Dungeon Keeper Gold Review

Dungeon Keeper Gold box cover

Use your strategy and wits to build dungeons and muster an army of evil creatures to vanquish your enemies.

Story

Peace and harmony rules the land but deep below the ground lie many forbidding caverns and dark dungeons. As the evil Dungeon Keeper, this is your world and domain. Petty explorers and heroes invade your territory in hopes to purge the underlying evil from the lands once and for all. Now is the time to build an army of light shunning creatures and strike back. Turn the prospering kingdoms into wastes of disease and misery with your meticulous dungeon designing skills. But beware! The Avatar and his band of happy followers will not give in easily. The underground is about to turn into a full-blown war between good and evil and there can only be one winner.

The Game

Dungeon Keeper Gold is a collection box including the original Dungeon Keeper game and the official expansion pack The Deeper Dungeons. The expansion pack builds on the same story as the original game and together they offer about 35 dungeons to explore and conquer (give or take some hidden bonus levels) in the single player mode.

Dungeon Keeper is a real time strategy game where you play as an architect and overlord of the dungeon. You will be designing the rooms and corridors of your own dungeons and you have minions that work for you. But to stand a chance against the opposing forces (the lords of the land and the rival Dungeon Keepers) you must attract more powerful creatures to your dungeon and gain their loyalty by providing shelter, food and something to do in their spare time.dungeon_keeper_6

Since the game takes place entirely below ground, you must dig your tunnels and rooms manually. You must plan your dungeon carefully because there are many things to take into consideration when designing a dungeon that eventually will host the various creatures. For example; Spiders do not like flies and will attack them on sight, Warlocks wants to have their study room in a quiet place and the dungeon Mistresses demand a torture chamber in which they can enjoy themselves. There are 17 different types of creatures you can attract to your dungeon. These include demons, skeletons, beetles, dragons and hell hounds. All of them have their own preferences, skills, strengths and weaknesses. You can also capture and convert the adventurers and heroes to do your bidding, and they come in 11 different types like a monk, thief, fairy and dwarf.

Content

The first few levels of the Campaign will introduce you to the game and how you should build the various rooms. The tutorial is very seamless and isn’t forced on you like many other tutorials are. The game pretty much encourages you to play in your own personal way on many levels. You can build very nice and orderly, or you can have a chaotic approach to the design. You can be nice to your creatures or you can slap them around and rule over their heads with an iron hand. You can focus on building traps or spend your money on training the creatures to do the fighting for you. You can also possess one of your creatures and do the fighting yourself from the first person view mode.

If you aren’t very keen on designing the dungeons and building rooms, you can allow for some AI help on that matter. This is an option you can turn on or off at any point in the game and it will automatically build for you. It can be nice to enable this help if you are clueless on how to build, but because if its rather unruly nature, you will probably want to expand your dungeon in your own pace.

You will notice that each creature has their own set of skills they can use. If you train your creature to advance in levels, they will learn new skills. This alone allows for interesting battles and strategies to use when fighting hostile entities.

Your creatures will charge you for working in your dungeon though. There are many gold veins scattered around in the dungeon and if you play against a rivaling Dungeon Keeper, you will have to see to that he doesn’t claim all the gold reserves. In many levels there are also gem veins, and these are very special and important because they provide an infinite source of gold. If you want to play in a defensive manner and build up your creatures and dungeons, you pretty much need to have this infinite gold income. Otherwise you can’t afford to pay the creatures their weekly pay, develop traps or train creatures in the training room. This is the biggest element of stress in the game because if your treasure chamber runs out of gold, your creatures will abandon you.

The game is full of secrets and bonuses – some of which you will stumble across accidentally. These include special items that lets you transfer one of your creatures to the next level, bonus levels, secret areas or special cutscenes for example. The game offers many special strategies such as torturing victims to turn them into ghosts, starve prisoners in to turn them into skeletons or offering creatures in the temple to gain ungodly favors in return. There’s quite a lot to explore and discover within the dank dungeon walls. If you like to experiment with these things you’ll find many hours of entertainment here.

There are some dubious tactics that can be used to your advantage in this game. Each Dungeon Keeper has a dungeon heart, typically at the middle of their dungeon – if this dungeon heart is destroyed, they are entirely wiped off of the map. You can train a single creature to reach max level and possess it with the first person view and rush into your enemy’s dungeon heart and start hacking away at it, retreat when things get ugly and thus destroy it little by little.

Furthermore, if you have access to the gem veins, you can wall yourself in and train your creatures until they all reach max level and then unleash them on your weaker enemies.
If you deny your opponent access to any gold, you can starve them and thus secure victory.
Are these just strategies or are they exploits? I’ll let you be the judge of that but resorting to these tactics does indeed feel like cheating.

The single player campaign also features a High Score table that keeps tracks of your accumulated score and where you can compare scores with others playing on your computer.

Controls

You will notice that your creatures live their own life in your dungeon. They will explore for you, or just entertain themselves as they see fit. They can also go pick fights with each other or go find something to fight against. Luckily you don’t have to search around the whole dungeon to find the location where these things happen. You can easily pick up and move your creatures with the Evil Hand (the cursor in this game) from where ever they are. You can also build doors and lock them to deny your creatures access to certain areas. The user interface is very easy to use, and that helps making this game so easily approached and fun to play.

Multiplayer

Dungeon Keeper Gold features a multiplayer mode via serial cables or IPX. There is no support for TCP/IP, which means that playing multiplayer on a LAN with a modern Windows operating system can be a hassle. There are about 30 multiplayer maps though and this box also includes a map editor that allows users to create their own maps.

Graphics

The graphics in Dungeon Keeper Gold is a mix 3D and 2D. The levels are rendered in 3D and the creatures that dwell in there are drawn, or pre rendered 2D sprites. This creates some strange perspectives from some view angles, but mostly it looks all right. The setting and theme of the game is dark and gloomy and the graphics embraces this aspect of the game quite well.dungeon_keeper_7

This box includes Direct 3D support to the game that generally makes it look more crisp and clear compared to the original version. There are some neat graphical effects in the game such as dynamic shadows cast from the 2D sprites, water effects, and lighting effects. The colors vary mostly from browns and greens, and it gives the game a unique look.
When your army of creatures clash together with an opposing army, it can get messy and hard to oversee the situation. You will need to rotate the camera to see all of what’s going on, but that isn’t a problem for the most part.

Sound

The sound is amazing in this game. The music fits perfectly in with the dark mysterious theme of evil and hidden secrets. The sound effects are great – you will hear your creatures laughs, screams and toiling echo through your dungeon walls. Every creature type has their own distinct sounds and battle cries so you will recognize them by their sounds after a while and it immerses you even deeper into the experience. The voice acting is very well done overall but the booming voice of the omnipresent overlord that commands you sounds truly wicked and is probably something you will never forget once you hear it!

Summary

Dungeon Keeper Gold is a very solid game. It has everything you could possibly ask for in a strategy game and then some. Playing the game feels much like exercising a personal hobby – it’s a very satisfying and personal experience that easily can hook you for many hours straight. The game has loads of replay value, not only thanks to the map editor, but also thanks to the dynamic nature of the game. This is one of the few strategy games in which you can replay the Campaign mode just because the it is so enjoyable to spend time in it. The AI isn’t working perfectly in all situations and it can be exploited in various ways, but even so the game is rich in challenges and secrets waiting to be discovered.

The only thing that’s missing is basically a robust TCP/IP support and some head-to-head multiplayer, but even that can supposedly be arranged.

Developed By: Bullfrog Productions
Published By: Electronic Arts
Version Reviewed: Windows PC
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Players: 1-4
Also Available On: MAC
Released: 1998

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