Most people are used to believing that justice prevails in a struggle. Somehow, it does not feel right if a story ends with the demise of good. At the same time, the audience is often unsatisfied and even outraged if the protagonist fails to spread light, love, and peace. As a consequence, from fairytales to popular movies like Iron Man 2, stories are dominated by happy endings and the prevalence of justice.
However, people get bored of trite, predictable plots, and that is probably why developers made some of the games that will be shown in this review series. In these games, players play not as a hero who vanquishes darkness. Instead, they will assume the opposite role: an evil lord who builds dungeons to slay the invading heroes, breeds monsters, and carve a path of destruction and torment toward global domination. In this article, the first of this review series, Dungeon Keeper 2 will be reviewed.
Dungeon Keeper 2 (DK2), the sequel to Dungeon Keeper, was developed by Bullfrog Productions and released in 1999. It captivated gamers with its improved controls and graphics, as well as the addition of new dungeon rooms and monsters. In DK2, the player assumes the form of a keeper, an underworld overlord whose goal is to collect Portal Gems, allowing him to open a passage to the surface and conquer the world above. The player expands a dungeon, spawns monsters, and builds traps to destroy heroes who guard the Portal Gems, while defeating rival keepers to become the sole conqueror of both the underworld and the surface.
With a wide variety of spells, traps, and rooms available, the game allows the player to employ creative and stimulating tactics. The Possession spell, for instance, allows the player to control a creature from a first person perspective, effectively integrating FPS elements into a strategy game. It allows the player to view the created world through the creature’s eyes, creating a strong connection between the player and his minions. After all, what better way to get to know someone than to share a family of chickens at a hatchery? Moreover, when using this spell, the player can act outside the creature’s normal tendancies, such as raiding the enemy base or traversing through a body of water. It is also possible to group several adjacent creatures to follow the possessed and provide additional manpower before proceeding to lay destruction. If, on the other hand, the player lacks the forces to commence an attack, he can choose to build different traps to skewer, burn, freeze, or scare off invaders. The incapacitated enemies can be tortured to join the player’s side as living, or if killed, as an undead.
As one would expect from a strategy game, wise resource management is the key to successful deviltry. The main staples are gold and food. While producing creatures does not cost any resources, it does to maintain and train them. If a creature becomes unhappy because it has not been fed or paid, it turns against its own kind. This event is especially heartbreaking if it happens to a high level creature. The minion that the player had invested much time and resources into is now an enemy and must be vanquished. Building enough forces to launch an attack and maintaining minions' happiness may pose a challenge in missions with scarce resources.
On the downside, the game may have compatibility issues on modern systems. In my case, the sound had degenerated into a garbled mess, while random crashes occurred throughout gameplay. In the end, I did manage to fix the sound problem somehow and happily finished the game. However, when I decided to run DK2 later, the problem had returned for no apparent reason. A search on Google about these problems revealed they are quite common. When a new player runs DK2, he may find himself to be one of the unfortunate souls who will hear several glitched voices talking over each other in the background.
Also, the inferior graphics may seem repulsive to gamers accustomed to modern games' graphics. Considering that DK2 was released nearly ten years ago, its graphics inevitably looks substandard compared to today's games. While possessing a creature provides a priceless up-close-and-personal view of life in your den of evil, it also unveils the horrors of jagged polygons and texture-less walls with smudged shades. While some who had once run across the N64's grass-less grassland of Hyrule may not object, younger gamers may feel uncomfortable in such a pixelated world.
After the cancellation of Dungeon Keeper 3, DK2 is probably the last of the series. However, its old age should not keep one from playing it. Aside from a little setback from compatibility problems, it opens a whole new way of having fun by combining a twisted version of Sim City series with a dash strategy.