The Critical Evil cast his eye on this RTS-Dungeon Building mashup
They say third time’s the charm. The Dungeons series from Realmforge is a generally delightful attempt to recreate and best the Dungeon Keeper formula, putting you in the role of an evil overlord managing his own dungeon while trying to destroy the forces of evil. Dungeons 1 stuck with dungeon management and tried to put a spin on it and, while fun, didn’t truly succeed. Dungeons 2 hued closer to the classic formula, while adding an overworld played like an RTS with their own spin on it, which also didn’t truly succeed since it lacked the polish of a real RTS. Dungeons 3 is now here, and has tried to perfect things. They’ve almost succeeded.
Review of the first Dungeons!An hour of pre-release Dungeons 3 gameplay!
While the player still controls the Hand-based Evil, your avatar in the world is dark elf Thalya, and already things are improved. She’s powerful, humorous, and torn between her Light and Dark Elf sides which make for some amusing conversations – with herself, and the narrator. Yes, the awesome chatty narrator’s back to comment on your every action (or inaction) and the pair of them make the story and game a lot more entertaining, even if the humour is very Magicka – i.e. low-rent Discworld. Together you set out to conquer the land she once called home, and good times were had by all. Except Good.
Just like in the last game, Dungeons 3 is divided into two maps that run alongside each other – Overworld and Underworld. While you play them side by side, they play very differently.
The Dungeon side is classic management in the style of Dungeon Keeper. You build a variety of rooms, either to benefit the dungeon or your armies, spawn minions of various types, dig gold or mana, research upgrades or rooms, and protect your Dungeonheart from any interloping Heroes or nasty surprises in the depths. While you can pick up units, you have no direct control over any of them.
Realmforge have pretty much got this side down to a tee, and although some things still aren’t explained well (why is this room’s Efficiency so low? Why isn’t that trap getting built?) generally speaking everything in the dungeon is quite straightforward, you know what you need to do any should get on with it. However the Dungeon side is only ever the first part in any map. You’ll rarely get the chance, or even need, to build massively elaborate trap systems, and while fun dungeon management quickly gets left behind in favour of the Overworld.
The Overworld side is played like a classic RTS, and Realmforge have listened to feedback from the last game so it actually plays correctly too. You don’t build or research anything from this side. Instead you directly control your army and lay waste to the forces of good, accomplishing various objectives along the way such as intercepting supplies or taking out certain buildings or Heroes. You can group minions together at last, unleash spells, and once Thalya is levelled up a bit summon shadow demons.
It’s never the most complicated game in the world, but since you’re managing two games at once you never want it to be. Realmforge has got the balance just right, I think. If you want to concentrate on dungeon management you’re going to be disappointed however, since space underground and things you can do are both limited, and you cleverly need two types of resource to upgrade and progress – gold from below, essence from above. Straightforward, and yet very clever, but don’t expect to just be doing one or the other – you have to flip between worlds constantly. Fortunately the minimaps for both sides are visual at all times, and you can clearly see if there are any threats – and the narrator will let you know too.
Performance & Graphics
OS: Windows 7 64 Bit
Processor: Intel Quad Core 2.8 GHz (i7 900 series) or 3.5 GHz AMD (FX 6000 series)
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD/NVIDIA dedicated graphic card, with at least 1024MB of dedicated VRAM and with at least DirectX 11 and Shader Model 5.0 support (AMD Radeon HD 7000 series and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 600 series)
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 5GB Available Space
OS: Windows 10 64 Bit
Processor: Quad core 3.5 GHz or higher (Intel i5 4000 Series / AMD Ryzen 3 Series)
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD/NVIDIA dedicated graphic card, with at least 3072MB of dedicated VRAM and with at least DirectX 11 and Shader Model 5.0 support (AMD R9 300 Series and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900 Series or better)
Our mid-range test PC sports an AMD FX-6300 Six-Core Processor, 16 Gb RAM, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti 4Gb, and Windows 10 64-Bit, and it handles the game like butter of course. However, when there are a lot of minions or enemies on screen, particularly if you pick a bunch up and drop them so they ragdoll hilariously, there was some massive slowdown. It was fleeting and was of no consequence, but something to be aware of.
In general the game looks very pretty, and we particularly love how the scene (and even music) changes as you take control of an area, going from colourful and bright and happy, filled with lovely creatures like tiny birds and rabbits, to being dark, twisted, and filled with crows and spiders. And yet no less lovely to look at. There’s good attention to detail to – we love how grumpy minions look when they go on strike.
At no point during Dungeons 3 were we not having fun or weren’t totally addicted to the game. While it seems to be two simple games bolted together Realmforge have done a lot to make both sides compliment each other, and the simplicity means that you never lose track of what you’re doing or get frustrated. There’s a lot to do here too, including campaign co-op, skirmishes, multiplayer, and Hellish difficulty mode.
Nevertheless, if I had one big complaint about Dungeons 3 it’s that, despite Realmforge’s best efforts, the game does get a bit repetitious. There will be some variety, for example sometimes the dungeon already has basic rooms set up, and you get new rooms, minions and features every level, plus objectives will always be a little different. Nonetheless, for the most part you’ll be doing exactly the same things you did on the previous level – and it’ll work. Build decent-sized rooms, dig for treasure, send Thalya and a small mixed army above to capture Dark Essence points and accomplish the objectives, and be ready to portal back if you get attacked or unearth giant spiders or something. A few details will change, like adding undead and Breweries, but most of the actual actions will be the same. It remains fun despite this, but I can’t imagine playing it again.
DUNGEONS 3 VERDICT
Realmforge have finally got the formula right. Dungeons 3 is plain, straight, addictive fun from start to finish. Both Overworld and Dungeon sides are kept relatively simple so things never truly get frustrating, and every part of it remains satisfying, from smacking your minions to blasting dwarves in the face and watching their bodies fly across the floor. The developer have made sure both sides are supremely playable and compliment each other well, with loads of neat touches and details to make sure you always know what’s going on. That things can get a little repetitious is the only real downside, but with this formula I don’t think Realmforge can better it further. And Thalya’s great. Yes, fine, and the Narrator too. Don’t want him sulking on me.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Thalya criticizing the Narrator, and him summoning giant bears just to make things more entertaining.
Characters are funny, with the conversations between Thalya and the Narrator a highlight.
Two completely different types of gameplay played concurrently, and yet both compliment each other really well.
Great attention to detail, we like how the music changes as you pan across from evil to good areas in particular.
Just pure addictive fun at all times.
Things can get a little repetitious, and often the same strategy will work multiple times.
Still some things that aren’t explained very well.