It's good to be bad. Really, really good.
Back in 1997 when I got Dungeon Keeper as a present, I was spoiled on first person shooters, so the concept of managing a bunch of hellions was somewhat foreign to me. Yet from the time I booted this up and got a few dungeons in, I was hooked. DK is a weird marriage of a managerial simulation and that old Atari Game, Gauntlet.
Except instead of running around killing monsters, you own the monsters, build the maze, and kill the good dudes.
Each level plops you in a dark, dank underground room, where a giant heart beats, gold glistens on the floor, and a few little brown guys with sacks scurry around waiting for orders. These fellows will build your dungeon, you have to carve rooms out of the rock wall with them and then have them build the room. They also mine gold out of the rock as well, if there is gold in said rock. They take the gold back to your heart, or your treasury which you will require after a certain amount of space is taken up by your gold. Then you will have to capture a portal, and build a sleeping quarter and kitchen for the hellspawn about to pop out of that portal. There are many different types of hellspawn, and some have special needs. Warlocks require you to build a library so they can study spells. Brute like imps and goblins will need a training room to hone their skills (Although all your minions use the training room, but some require it more than others) and gain levels. Each minion acts differently, and sometimes the minions will even begin to conflict with each other, meaning you have to set them straight. Example: One level you need spiders and you need flies, but the problem is if you don't keep them in line, the spiders will eat the flies. You have to keep an eye on minions, and some require high maintenance.
The graphics, for the time, were great. The sprites are crystal clear, and suffer no pixelation at all. The world looked good, even if each area looks somewhat bland and samey. It was also unique and fun to possess your minions to get a first person view of the world, the game looked great then, and you really felt like you were in the shoes of your minion. Naturally, you got to toy with their unique skills. Possess a fly, and you can fly all around the world and scout. Possess a warlock, and you can fling spells at your foes. Each minion gains levels and learns new abilities, which helps the immersion factor, although I kind of wished you'd get the ability to keep a minion into another level.
Multiplayer is fun, and has you competing with another dungeon keeper to destroy each other and take full control of the dungeon.
While the objectives never change through a replay, the game has a fair amount of replay value due to its addictive style and the fact that each level can be tweaked to your liking and you can face each challenge at your own pace. Its easy to pick the game up and play, and the learning curve is quite good. While it may take a few minutes to get a knack for the interface and controls, you'll likely get all the basics on the first level, and as the game reveals more advanced tricks and mechanics, they will only take seconds to learn. However, the game still has a steady difficulty. It is one of those instances where the game is easy to learn, but tough to master.
While the graphics are relatively good for the time, they can be somewhat tiresome on the eyes due to texture warping and an over-usage of brown, muddy colours. It can be jarring to play this game for a few hours and then shut it off to be blinded by how bright your computers desktop is.
The sound, while decent, is lacking in oomph, and there is no music. Sometimes your dungeon will be a little too silent for comfort.
While the game is quite fun to play, it can get a bit repetitive, and sometimes you'll also find yourself impatient to reach goals you've already achieved in previous dungeons. The game tries its best to give unique goals, but sometimes it'll repeat itself and it'll feel like more of a chore than it should. Also, the game can be relatively easy if you simply pick up a bunch of demons and drop them in front of the foe at the end of each level. You don't have to do that, but sometimes it becomes habitual.
While the multiplayer is pretty fun, setting up a game is very hard to do. The game only supports LAN, and it uses an outdated net code that modern computers no longer support. If you can get a dummy driver to work, you can usually set up a LAN game but this can be annoying to do and sometimes takes too long, and because dummy drivers don't truly work the same way games sometimes crash in the middle of a heated battle.
The Bottom Line
Dungeon Keeper is still to this day a very fun game. No other game plays quite like it, and in a way that makes it fascinating considering that you can look for years and never find another game that is quite like Dungeon Keeper. Some may compare newer games such as Evil Genius
" and the recent Overlord
to Dungeon Keeper, but in truth, those games still aren't quite like the unique feel of DK - and neither are they nearly as fun, although Evil Genius is an alright game, but that is a different review. If you can find this game in a bargain bin or on an internet store, pick it up! It may be hard to get started up on Vista, but I am sure it is possible, and I am sure there are still fans out there who will make a patch. This game is a classic, no ifs, ands, or buts.