Impire Review

The troubled real-time strategy dungeon sim Impire fails to recapture the charms of its inspirations.

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Being an evil dungeon lord has its perks. Simpering minions eager to do your bidding are in abundant supply, piles of treasure make great home decor, and you never have to wait too long before a new gaggle of doe-eyed do-gooders come charging into your realm to be gutted and looted. Impire's strategic dungeon-sim revival channels the spirit of the classic Dungeon Keeper series well enough to wrap you into its diabolical fold for a spell. Micromanaging the inner workings of your subterranean lair gets off to a promising start, but the honeymoon phase quickly fades away once you realize just how inflexible and shallow this haphazard homage really is.

Friends and foes get tangled in the fray.

Summoned into the service of a wizardly egomaniac bent on wicked world domination, Impire's demonic but diminutive protagonist begrudgingly gets to work at carving out a nefarious niche in the underworld. From the get-go, Impire sets a goofy tone with cheesy tongue-in-cheek humor and campy story encounters. It puts a lighthearted spin on the fact that you're tackling missions that include pillaging villages, poisoning innocents, and brutally punishing anyone who gets in your way. Despite some decent voice acting, story vignettes tend to drag on past their welcome, but you bump into some memorably quirky characters along the way to keep things moving along.

Lording over a sprawling underground domain divides your focus between gathering resources above and below the surface, building out your dungeon with unique rooms and winding corridors, and amassing squads of impish warriors to carry out your will. The early emphasis in most missions is on beefing up your infrastructure to support raising an army powerful enough to survive plowing through the rest of the stage. As you gain resources from your toiling workers, slain heroes, and raided settlements, you can construct additional support dwellings to increase your dungeon's power and functionality.

Each level has a broad range of peripheral achievements to push toward, and spending the skill points earned from meeting these goals lets you cherry-pick which units you can recruit in a given stage. When you're not tending to the evil homestead, you fend off parties of invading heroes, push deeper into the catacombs to explore, and send your own raiding parties to the surface on resource gathering missions, all of which keeps you pretty busy.

Designing dungeons is sadly dull.

Impire sometimes teeters on the brink of being an enjoyable game, but the ham-fisted implementation of some crucial elements keeps it from hitting any kind of comfortable stride. For starters, dungeon building--one of the most important aspects of the game--is limited and feels far less rewarding than it should. While you're given a lot of room to dig about in the beginning of each level, there's not much point to sinking a lot of time into designing anything elaborate. Once you plunk down a new room or corridor, you're stuck with where you placed it, and the general flow of gameplay does little to reward creativity in how you expand your realm. You're frequently pushed toward connecting your hallways to preexisting pocketed rooms filled with foes and treasure. Once you've grabbed all of those goods, it's then onward into your foe's pre-carved domain to explore and battle. The tail end of each stage forces you to inevitably abandon your building efforts and just charge forward to slaughter or be slaughtered. Progressing towards that epic tipping point should be fun, but it's a process that's made largely aggravating by lots of minor issues.

Wrestling with the interface is a big part of the problem. The troublesome camera never lets you find a sweet spot to get a good view of your dungeon. Getting in close for an adjustable isometric look at the action doesn't help when your units always mob together in combat, resulting in a jumbled, chaotic blob that makes targeting enemies and issuing commands a complete mess. The screen feels cramped even when you're looking at your dungeon from afar, and having to zoom all the way out to a top-down view to trigger the building and summoning menu is a real pain. Transitioning between levels of zoom is finicky too.

Variety isn't an issue, considering the numerous melee, missile, and support units you eventually get to populate your forces with as you expand. Managing them is, however. Instead of being able to quick-group your forces and assign them to number keys like in other real-time strategy games, you have to pay exorbitant amounts of resources to unlock squads to sort them into. Even then, you can put only four units in a squad, and there's a limit of five squads maximum. That's less problematic than the AI behavior. Units get hungry and won't fight if they get too weak, but they also won't go eat on their own either. You have to make them chow down manually. In battle, they attack nearby foes automatically, but they're also prone to wandering if you don't manually set them to stay put within their individual unit menus. It's a lot to juggle at times, particularly since you're frequently cycling new green units into your squads to replace fallen troops.

The worst is when Impire spreads your attention way too thin and then demands you jump around between vast areas of the map to deal with dire situations that arise simultaneously. At various times, you're juggling to gather resources by sending squads to the surface in overly simple but necessary point-and-click raid missions that tie them up for minutes at a time. Meanwhile, you're restocking your squads with fresh units and pushing with your remaining forces into the fray against large groups of foes as you explore away from your home base.

During these tense and extremely inopportune moments, the game often announces that ladders have appeared randomly throughout your home dungeon. Ladders that, if left unattended, soon ferry groups of heroes into your base to wreak holy havoc while you're scrambling to deal with five other problems at once. This scenario happens far too often. Trying to stamp out all of these fires while struggling against the interface and camera is as dizzying as it is frustrating. There's a quick-teleport option for each squad, but constantly divvying up your limited troops is like putting a Band-Aid on a leaky dam.

Interface issues aren't limited to the gameplay. Setting up games is a muddled process at best, as is resuming saved games. Impire saves automatically only when you beat a stage, and if you click the button to start a given stage rather than load from your previous manual save, it erases the save, forcing you to start from the beginning of the stage. Multiplayer matches offer a little variety from the main campaign with standard King of the Hill and Capture the Resource maps, if you can find friends to play with.

Impire's intentional and playful riffing on Dungeon Keeper could have been spun into a positive thing, especially since there hasn't been a new entry in the series for a long time. It's a good-looking game that has a few thoughtful ideas hidden in its many folds, but the repetitious gameplay is overwhelmed by niggling problems and puzzling design choices that gain traction the further you push. After the first handful of hours, the fun already starts to fizzle.

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The Good
Lots of different, cool units to unlock
Oddball sense of humor is endearing
The Bad
Interface is a mess
Juggling the many tasks thrown in your lap grows frustrating
Dungeon making is bland and unfulfilling
Stages get repetitive quickly
4.5
Poor
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Discussion

32 comments
edinko
edinko

Cyanide are really craptastic devs. What ever they touch in turns into a turd almost instantly

Conan1985
Conan1985

Dungeon Keeper seemingly can't be matched in its brilliant design. I though a much better version would have come out...but nothing but cheap poor versions its a pity.

Coolerlew
Coolerlew

what a disappointing review, I love DK1 and 2, and was hoping this was going to be great  :( 

NinjaGaz
NinjaGaz

I enjoyed it for a while, but it does get very repetitive and there's not enough focus on your dungeon. The only time you have to recheck your dungeon is when those bloody ladders appear - what a terrible game mechanic!

They even render 2 of the dungeon rooms obsolete too. I got to chapter 4 but don't think I'll be finishing it.

vadagar1
vadagar1

yah maybe they should have just made an updated version of DK to be honest

vadagar1
vadagar1

omg im playing DK 2 RIGHT NOWWWWWWWWWW


still nothing beats that : /

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

Very dissapointing. I actuallly think the devs had the right idea and the right attitude, they just couldnt pull it off though. Played about 3 hours and yawned.

dogfather76
dogfather76

I never heard of this but it is only slightly worse than Sim City's score.

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

I think people here are looking through their pink glasses again. When was the last time ya'll played DK/2? I go back to DK2 regularly, and while I haven't played Impire, I can tell you that a lot of things he's complaining about here are also present in DK. Oh boo-hoo I have to split up my forces and do more then one battle at once, GTFO! get your a$s back in the kitchen!

Peeps need to go back and take a look at them 'classic' games, and it will quickly become obvious that they're not perfect, by a long shot... but when your expectations are at AAA level obviously a B grade game won't do it for you, but that's YOUR issue, not the games'.

vihazur
vihazur

This game had a glowing score on Metacritic, when it first released.  I feel like an idiot for falling for that.  I don't know how bad it really is, because it's just so dull, I couldn't get very far  into it, and consider it $20 down the drain.

GarGx1
GarGx1

If you're going to copy (sorry..find inspiration from) a classic game...Do it right or don't do it at all!

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

Someone just make Dungeon Keeper 3 please.

lexyz1992
lexyz1992

Its a fun game, just not everyone's cup of tea.

Dezuria
Dezuria

Will anyone ever make a good Dungeon Keeper style game?

SauhlGood
SauhlGood

@Conan1985 u might like 'evil genius' the only other well reviewed dungeon/minion  style game

vadagar1
vadagar1

@Coolerlew yah a few games tried to "rez" the DK genre but they all miss the mark for some reason !!!

Poodlejumper
Poodlejumper

@vadagar1 Not while EA holds the IP they won't.

Remember well who killed Bullfrog.  

blitzinD
blitzinD

@1wikkid1 If you want to equal nostalgia you have to be better than nostalgia ; )

tektrader
tektrader

@2bitSmOkEy I know. My 9 year-old daughter plays and loves DK2. I, too, find myself, after all these years, firing it up on occasion and remembering that game in its glory days. A true gem.

Vagnar
Vagnar

@2bitSmOkEy I think EA owns the IP. You really want a sequel right now?

vadagar1
vadagar1

@hippiesanta good luck playing all those nice games on the next gen console.... *gigggle*


CAUSE U CAN"T AHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAHAHAH


HOHOHOHOHO HIIHIHIHIHIH

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

@Dezuria should try Evil Genius.  Different company, but the same guy. 


Unfortunately that company already went out of business as well :(

camelotcrusade
camelotcrusade

@Dezuria The original dungeon keeper was pretty good... hence all the wannabes.  But like you, I would enjoy seeing one surpass the original and I can't think of anything I liked as much as that one.

Diarma10
Diarma10

@SauhlGood @Conan1985 I still play Evil Genius, I prefer it over DKII any day. If only Evil Genius 2 would get made... ah well...

camelotcrusade
camelotcrusade

@2bitSmOkEy @camelotcrusade @Dezuria Okay maybe that.  :p   I should have said "better than the dungeon keeper series."  There were only 2 of them, right?  I suppose EA hasn't ruined that one yet, if they're out trolling and need something to do.  Haha...

Impire More Info

  • Released
    • PC
    In Impire, you take control the of demon Baal-Abaddon as he attempts to rebuild his mighty hell spawn form.
    6.2
    Average User RatingOut of 96 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Impire
    Developed by:
    Cyanide
    Published by:
    Paradox Interactive
    Genres:
    Strategy