Dungeon Keeper. Bullfrog Productions. (1997). PC

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Evil IS Good! But is the game any good?

The Story

You are the Dungeon Keeper, who’s plan is to amass an evil army in order to take to the surface, destroy the righteous heroes and rule above ground. And you get to slap as many Minions as you like on the way!

The Gameplay

Dungeon Keeper is an isometric strategy game in which you build and maintain your very own dungeon, using The Hand of Evil. You start each level with a spot of land, your Dungeon Heart (basically your health bar), a nearby Portal (from which creatures enter and join your cause), and a handful of Imps (your workers). To expand your Dungeon, you’ll be using your Imps to mine out spaces for you to create your rooms.

Certain creatures will only consider joining you if you’ve met their criteria. Basic creatures, such as The Fly and the Beetle, are satisfied by just a Lair (a place to sleep), the Warlock requires a Library, Demon Spawn need a Training Room. Stronger creatures have larger requirements such as a several different rooms or larger rooms. The Bile Demon won’t turn up unless he’s got a Workshop and as many chickens as he can eat!

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Above, you can see the user interface, which shows you the level map, the toolbox, and the amount of gold you own. Gold is an important factor in the game as this is needed to keep your creatures happy (nope, they don’t work for free!). If you keep missing their payday then they’ll pack their bags. You also use gold to build new rooms, to create traps/doors and cast spells. New spells can be researched by Warlocks in their Library, but you’ll always start out with two helpful ones; ‘Create Imp’ (I’m sure you can guess what this does) and ‘Possess Creature’. When the latter is cast on any of your creatures, you’ll see the game from that creature’s perspective, complete with health bar, attack modes and their very own name badge. This is handy for exploring, fighting your own battles or seeing how long you can last as a chicken before you are eaten.

The first few levels are sort of tutorial types to get you going and get progressively harder. Each level has it’s own penultimate goal; kill the Lord of the Land (who is sent down to cease your dungeoning antics). You can go off on a hunt for him straight away if you like (usually just by mining until you spot him) but it isn’t advised until you’ve got a good amount of creatures at your disposal.

He’ll mess you up real nice..

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Eventually your dungeon will get invaded and if you’re not ready, your Dungeon Heart will be destroyed and then game over, start the level again.

The Features

Dungeon Keeper was quite unique in that you get to play as the bad guy. A bad-ass bad guy at that who controls a lot of cool creatures (16 if you don’t include the Imps). Each creature has its own wants and needs and strengths and weaknesses. Your dungeon even has it’s own ecology, some of your monsters are natural enemies. Few examples; if you leave a Fly and a Spider in close contact they’ll start duking it out, your Warlock will start kicking off if any other species enters his Library, Skeletons and Bile Demons can’t stand each other (I guess they’re both sizeist) and the Horned Reaper (that nice looking chap on the box) is just a fucking nutjob.. If he has nothing to do, he’ll just start killing EVERYTHING and if there’s a Lord of the Land nearby, he’ll just drop whatever he’s doing and be all like..

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As a disembodied evil hand, The Hand of Evil, (the ‘character’ you play as/your mouse pointer) you’re able to pick up your creatures and drop them where you like, be it into battle, into the training room, or even into the Temple to sacrifice them to your Demi God if that’s what you’re in to. The ‘plucking’ feature also comes in handy for picking up an ally with low health and dropping them off in bed or picking up gold that has been missed by your Imps. But, of course, the best feature about the Hand is… SLAPPING!

You can slap your creatures TO DEATH! Or you can slap them to near death, drop them off at their Lair, watch them regenerate and then SLAP THEM TO FUCKING DEATH! Actually, there is a reason for the slapping, aside from the obvious humour of casual violence and exploding chickens. It speeds up your creatures. If they’re not working hard enough for your liking, give ’em a slap and they’ll work harder. A little backhand will sort them out for a minute or so. It does, however reduce your creatures general happiness and if you keep up with it, they’ll end up leaving.. Maybe balance it out, drop a chicken on top of them or a small pile of gold.

There is a Multiplayer option too for all those interested, it’s basically the same thing but it’s impossible to beat the other person as they’ve probably been playing the game since 1997… *cough* sore loser…

The Presentation

I remember playing this when it first came out and thought it looked amazing.. Having a recent whirl of the game it took me a little while to figure out what was what, now that my eyeballs have been bathed in HD goodness I struggled. Yeah, it’s pretty blurry and blocky.. ‘Shonky’ looking and it’ll probably put new players off (which is unfortunate). You can zoom and rotate and what not but it can be hard to see what going on, especially during the fights.

Unsurprisingly, you get the whole dungeon feel from the game; the muddy colours and the dank atmosphere. The sounds are spot on too, the music is ominous, in the background you can hear bubbling and dripping sounds, screams and creature grunts.. Chickens! There’s also a narrator who keeps you updated on important things throughout the levels, he tells you about any fights and gives you a telling off if you’re being shit. I love that voice..

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That’ll be the level select screen up there. Your narrator will give you a bit of background info on the place you’re about to invade and an updated version once you’ve decimated the place. The first one being,
“Eversmile… Set in a realm of joy, the people of Eversmile are plagued only by aching facial muscles and not anthrax as we’d have hoped..”

The Verdict

So what if the graphics haven’t stood the test of time,  this is still a fun and challenging game. Just play it. Get on the GOG website and buy this shit now y’all!

Pros: Play as the bad guy, Lots of cool creatures, progressive difficulty, dark sense of humour, ecology is a thing!

Cons: Graphically ‘shonky’, hard to see what is going on at times, music won’t turn off for some reason (gets a bit obnoxious)

93%

*SLAP*

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3 thoughts on “Dungeon Keeper. Bullfrog Productions. (1997). PC

  1. I’ll be honest, I downloaded this last week off GOG, and I lasted about 30 minutes, and had to stop due to a MASSIVE headache.

    Gonna have to play it now…

    Like

  2. Pingback: Top 50 Games | Games Revisited

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