won’t hear these complaints make another round because the Bullfrog development team has made excruciating efforts to make some of the best graphics around. You can view your dungeon from almost every imaginable angle, as well as zooming in and checking out the action close up. The detail you will see when zoomed in is incredible and you won’t realize what you’re missing when you’re in the default level of zoom. A good illustration of this is in the torture chamber. I recommend throwing a goodly hero or two on the racks or in the electric chair and then zooming in to appreciate the fireworks. The minions also look very real in their day-to-day tasks like training, studying in the library or chowing down on a few chickens. In between missions, Bullfrog threw in some hilarious animation cuts that introduce various characters and their affection towards abusing chickens.
The narrator who was used last time had a deep baritone voice that could describe the horribleness of good with just the right pitch and he’s back for a second helping, setting the mood before each mission. The sounds in the game will impress you no matter what, but if you have a rockin’ sound card then you’ll be immersed in the goodies they’ve thrown in, like the realistic sounds of the doors and traps and the pitiful moans coming from the prisoners in your torture chamber. The tracks they’ve included are a cut above most games and you can tell they spent a lot of thought on what to use and where to use it. For example, if you chuck one of your minions in the electric chair you hear the track "burn, baby, burn!"
The minimum system requirements are Windows 95 or Windows 98 (unfortunately, it doesn’t work on NT -- I tried), a 166MHz or faster Pentium class CPU, 300 MB hard drive space plus space for saved games and DirectX installation, 32 MB RAM, a high-color capable 2 MB PCI or AGP video card with DirectDraw support and a 4X CD-ROM drive.
If you’re tired of real-time strategy games seeming all the same and you’re in the mood for something a little different, Dungeon Keeper II fills the bill with ghastly grace. The game carries a Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board for a good reason and is definitely not for children. Aside from that, the only people who I predict will dislike this game are folks who feel strongly about Political Correctness; otherwise, run to your nearest store and throw this brute into your shopping cart.