If You Loved Dungeon Keeper...
We’re reviewing Dungeon Overlord today... I know what you are thinking: why in the hell are we reviewing social network games? As a virtual enthusiast myself, I feel your anger and your pain. I remember the days when the best entertainment a flash website could conjure was "Strip Snake", but as Dylan once sung "the-times-they-are-ah-changin'". Now we must suffer through the age of Facebook; the time of knowing exactly what everyone you have ever known is doing at any point; a time of being unable to shake those people you would rather forget from high school; and definitely a time when virtual cowboy hats, unthinkably boring farm simulators, and requesting "cabbage" from others is classified as "gaming" as well as social.
Here at MMORPG.com however, we like to roll with times. And so in an effort to keep it real, hip-hop, funking the funk, chillaxing with the peeps, etc, etc, we are willing to cast an eye over one or two Mark Zuckerberg approved products that might just qualify as worthy of your time; and as it would happen, Dungeon Overlord could be a worthy contender. Originally a property of SOE, now solely owned by developer Nightowl Games, is Dungeon Overlord worth killing time at work when you should be writing TPS reports?
Goblins are just a laugh riot aren't they? If they're not in Blizzard's World of Warcraft, sipping cocktails, cruising in Gob-Cadillac's, and talking in funny voices, they are probably in Middle-Earth, speaking in cockney accents and waxing lyrical about Men-Folk. In Dungeon Overlord they skitter around your dungeon, dressed like Santa Claus in seasonal times, snoozing, boozing, and all out having a great goblin time.
The visual appeal of this website-bound game, will definitely hinge upon nostalgia for titles such as Dungeon Keeper, and with an isometric 2D charm, it might send Windows 95 goose pimples down your spine. Largely presented with a cartoonish veneer, the game is a chaotic mixture between the comic-book evilness of the inhabitants of your dungeon, and a medieval brothel. Pub panels will be filled with clinking, swilling orcs, dormitories will emanate snores from slumbering minions, and mines will be filled with the workings of your tireless need for iron and crystal. It is basic, but detailed, and the UI is by and large easy to handle, even if there are too many "ADD COINS", "SPEND MONEY", and "HEY YOU, SURRENDER THE WALLET TUBBY" signs everywhere.
But for a browser-based gaming destination, Dungeon Overlord is an amiable attempt at creating some sort of credibility on a platform that is largely used by pre-pubescent girls, and menopausal women, cultivating farmland, hugging virtual pandas, and spending actual cash on virtual clothing. It has a sort of 90's charm about it all, and being as "down" with the 1990's as the Fresh Prince, this is always a good thing in my book.
Since developers discovered that level systems equal obsessive gamers with a compulsive need to earn in-game achievements, every piece of software is bundled with one. From getting the "YAY, YOU WALKED!" achievements in recent MMOs, to even getting a pat on the back for shooting someone in Call of Duty, hearing the ding of reward is what drives us these days, and Dungeon Overlord's designers have been taking notes.
This title rests upon an extensive questing system which directs the experience, whilst also pacing your actions and rolling out new activities at certain milestones. It is a clever mechanic, that will keep you from feeling like you have been here before, and also gives purpose to your actions. Early on objectives will be largely tutorial in their methods: building rooms, creating corridors, mustering special units and so on. It is when the stakes are raised and you can start to invade enemies that things become interesting. Collect X of Y quests are here, but so are technology requirements, as well as upgradable, and consumable pursuits. It seems basic, but it gives an added layer of direction to the strategy, and for a game that can only allow you so many actions per hour, it keeps you fairly engaged.
Aside from compulsively finishing quests, the main thrust of Dungeon Overlord is as the title might suggest, to manage your cosy little catacomb. Starting with a miserable excuse for a dominion of evil, you will build themed rooms, such as the aforementioned dormitories, pubs, mines, as well as libraries for research, proving grounds for military units, and farms to keep your slimy population well fed. You will collect materials such as minerals, and this is will bankroll further exploits such as combat, technology, and upgrading your surroundings: it is the Dungeon Keeper mould, reminiscent to anyone that spent the majority of 1997 in doors, but it works well.
So as you progress, you will need more materials, and this will lead you to the world above. The over world map, consists of a landscape populated by towns, castles, and opponent dungeon masters - and this is when you can start to pillage and burn. Sending orcs and warlocks, in addition to other units, will allow you to ransack resources and gold, resulting in the betterment of your goblin-filled cave, and the possibility of gaining new dungeons, and more room to plot dastardly doings.
In all, Dungeon Overlord it isn't particularly smart, nor inventive, but it is solid good fun, and that is all it ever needs to be.
As this Facebook experience is about as forward facing as a 1995 themed disco, you can't expect there to be oodles of innovation. The mechanics have largely been seen, the crafting system is a taken from current MMOs, and the social mechanics have yet to be completely polished or implemented. There isn't much here that we haven't seen, its edge lays in its browser based platform, and where this will take it remains to be seen, but don't expect the ground to shake with exciting, new design when you play.
Dungeon Overlord is a refined and enjoyable experience. The UI is easy to use, the tutorial/quest system easy to grasp, and the mechanics are as simple and quick to understand as you would hope to expect. It is a well polished game, that with further growth could become as addictive as those brightly coloured drugs every talks about - the only problems at present being some annoying load screens, and the common limited amount of actions per hour available.
Any activity within Dungeon Overlord will take time. An hour to construct the pub, 45 minutes to build a chair, 5 hours to train an orc. Ti-eye-eye-eye-eym, as Take That would wail, is what you need. Giving the fact that progress through the game will take a set amount of time to get certain landmarks, means that the longevity of the game is quite, well...long. With a limited amount of options and things to click at any point, the game manages to keep you coming back for more, almost "treating you mean to keep you keen". And with raids, upgrades, technologies, and much more to contend with, you might find yourself lost in inside the depths of your goblin-abode, whilst you were meant to be getting on with more important things; such as obsessing over your now attractive ex-girlfriend who keeps updating about her great life, before interfering yourself, whilst crying and muttering obscenities. No? Just me?
In some sort of ironic, strange twist of fate, Facebook games tend to be about as social as passing messages under a closed door. While World of Warcraft, Rift, hell even Habbo Hotel will let you interact with your fellow man, generally this type of activity is discouraged by Zuckerburg and his platform. You can add friends, request materials "DAVE NEEDS LEATHER - SPONSORED BY DUNGEON OVERLORD" and sell items on the auction house like system, but other than that meeting with your fellow man is limited. Still, with Facebook you are never more than 2 minutes away from a stilted chat with your teenage friends, or that weird uncle that just really wants to keep in touch, literally - and hey, who wants social interaction when you can see that "Bill Murphy Status Updated: BILL MURPHYtmFTW! W00T! I RULE!" in the right-hand corner. God bless technology.
As is the trend for most online games these days, Dungeon Overlord asks nothing upfront, but offers premium services at every chance it gets, like a ninja or a confidence man. Creating your own dark catacomb is free, and for the most part, you can expect to spend nothing, but if you want to speed up the real-time construction in the game, the gathering of resources, or just add a little something special, then it's time to pony up your doe. Of course nobody is now sat at their monitors, horrified, tears streaming down their face, moaning "but you said it was free to play" so the fact that this game will try to get cash like a hooker offering "happy endings $2 dollar!" is no surprise. It is relatively costless, but not quite.
Like coming out of the closet of sexual preference, I must admit I find it difficult finding the strength and bravery to make this admittance: I like this Facebook game. Don't judge me too harshly, and do not make me into some sort of social pariah. Its Dungeon Keeper style gameplay, coupled with some modern flourishes, and bags of content make for an interesting, and entertaining experience. Now excuse me, I've got to go and tell my parents.