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Dungeons – first look

Ignore the generic title. Dungeons looks pretty damn cool from our initial glimpse. In an approach similar to Dungeon Keeper, your job here is to build, furnish and populate your very own dismal dungeon with the purpose of attracting AI adventurers – the characters you normally play as in most games. As an evil lord, you want to naturally attain more power. The way to do this in Dungeons is a bit roundabout, but it also looks like a lot of fun. See, heroes who become happy first are worth more soul power when you kill them. Muhahahha…

Above: Now that is some serious dungeon real estate

While building dungeons as a core game mechanic has been done before, Dungeons aims to carve a niche by also working in Diablo-style character control. See, you’re not just some ephemeral presence looking down on your dungeon – you’re actually inside it, looking like a badass dark lord and striding around as you please. So you have traps and minions to take care of heroes, but if you want to get more hands-on, you can stroll right on over and lop off some heads. This can get dangerous, though, as not only can heroes overwhelm you if you’re not careful, but they can also get past you and attack your dungeon heart and if you lose that, it’s game over.

Building the dungeon itself is half the fun. You have little goblin creatures who are your workers – they excavate corridors and rooms, they replenish piles of treasure after heroes plunder them, and they carry vanquished heroes to your chamber so you can extract their delicious soul energy. If you feel like a micromanaging type of boss, you can perform some actions yourself to speed things up. Either way, it’s cool to see the little goblins scurrying about the dungeon, keeping it maintained. Heroes typically don’t bother them too much as long as there are bigger problems for them to deal with.

Above: The goblins are such hard workers with their little wooden backpacks

Creating these problems is another aspect of the fun. You can construct monster lairs and spawnpoints. The skill is to not overwhelm the heroes, since you want them to become happy first before you kill them. Each hero is different – clicking on them reveals their desires. One hero may want to acquire loot, while another may want to have a lot of combat. Placing lots of traps is only a good idea if you have a rogue-type hero around who wants to disarm them.

What’s a dungeon, though, if it’s drab to look at? Dungeons provides ridiculous varieties of “gimmicks” which are bits of flair to fancy up the place, not only making it pleasing to the eye with a chandelier here, a bookshelf there, but they also increase your dastardly prestige, giving you different bonuses. You can even place light sources and choose the colors, leading to the delightful palette of your choice.

Above: Must... build... more... rooms

Dungeons features two types of levels – the first is simply you against the heroes. The second gets even more interesting – it’s you against another dark lord. Now you’re competing for heroes and power. Heroes can be attracted to either dungeon, and if you do well you can increase your influence, which allows you to expand your territory (your dungeon is limited in size based on influence, denoted by a glowing territorial boundary).

So what do you do with soul energy and prestige? Well your lord has his own set of skill trees, which looks similar to the three trees in World of Warcraft. We didn’t get to see the details of how these work, but the balance of leveling up and customizing your own character along with building dungeons for him to roam certainly has us intrigued. We didn’t get to see one, but apparently there are also boss fights where you’ll have to battle the enemy directly.

Above: As an evil lord, sometimes it's good to perform surprise inspections

Dungeons is set to release in early 2011 and we’ll be keeping our eye on its unique blend of strategy and action-RPG gameplay. Hopefully we’ll get some hands-on time soon.

Oct 21, 2010

My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.