Realmforge Studio’s first attempt at capturing the spirit of a well-known dungeon building series of yore didn’t go down too well with fans of the genre. While Dungeons dared to tread new grounds, the shifted focus on entertaining those nasty heroes instead of your own monsters, just wasn’t met with the same amount of enthusiasm that the Dungeon Keeper games elicit to this day.
I met Realmforge’s technical director, Korbinian Abenthum, and art director, Victor Linke, earlier this year, and they assured me that Dungeons 2 will be completely different. In fact, the developer started from scratch, with a new engine, new gameplay, and a fresh perspective on the genre. You’re stepping into the shoes of the Dungeon Lord once again, but this time you’re stuck on your throne and have to order your minions around to do your bidding.
As is par for the course, taking care of your dungeon and its inhabitants is of paramount importance. You’ll have them mine gold, furnish rooms, and do all the things you’re used to from the original Dungeon Keeper games. This part of the game looks incredibly faithful to the old formula, and just watching your little imp fellas go about their work is a joy. However, there are some interesting innovations, such as every single one of your creatures being unique. They have their own name, can level up, and acquire new perks, so you can keep track of their careers throughout the game. Every minion has certain needs: money, beer, and something to keep the boredom at bay. Unless you want to deal with your own guys rampaging through the dungeon, you better take care of those needs. Of course, there are also those nasty heroes from upstairs.
Just like in Dungeon Keeper, foolish heroes will stumble into your dungeon, looking for fame and fortune, but mostly meeting their swift and most unfortunate demise down in the depths of your little empire. But here comes another new feature: you can actually send your minions up to the Overworld. Here, Dungeons 2 turns from god game into real time strategy. Commanding a small group of monsters, you seek out quests and treasures. If you’re feeling extremely lucky you can even try to stomp the good guys’ strongholds into the ground and stop those nasty do-gooders from entering your dungeon.
Meanwhile, the dungeon gameplay continues. The idea is to have you switch between the two game modes, with about 70% focus on the dungeon building. Completing quests and conquering sectors on the Overworld nets you points that can be used to further level up your dungeon and unlock more stuff. In a nutshell: murder some good guys, and your interior decorator will approve! There’s going to be a single player campaign with 10 story missions, as well as a sandbox mode. Multiplayer for up to 4 players will have everyone start out in their own dungeon and take the fight to the Overworld. Other gameplay modes are also announced, but there’s no further information on them yet.
I have to admit, I was skeptical. After playing and not particularly enjoying the first Dungeons game, I walked into the presentation with rather modest expectations. Thankfully, the sequel managed to thoroughly surprise me. While the graphics are not exactly cheerful – this is all about dark, damp, and dangerous dungeons. Dungeons 2 is a game that looks like it’s a good time and knows it. The gameplay really seemed to be a streamlined version of the very first Dungeon Keeper games, and the overworld parts promise a nice diversion, as long as they don’t overstay their welcome. If Realmforge manage to keep the familiar Dungeon Keeper feeling intact, this might be the first true successor. Despite being somewhat derivative, that’s still high praise. All in all, I’m eager for the game to release early next year. You can read additional information via the official site.