Review by JIrish
"Do we really need another “Evil is Good” line here?"
Dungeon Keeper 1 earned a lot of cash and critical acclaim for Bullfrog games, and rightfully so, and thus a sequel was inevitable. There were quite a few expectations on this one, as well. Improved graphics were being expected, as well as more complex missions, and all the bells and whistles one usually expects with the average sequel. And oh brother, did we ever get them and more!
Once again you are the vile and ruthless Dungeon Keeper, the faceless entity of doom and destruction that is ready to once again wreak havoc on the unsuspecting lands above. Your task, same as last time, is to build the perfect home for the evil goblins, trolls, warlocks, salamanders (yes, salamanders), dark elves, mistresses, rogues, black knights, and more evil beings that will do your bidding. Give them food, shelter, things to do and payment for their evil services. You’ll need them if you want to contend with the goodly Lord of the Land of each area, or the other Keepers who want the same land you do. This time, though, the Lords of the Land bear the crystals needed for you to gain entry into the world they inhabit. This more clearly defined overall goal as opposed to simply taking everything over indirectly is the first step up from the first game of several.
This game is about as hands off as the last time, only you’re a lot better informed of the mood and activities of your evil charges, and of what exactly is going on with regards to your overall status. The old sidebar menu has been eschewed for a top and bottom menu design. The top displays information like how long until payday, how much gold and mana you have, and text versions of the messages being relayed by your advisor. The bottom menu has a radar map, and all the build functions and creature info you need to know, from who’s working amongst your imps, to what traps are being built, to how many creatures are unhappy. This is a pretty radical and effective advancement in the game already, and I’m just getting started…
You’ll note that I mentioned mana above me. Well, that’s exactly correct. This game, unlike its predecessor, actually uses mana for spells rather than gold. To say that this change makes me happy is an understatement. No longer do I have to pray for a gem pocket if I want to really lay into my foes’ minions with the lightening bolt spell. Mana is generated by the very land you own, but the more imps you have, the more they take away from the mana you have as well. Most traps also need mana to operate. This addition doesn’t add much, but it does make for a more balanced game and an experience that is more akin to what you would expect from a powerful being taking matters into his own hands. I shouldn’t have to make a deposit in cash to take possession of one of my creatures.
Apart from some other tweaks, like leveling up your creatures being much more difficult and the Possession spell becoming far more important this time, this game is very much the same to the original Dungeon Keeper that found it’s way onto many a PC. Your creatures go about their business, and you can’t directly tell them what to do unless you drop them into a room, and even that’s no guarantee that they’ll do it. Slapping a creature will sometimes make them work harder, or it might tick them off big-time (or make them happier, in a certain case). Some creatures have been replaced, like the Salamander replacing the Demon Spawn and the Firefly replacing just about all three of the old bugs. Again, you start the game simply, with merely a lair and a hatchery, and attracting in Goblins to fight off the enemy. After that, the game build up quickly to introduce new concepts, a lot quicker than the last game in fact. The difficulty really does amplify faster this time around, so be ready to dig in and put your nose to the grind stone.
The graphics have received a major overhaul. Finally, the character models are true, polygonal 3D, and really look it as well. Every last character looks exceptionally well, from the lowly imps to the paranoid seeming goblins to the Lord of the Land in his shining metallic armor. In fact, a lot of things animate that never even appeared in the first game, including chicken coops in the hatchery and steam rising from the tools in the workshop. Spell effects are also much improved this time as well, and the levels are a beauty to behold from the vantage point of the Possession spell. Well done, Bullfrog.
The sound seems to have received a similar overhaul, but not quite as overt. The sound effects are still quite good, clean and crisp, and the soundtrack for the menus and loading screens have been changed to resemble that of a group of monks worshipping. An odd choice to be certain, but one that does work with the overall atmosphere. Otherwise, sound it kept from getting in the way of the actual game, which is more or less as it should be.
What else is there to say? That the dark humor in the game has been taken to new heights. Every once in a while you’ll get a message like “Your minions demand cable” or some other such strangeness. Little movie clips will play after you defeat each level, all of which are fairly funny except for the poor chickens. And if someone wins the jackpot in the new casino room… you’ll get a very unexpected surprise.
Overall, this game tops its predecessor in every way, shape and form one can imagine except for the learning curve. It’s easily the best entry in the series to date, and Bullfrog has their work cut out for them with Dungeon Keeper 3. Hopefully, they can deliver on that like they did on this one.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/01/02, Updated 10/01/02
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