Every time I launch EA's free-to-play mobile reboot of the classic Dungeon Keeper franchise, I imagine a chorus of demons and imps singing Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday".
It is hard. I quite liked yesterday, when the name of a classic series popping up in my news feed was a reason for celebration, instead of a glimmer of hope followed by cautiously scanning for the terms 'free-to-play' and 'mobile.' But that's the world we live in, all in the present and such.
I suppose I should be happy the franchise lives on in any form at all. The idea of becoming an evil overlord, digging out your evil lair and filling it with traps and monsters that the original pair of Dungeon Keeper games embodied is the sort of concept that goes straight to indie or mobile these days. And so here we are.
Welcome back, Horny. I probably won't be calling you that, but I'm glad you've given me the option.
Released this week in the US after months in testing in other regions, the new Dungeon Keeper isn't all that far removed from the originals. The core concept is certainly intact — this is a game about creating a dungeon and defending it using summoned minions, traps and spells. The creatures carry familiar names — imps, bile demons — and they are unlocked via building dungeon sections. Players must gather gold, stone and mana to build and upgrade sections and cast powerful spells. The Dungeon Heart is still what we protect. We can even swipe-slap workers for temporary buffs.
It's certainly got some of that old Dungeon Keeper spirit, but it's not quite that game.
It's more Clash of Clans with a Dungeon Keeper paint job, and why not? Supercell's ridiculously popular mobile strategy title isn't too far removed from good old DK. It's about building up your defenses and testing those of your enemy — they could be long-lost cousins, if you squint your eyes just right.
So the new Dungeon Keeper adapts Clash of Clans' co-joint gameplay. Thousands of players work independently to create their dungeons, filling them with obstacles, and then invite the world to come in and try to take their things. At the same time, the player can summon forth an army of minions and go after other players' dungeons. There's an extensive campaign mode, all sorts of quests to complete to earn in-game currency, and regular special events to keep players on their toes.
Of course this is a free-to-play game, so it's not all about just having fun. There's also a great deal of waiting involved.
Look at that poor imp. He's going to have to spend four hours clearing out that one spot. And then there's my minions, who take quite some time to spawn.
Pretty much everything worthwhile to do in the all-new Dungeon Keeper takes time. Building, digging, upgrading, raiding — well, not so much raiding as waiting to have minions to raid with. That which doesn't take time takes money and resources, which also take time.
It's nothing spending a little real money wouldn't fix, of course.
Gems, the true beating heart of any Clash of Clans-style game, are readily available for purchase, providing a speedier path to underground domination at a price. Spending between $4.99 (500 gems) to $99.99 (14,000) can make a huge difference in a Dungeon Keeper's career. Some people like that sort of things. Others not so much.
The new Dungeon Keeper isn't a bad example of this new genre of competitive strategy games. It's got plenty of style and character, and at times it even manages reminds me of a game I used to play ages ago. With a little applied patience, I might actually start enjoying myself. As long as you don't enter into this expecting a mobile port of the PC classic, maybe you will too.
It's very hard to say goodbye to yesterday. It's also completely avoidable. Dungeon Keeper and Dungeon Keeper 2 are both available on GOG.com right now for $5.99 apiece.
- Genre: Strategy
- Developer: EA Mythic
- Platforms: Android, iOS
- Price: Free