Dungeon Keeper 2

User Rating: 7 | Dungeon Keeper 2 PC

I initially started playing the original game but it was a bit too pixelated for my liking. I understand there are mods to update it somewhat, but I thought it would be better just skipping to the sequel. This is my first time with the series, so there’s no sense of nostalgia. The graphical style in this sequel is a massive improvement, mainly because it is now rendered in 3D. It’s still pretty dated, given that it was released in 1999, but completely fine since it looks much better from the standard camera angle.

You play as the evil side; you build a dungeon and aim to take out the hero or heroes. You always have a “Dungeon Heart” which you must protect at all costs. Your Imps are your workers and will dig areas you mark.

The map is composed of diggable and undiggable rock, existing tunnels, lava, and water. Some walls have gold in them. When gold is mined, the Imps will take the money to the Dungeon Heart, or the nearest Treasure Room.

Once your imps have dug, they then place a floor tile, and will reinforce the walls. When taking enemy’s tiles, the Imps convert floor tiles back to unclaimed, then place your floor tile; so it’s a longer process to fully claim.

You can zone out rooms on your claimed tiles, drop your creatures, or cast spells. Rooms don’t take any time to build, they are instantly created. It’s easy to extend them at a later time without any disadvantages. Most rooms require a 3x3 area to function, but you often require larger rooms for more capacity.

Creatures (non-Imps) spawn in via a Portal, so it’s one of the first things you need to do if you don’t start with one. The types of creatures depend on the rooms you have. So a Workshop will spawn in the trolls who can make traps; a Torture Chamber will allow Mistresses. A portal allows several monsters to spawn in over time, and there's usually a few to find to increase your army’s size.

Another way to add creatures is to take them from the enemy. When creatures are defeated, they are essentially knocked out. If you have a Prison, your Imps will drag bodies there. Their health will then drain over time and then they join your side as a Skeleton. If you have a Torture Chamber, you can replace the enemies there. Again, their health drains over time, but if they don’t die (you can cast a Heal spell on them), then they are converted to your side. If you have a Graveyard, your Imps can take dead enemies to respawn as Vampires.

If your creatures are knocked out, the Imps drag them back to their Lair for them to recover. If you don’t get to them in time, then they die.

Every creature (except Skeletons) will periodically desire food so will go to eat a bird at the Hatchery, they will collect their wages by taking your coins, and rest in a Lair. These three aspects are generally what determines happiness. An unhappy creature can leave your dungeon. The Casino room also increases happiness.

You can increase the creature’s level in a Training room, fighting in the Pit, or by gaining experience in battle.

Enemies spawn in at Hero gates and you can destroy the gates by claiming all the surrounding tiles. Often you will need to dig the surrounding wall first. Groups of enemies are sometimes placed in locations around the map.

Attacking is partially automatic, but then it’s incredibly clunky when you want them to do a specific action. You pick up monsters and drop them at a location, but there is a delay until they get back up. This means you often need to drop them a few tiles away from the enemies, and even if you do drop them close, they don’t always attack the enemies/door/traps - instead they may just wander off. They definitely like wandering off if they decide it is time to rest, eat, or be paid.

There is a spell that allows you to take control of a creature and this places you in a first-person view. You can press “7” on your keyboard to select a group mode, then by looking at another creature and clicking, they will follow you. Then you can go charging into battle to target something specific.

An alternate way of commanding them is the Call To Arms spell, but you have to do several missions before you unlock it, and this has negatives too. Often, your creatures will be determined to get to the flag, ignoring enemies that are attacking them on the way. When they do reach it, they often just bumble around instead of doing something constructive. Additionally, sometimes the path to that location could be blocked. On one level there’s loads of lava and only salamanders can cross it. So you have to build bridges, but you only have wooden bridges on that mission and they burn after a short time. Then you end up with your creatures trapped on one side and they get unhappy without access to food and gold. There’s definitely a lot of micromanagement, especially on the more complex maps.

These aspects make the game frustrating because you often feel like you are losing creatures due to the mechanics/randomness of the game, rather than your strategy and actions.

There are other spells you can cast but I didn’t really make use out of all of them. A Create Imp spell does exactly what it says. There is a lightning attack which often knocks enemies to the ground, a Heal spell, and a Tremor which weakens enemy walls, making them easy for your Imps to dig through. The most mana-consuming spell is to summon Horny the Reaper who does his own thing, but hopefully will target nearby enemies and doors.

There is an announcer that alerts you to problems and events, and sometimes says humorous lines. He can alert you when rooms are under attack, if creatures are unhappy (need a lair, food, or pay), or when it is pay-day.

The overall game concept is good, and the base-building is well done. However, the combat requires definite improvement and definitely holds the game back.