Pots of gold and sparkling gems lure every hero to forge the dark passageways beneath their quiet towns. Sure, a sharp sword and shiny armor may have made you a hero in the past, but now the tables are surely turning. In Dungeon Keeper, you will now have the chance to stop the forces of Good from pillaging and keep all the riches, creatures and power to yourself. After all, how hard can it be to stop a few sword-wielding, tin-can-wearing, pumped-up warriors, wizards, and general do-gooders? Personally, I welcome the chance to fight for the dark side.
Bullfrog has done an excellent job of immersing you in the role of the Dungeon Keeper. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. Peter Molyneux and the rest of the Bullfrog team have been teasing us with Dungeon Keeper for two years. It was worth the wait.
You begin far beneath a happily slumbering town, in an area only an imp could love. Here, you create a dungeon any self-respecting monster would kill its kin to live, work and fight for.
Dungeon Keeper offers a variety of tools to make your job easier. Fourteen different rooms range from the necessary lairs to let your tired minions sleep it off, to a Hatchery where farm-raised chickens offer a meal even the dragons feast on. First and foremost, of course, is the treasure room to store all the gold and jewels your imps mine. Twelve kinds of traps and doors to deter the best society throws down to you, ranging from the mundane locked wooden door to a lightning trap that incinerates all but the toughest outsiders.
Using your Hand of Evil (a cursor similar to the one used in Populous), you lay out your basic structures by selecting available tiles of earth. Your trusty imps, the work force of the dungeon, begin digging and constructing rooms to your liking. Remember, if you feel the monsters are not working hard enough, don't be afraid to give them a big swat to hurry them along.
Each room you create is the size and shape you deem necessary. There are no fixed size rooms to simply plop down on a flat piece of grassland. As always, each layout must be constructed with offense, defense and accessibility in mind. Unique rooms such as the torture chamber, graveyard, prison and temple add variety to each level. There's nothing like a good sacrifice to the gods at the Temple, especially if they reward you with an even nastier denizen to train.
After creating a formidable dungeon where even Diablo himself would be happy to reside, you must dig out the Portal through which hordes of monsters will enter your Keep. Each of these eighteen different monsters, ranging from the easily crushable Beetle to the Horned Demon himself, comes exquisitely detailed in SVGA graphics and personalities to match. This is where the Bullfrog team really showed the stuff that made past titles such as Theme Hospital, Populous and Magic Carpet so popular. Flies and beetles have an obvious distaste for each other and will break into battle if left alone too long. The vampires strive for dark sections of the dungeon or are simply content to wander their graveyard. The gaseous, pot-bellied Bile Demons offer an excellent first wave of attack by spewing stink clouds, but can also be useful if put to work alongside a Troll in the workshop, creating boulder traps and nearly impenetrable magic doors.
Each level pits you and your minions against either another Keeper, muscling in on your turf, or those pesky heroes from above. Kill your enemies and build the strongest keep you can, and you will conquer the land.
The manual provided with the game is an excellent reference guide that doesn't even need to be cracked until later levels. The game's tutorial does an excellent job teaching the young Keeper and allowing him to jump right into the game after installation.
Initially, some real-time strategy veterans may be turned off by not having an adjustment for game speed, but after playing through the first few levels you will soon learn the fun of scrambling to the front lines and won't feel the need to slow down the action. More troubling, though, is the absence of a difficulty adjustment. Dungeon Keeper's option page offers no way to make your second romp through the game any more difficult than the first.
Graphics and Design
Character statistics border on ridiculous, with everything from an individual name and happiness factor for each minion, to their respective blood types. Perhaps this level of detail is offered to each of your creatures because you have the ability to actually possess any of your followers. After casting a Possession spell, you, the Keeper, are placed directly into the creature's body, free to walk through your dungeon and view it from their perspective. A first-person 3D view, not as rich asbut still breathtaking, is given and you are free to walk through your hallways adorned with Aztec statues and torches, or perhaps you will just stop by the Hatchery to munch a chicken. If you find your way to a battle or start one yourself, you can actually make a significant difference by casting spells yourself and slashing the enemy one-on-one. While not the main part of the game, it is nice to step off your throne and view the world from a skeleton or warlock's perspective.
This game truly shows how breaking theand mold by offering style and playability, still rivaling the best of the genre, can make an excellent real-time strategy game. As you conquer town after town, you begin to see more unique twists and turns that have been carefully placed into the game to unfold as you play. The game is deep (no pun intended).
Sounds are great, and the narrator's eerie voice is cast perfectly. The sounds from each monster vary depending on his task at hand, and the battle cries are bloodcurdling.
At this time, there is no IPX/Internet support. Patches may soon follow, but as of now, players must be content with the levels dealt and use Kali to find opponents. Editor's note: make sure you pick a smaller map if you're only playing against a single opponent, unless you have a full day to kill. We got into some 6-hour stalemates around the GameFabrique offices by accidentally starting off on an enormous map and not actually running into the other guy until about 2 a.m.
Required: Intel Pentium or 100% compatible, 16 MB RAM, MS-DOS 6.22 or Windows 95, 65+MB hard disk space, 4X CD-ROM drive, SVGA graphics card, SoundBlaster or 100% compatible sound card
None of these gripes alter my perspective on this long-awaited game, truly a classic. Any real-time gamer with a yearning for the dungeon life and the nerve to slaughter an army of Monks, Fairies and Lords will be pleasantly surprised with Dungeon Keeper. How can you not want to wreak havoc underneath towns called Cozyton?