Pub: Electronic Arts / Dev: Mythic Games
Approaching this review, you may have heard one or two things about terrible gameplay, predatory business models and a shocking disregard for gamers shown in this title. These things are all true – Even stuff you might have made up in your head, on the spot, just then. Dungeon Keeper is probably the greatest example of how the mobile game market needs a radical overhaul – and that action needs to start with you, today.
I knew this game was in the pipeline but had forgotten about it around release, so I was surprised to see a couple of YouTubers suddenly coming up with videos about one of my favourite older game franchises. I was not ready for what I saw on screen and – despite their warnings – went ahead and downloaded the game from the Play Store.
Dungeon Keeper does not fail because it is an inherently bad game. The IP of Dungeon Keeper is strong; you play the villain who builds a dastardly dungeon filled with traps and minions and you must defend it against the incursions of pesky ‘heroes’ and other ‘Keepers vying for power. The original concept came from Bullfrog Games who were responsible for many classics in the 90s (that have since been shat all over by EA – I’m looking at you, Syndicate) and was full of character and interesting gameplay mechanics. Essentially a realtime strategy game, you design and dig out your dungeon and interact with monsters to gather resources and fight battles. Playing from the bad guy’s point of view was novel, but the humour was what made the games shine.
Dungeon Keeper does fail because it treats you, the player, like an idiot. The redesign of the game needs you to be a hyperactive cash-cow, randomly clicking everything and throwing money at the screen – or it requires you to not really enjoy playing games at all, and instead merely check-in once or twice a day to tap a flashing button.
Like the original games, you still dig out your own dungeon. Again, like the original games you send your imps to dig out rock to make space for rooms. What makes it slightly different to the original is that some rocks take 4 hours or dig out.
Or a day.
So if the idea of ponderously digging out a 5×5 room over the course of a month appeals to you, then great. Go ahead and download.
Alternatively you can take what the game itself calls ‘quite the polarizing solution to make the timer disappear’ and pay. The game knows it is being exploitative. The game knows that it is cashing in on what are hopefully the final death-throes of a monetization model designed to mug, and mug heavily, a few people who get caught in its trap.
To put it simply, you can pay quite a lot of money to progress more quickly. Without paying, there is basically no game to speak of. Everything has a timer and nothing is fun. If you want to make the slightest change to your dungeon, the game sticks out its grubby paw and asks for payment – like a drunken busker stumbling his way through some of your favourite tunes and demanding cash in return for silence.
I don’t care that they got the original voice actor back to play the games’ narrator. I don’t care that there are a couple of moderately funny one-liners. Dungeon Keeper 2014 is NOT A GAME. It is a cynical and manipulative title that gives you no reason to play it. Were it to have been released at £15, with no additional micro-transactions tacked on, it might have been worth a look – but I have neither the time, inclination nor bottomless pockets to discover what the ‘end game’ of this particular title might be.
I’d like that to be the end of it. It would have been nice if we could just turn away from Dungeon Keeper and never speak of it again. This is however, one final aspect that I have to bring up – just in case you come across this title in the app store and get confused by the ratings. Like many other titles, this game will ask you to rate it and – again like many other titles – it will ask you to give it five stars. Here’s the thing about that – if you choose 5 stars from the in-game options it will take you to the store page to rate it. If you choose 1-4 stars it will ask you ‘send feedback’ to them EA instead.
Sneaky. How many people do you think actually follow up, find the game page in the store and rate the title from there? I would suggest a great deal fewer than the ones who just click ‘5 stars’ to get rid of message.
I don’t know how to put it more plainly than this: do not download Dungeon Keeper – it sucks.
Do not tolerate ‘free-to-wait’ games that offer you virtually nothing in return.
Hell, even Flappy Bird offers a complete experience.
Reviewer: Karlos Morale
Dungeon Keeper is out now for Android and iOS
Dungeon Keeper is ‘free to play/wait’