Dungeons tested - In the dungeon of torments

Author: Christian Schmidt
Date: 2011-01-27 10:00:00
Inspired by the classic Dungeon Keeper, the German studio Realmforge presents a black and humorous dungeon simulator. But Dungeons is clearly different from the original. Above all, significantly worse.

The Munich studio Realmforge has a weakness for classic reinterpretations. Last year the team relaunched the German cult manager Mad TV as MUD TV , with mixed success (GameStar rating: 69 points). Now it's the turn of Bullfrogs Dungeon Keeper , one of the great games of the 90s. The black-humored dungeon simulation is crossed by Realmforge with the Bullfrog Oldie Theme Park , in dungeons you as an underground ruler build your labyrinth of death into an adventure playground for hero guests. The original crossover has only one drawback: it doesn't work well.

Adventure playground for heroes

Several entrance gates lead into the tunnels of a typical underground realm, and soon heroes are sneaking through the passages who want to be entertained. Fighters look forward to new armor from armories, magicians like to rummage through dusty libraries, thieves love traps that they can defuse. And they all stuff their pockets full of gold with pleasure and hit monsters on the skull.

How the doo-gooders pounding around explore the catacombs, simulates dungeons successfully and with a pinch of genre parody. The heroes rummage greedily in chests, marvel at the gruesome wall decorations, throw themselves into fights with an enthusiastic "Experience Points!" And flee if necessary to swallow a healing potion in a quiet corner. "A beautiful dungeon!", Happy visitors are happy and come out as fans of the Gothic series before an attack: "Full pound on your mouth!"

So much well-being assumes that you have filled the Unterland-Wunderland appropriately beforehand, i.e. that you have distributed monsters, treasures and room furnishings sensibly. Worker goblins break new chambers out of the ground on command and oil the gears by filling up treasure chests or re-tensioning traps. It goes without saying that it all costs money. And where do you get that from? From the heroes, of course! As soon as the visitors march towards the exit with a happy grin, they are knocked down, thrown in prison and the gold bag is taken from them. In addition, the dungeon presses soul energy out of them, the second game currency with which you can globally improve the power of your own creatures.

Hard time limits

If that were all, dungeons would be one thing above all: pretty boring. Because the management part of the game is narrow-chested. The game only knows two types of entertaining rooms, armory and library, plus a handful of traps and decorative items that increase the prestige (and thus the power) of the jailer. Unlike in Dungeon Keeper, you don't have to worry about creatures that appear at freely placeable source points and then stand around until heroes come by. There is simply too little for building owners to do, and when they do, it is usually always the same. Level by level you build dungeons according to the scheme F and wait until the lazy heroes have finally topped up their lucky accounts.

To compensate for this, Dungeons fires the player in parallel with a relay of tasks. They are quite diverse: sometimes we are supposed to intercept a convoy of thieves, sometimes to escort monsters, sometimes to reverse a paladin, even boss fights are on the agenda. However, the workload quickly becomes too much of a good thing. When a gold transport passes by, a horde of paladins marauds through the corridors, a champion is on the way to the heart of our dungeon and the boss of the underworld demands that we dig our way to a monster cave, then healthy activity turns into strenuous hectic pace.

With many tasks, there is a merciless time limit that can only be met by those who leave all other work behind. If you neglect the wrong goal, the mission will quickly fail, which means tiring all over again when the build-up phase often lasts more than an hour. Especially since a large part of the tasks are stretched through tens of times repetitions, for example when you not only have to escort a slime monster once, but six times.

What am I doing wrong?

Quick solutions would be required in the frequent stressful situations, but this is exactly what the game is not made for. Almost everything in dungeons happens indirectly and with a delay. Corridors to target locations must be dug, which can take many minutes, placed objects must first be activated by goblins. For many tasks you need the Dungeon Lord, the controllable main character who runs most of the time through nested routes to focal points. It all takes a while, so motivating action is replaced by finger-drumming waiting. The result is a frustrating discrepancy between what the game demands and the resources it provides for it.

It is the many limitations, the lack of intervention options, that gnaw the patience of a dungeon ruler. Indirect games should also convey the feeling of being in control of the situation. Problem analysis is difficult in dungeons; It is rarely clear why heroes become dissatisfied, there is no feedback on what could have been done better. If you give yourself ten seconds to think about what you could build next after a fresh windfall, the account will be zero again because the goblins have filled treasure chests with it in the meantime.

You want to forbid them to do that, you want to give them priorities between digging, collecting, building and keeping things instant. You would need doors to limit the heroes' line of sight, you want treasure chambers so that the goblins don't have to run for a long time to the dungeon heart or to the dungeon lord who is fighting enemies in a corner of the map. The dark ruler is too important and too weak at the same time, because the heroes get better and better over the course of a level, but the lord does not keep up enough. Although he collects role-playing points for new talents, spells and better combat values between missions through successes and completing secondary tasks, this leads to a bizarre downward spiral: Those who play badly get fewer bonuses and thus have an even harder time.

The list of problems goes on and on. Despite good approaches, despite its handsome technique, amusing humor and laudable effort for variety, Dungeons remains a half-baked work. If the model Dungeon Keeper is the horned demon of the underworld, then Dungeons is a shuffling zombie in its wake.

Bugs & copy protection

Bugs: Our test version kept crashing on several computers. Odd: Once the game process froze beyond recovery, but we could still scroll across the map. Occasionally heroes and corpses slide through the corridors, life bars are sometimes displayed incorrectly. Realmforge claims to have already fixed a serious error in the sales version in which missions that have been completed do not continue the campaign. Overall, we deduct one point from the atmosphere rating because of bugs.

Copy protection: Correction: We originally wrote that after the installation you had to register with Kalypso online and activate the game with your code key. However, this is only optional. Dungeons can also be started without an account or internet connection.

German or English? Dungeons runs automatically in the language of your Windows. If you use an English Windows, you will also find English texts and speakers in the game.