Dungeons Exclusive Impressions - Building Gimmicks and Luring Heroes to Their Demise

This unusual PC strategy game will let you build a deadly dungeon to lure the most gallant heroes in the realm to their horrible deaths...for a tidy profit!


Kalypso Media's unusual strategy game Dungeons will make you the lord and master of a dank demesne. And as lord of the dungeon, your primary income will come from luring unsuspecting heroes to their inevitable doom. Yes, the game has light role-playing elements (such as ability scores and experience points) built around your dungeon lord--an evil mastermind with really cool armor and a sharp sword. But it's really a strategy game that focuses on how you build out your dungeon in response to the motivations of invading heroes, borrowing elements from both the cult classic Dungeon Keeper and RollerCoaster Tycoon.

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In Dungeons, your dungeon lord begins his adventure in the dank confines of a subterranean lair, with very little in the way of real estate aside from the heart of the dungeon, a giant, beating heart carved out of stone from which your character will respawn if slain by wandering heroes. However, you also have command of a crew of goblin workers who will hollow out new areas from the surrounding stone, at once collecting a armored fistful of gold for your coffers and making way for a new room, which you can designate for a specific purpose, such as a treasure trove, a library of rare tomes, or a prison for heroes.

Heroes, as it turns out, are the source of your income in Dungeons. They emerge from "hero gates" that periodically spawn characters roughly appropriate to your dungeon lord's level (though these gates will occasionally spawn an exceptionally powerful "champion" hero that won't go down easily). The heroes have specific needs or motivations you can view by clicking on them (like you've seen in other customer management games like RollerCoaster Tycoon), and it's up to you to build out your dungeon to fulfill these needs. This is because while building a monster generator to churn out critters that are strong enough to annihilate those pesky heroes is easy--and profitable, since slain heroes drop piles of shiny gold coins--summarily executed heroes won't provide you with soul points, the game's second type of currency.

Someday, all this will be yours.
Someday, all this will be yours.

Soul points are accrued from the contentment of adventurers doing what they came to do, such as recovering rare tomes, fighting monsters that are tough enough to be a challenge, or discovering a treasure trove. Once heroes' wishes have been properly fulfilled, they'll build up soul points that can then be harvested after you cart their defeated carcasses to a prison room you've built for that purpose. Of course, in order to get those happy heroes off their feet and flat on their backs, you need to build monster generators that will spit out monsters that are strong enough to overcome them, after which time your dungeon lord, or your goblin subjects, can drag their bodies away. (Leaving the bodies where they are will cause them to "leak" soul points that won't be counted toward your total.)

But since many adventurers seek the thrill of battle as part of their needs, challenging them with monsters will be a careful balancing act that requires you to hit them with foes that are strong enough to not bore them, but not so strong that the monsters instantly annihilate the heroes before they can become happy enough to yield some soul points. And although Dungeons' basic premise is similar to Dungeon Keeper's, the new game differs in a very key way--monsters themselves are not intelligent and have no needs of their own; they'll just attack the nearest heroes until they slay or are slain. Plus, if heroes get too bored in your dungeon, they'll make a beeline for the heart of the dungeon and hack away at your spawn point, and if they succeed at destroying it, you immediately lose the game. Fortunately, you'll also have special throne room guardians at your disposal that are extraordinarily strong, so you can at least hold the heroes off until you can make your own grand entrance with your dungeon lord and hack them to bits.

Who's a mighty, monster-slaying hero? You are. Oh, yes you are.
Who's a mighty, monster-slaying hero? You are. Oh, yes you are.

Of course, if you do smartly manage your dungeon, you'll accrue a good amount of gold and soul points, which can be used to purchase "gimmicks," the game's term for dungeon accoutrements like prison cells, torture racks, and even simple decorations that some adventurers may simply admire for being stylish. There are three tiers of about 100 gimmicks apiece (for a total of about 300 gimmicks), including an elite tier that requires soul points to purchase and that offers numerous ornamental fixtures that act as colored light sources. Soul points are your goal in Dungeons' sandbox mode, which turns you loose in a single dungeon and challenges you to attain a certain number of soul points in order to win. However, this single-player-only game also has a lengthy campaign of some 20 missions in three different environments: an undead catacomb, a stony temple, and the fiery pits of hell. The game will launch next February.

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