ITF’s Video Game Library – 29 June Edition – Dungeon Keeper 2

Welcome evil overlords and maniacal mistresses. This Saturday in ITF’s Video Game Library we get in touch with the dark side for a return to the devilishly delicious dungeons that were  Dungeon Keeper 2.

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Dungeon Keeper 2 was developed in 1999 by Bullfrog Productions and published by EA for Windows. It was the sequel to the popular – yet somewhat obscure Dungeon Keeper. Unlike the original, Peter Molyneux did not have an active role in production as he had left Bullfrog and would eventually come to form Lionhead Studios (eventual developers of the Fable franchise).

Staying true to its predecessor you take on the role of an evil dungeon master who must build and defend your dungeon from all the heroes and surface-world do-gooders who are out to slay you and your loyal dungeon denizens and take your loot. The game plays out like a RTS title but with emphasis on certain macro-management situations in terms of ensuring your creatures not only have a place to rest, but also have ample supplies of food, money, and recreational activities (usually in the form of casinos, pit fights or torture rooms). Certain features that were included in the first game, have been either removed or replaced in the new game – examples of this would be the dungeon heart being able to store gold, the ability to cast spells with mana instead of gold and the fact that your creatures now got along a lot better than they did in the first one, because we all know how frustrating it is to break up a monster fight whilst simultaneously getting invaded by some smug knight fellow with overly shiny armoured underpants. A major change also came in terms of graphics where creatures were rendered as 3D models instead of sprites as they were in the original Dungeon Keeper. Overall, Dungeon Keeper 2 was hailed as a good sequel which not only stayed true to the concepts of the original but also improved on them and added new useful features  and UI improvements whilst removing redundant ones.

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The campaign revolved around you, the dungeon keeper, being charged with scouring the land (or under the land to be more precise) in search of portal stones which will be used to allow an evil invasion of the surface. This was an obvious set up to Dungeon Keeper 3 which sadly never came to fruition as the game was cancelled some time afterwards. Apart from the campaign you had the regular Skirmish mode, a Multiplayer mode, as well as the My Pet Dungeon mode where the player is placed in a large sandbox style dungeon and charged with accruing points by building, casting spells, slapping, and generally being the best “malevolent master” you can be.

Gameplay revolves around the usual RTS tenets, which are: gather resources, build, train, destroy and repeat. The player starts off with a “dungeon heart” room. If the heart is destroyed then it’s game over, so keeping that squishy pulsating room-organ-thing (it’s pretty weird) alive is priority. The player is given loyal imp minions which are used to mine gold and gems as well as dig out spaces for rooms in addition to their ability to capture creature portals as well as abandoned enemy rooms. Imps can be slapped by the player’s cursor which forces them to work harder and faster for a limited time but if the player slaps an imp too many times the imp dies. After gold is procured and a portal captured, the player then proceeds to construct different rooms to attract different and more powerful creatures whilst tending to the dungeon creatures’ basic needs (food, shelter, entertainment). Different creatures, while all being combat ready, all serve different purposes. Warlocks, for instance, utilise a library to research new and improved spells for the player to cast (using mana generated by the dungeon heart), whilst trolls and bile demons man the forges to produce doors and traps which the player can use to either fortify his or her dungeon, or turn it into a labyrinthine maze of death, anguish and torment (tons of fun for a dungeon keeper). Spells learned also allow the player to have a direct impact in various situations. Imps are summoned magically and not lured from portals, the player can summon gold, rally points or even lightning bolts, earthquakes and infernos to smite his/her foes. The favourite of most players is the possession spell in which you can possess one of your creatures and see the world through their eyes and even fight foes, mine minerals or explore from their perspective.

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Creatures can be trained in training rooms, combat pits, or even in combat whilst gaining levels – growing substantially more powerful in the process. Enemy creatures knocked out in combat can either be dragged off to be starved in a jail cell until they die and are brought back as skeletal minions, or sent to the torture chamber to be vigorously “questioned” until death by leather fetishist whip toting mistresses in exchange for map information. Creatures who become disgruntled (no shelter, no wages or the line to the chicken coop is too long) can be entertained at a casino where they can spend their hard earned paycheck drinking and playing roulette. This can be rigged to benefit the player in a way that makes “the house always wins” a far more literal term. Once a sufficient fighting force is mustered you send them along to annihilate your enemies, whose smug heroic deaths I’ll admit to relishing more than I should have. Terrain also has an impact as certain environmental effects either impede or obstruct the navigation of the dungeon and strategic thought and planning as well as the appropriate usage of the correct bridges and creatures are required to overcome this.

There are truly tomes more I can write about Dungeon Keeper 2 but honestly it is one of those games you need to see for yourself. As far as I know remastered versions for Windows 7 are available on certain websites at a fairly reasonable cost and if you are as entertained by the quirky “anti-hero” games such as Overlord, as I am, then Dungeon Keeper is most definitely a must play. It’s balanced,  fun, shamelessly entertaining and one of my all time favourite RTS titles.

Have you played it? What did you think? Did it bore you or did you find it as maliciously delicious as I did? Let us know in the comments below!

Freelance reporter for ITF. Gamer, geek, peddler of maniacal musings and ponderer of existential meanderings.

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