When I got an email asking if I wanted to check out a game in the vein of the late 90s classic, Dungeon Keeper, I was more than thrilled. I hadn’t really thought much about DK the original in years – decades even – but the thought of it sparked my interest. I’ve been checking out the PC preview build for Realmforge Studios’ Dungeons 2, sequel to the less-than-acclaimed Dungeons, which was itself a sort of Dungeon Keeper-esque title. Where the original Dungeons wasn’t well received in part because of its departure from the original DK formula – the focus was on heroes, rather than monsters and villainy – Dungeons 2 wants to bring us right back to where we started, which seems to be what people wanted anyways.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, Dungeon Keeper puts you in the starring role of the evil overlord intent on creating a dungeon home for itself and its minions. From workers to combat units, you have to support your forces, all while expanding your dungeon holding and protecting your dungeon from invading heroes. One of the most hilarious features of the original, which can be considered an atypical RTS, was the ability to interact with your units via the back of your hand. You could slap your imps to make them work faster, to punish them for insolence, or just for the hell of it. Dungeons 2 takes all the core concepts from DK and brings them back to the fore, ready for a whole new Audience of Evil.
I got to play through the first few campaign levels of Dungeons 2, which, mind you, is still a work in progress – a significant portion of the text is still in German, for example – and it immediately took me back to 1997’s Dungeon Keeper. From selecting which gold veins to mine to swatting your lazy minions into action, Dungeons 2 is a brilliant homage to the classic. Delightfully humorous throughout, Dungeons 2‘s campaign is narrated by a particularly snarky disembodied voice, whose motivations seem primarily to taunt you into doing what it says. If, for example, you’re taking too long in razing a village, he’ll get snippy and start addressing you as variations on “The Procrastinating Evil” instead of your much-deserved title, “The Ultimate Evil.” Likewise, it seems that the entirety of the Naga race is comprised of silly permutations of pop star names, like Tai’Swyft.
Of course, Dungeons 2 is about more than just silly pop culture references and frequently berating the player. Ultimately, it’s a strategy game, and resource management is the key to the kingdom in this case. If you’re used to a near-infinite supply of money, which only needs to be harvested, you’ll probably need to switch up how you play when it comes to Dungeons, as the gold resource is somewhat restricted, since you’re actually harvesting it out of the dungeon’s walls. Once you run out of dungeon to explore, you’re out of gold, too, which can be catastrophic when another expedition of heroes comes knocking. It’s not just managing gold, either. Your troops are an essential resource as well, and training a Naga Queen (your healer) takes time, so if you’re not careful about protecting her, you’re going to be out a significant chunk of change, as well as several minutes while a new Naga trains in the Arena.
Instead of constructing buildings as you’re used to from typical RTS games, Dungeons 2 uses Dungeon Keeper‘s room system, where you’ll build various rooms ranging from 1×1 squares to whatever size plot your situation demands. You need a Treasury to store gold, a Hospital to heal your minions, a workshop to keep your Goblins busy making traps, and a plethora of other strategic or productive room types. As with most campaigns, you’ll start with access to a limited number of the different room types, but as you progress, you’ll get access to the whole lot of them, though some you’ll have to unlock in game by upgrading your throne room by performing heinous acts of true evil to increase your Evil Points. Producing certain minions requires that you have built their respective room, like Goblins and the Tinkerer’s Workshop.
Though I’ve only been able to experience the first few levels of the campaign, the combination of snark, pop humor, and excellent gameplay tie into a remarkably fun experience. If you enjoyed Dungeon Keeper way back when, or if you like strategy games that don’t take themselves too seriously, you’ll want to keep an eye on Dungeons 2.