In Dungeon Keeper 2, your quest is to build an underground dungeon, dig for gold for funds and thwart treasure hunters and heroes who come to slay you. At its core this is a tower defense game mixed with dungeon crawling, real-time strategy, all rolled up with a dash of the Sims, because you’ll need to keep your monsters fed, happy and healthy. There’s a lot going on here and that’s what I love about it. There’s a lot of charm, humor, fun and creativity to build your dungeon the way you see fit within the constrains of an underground labyrinth.
You start out with a “dungeon heart,” which is the main area, if the heroes get to the heart they can destroy it, collapsing your dungeon. Here, you’ll use with 4 imps, who do your dirty work, mine for gold, reinforce walls, build sturdy floors and carry things like gold and heroes. Once you have a nice size area, you can make a room theme, such as lairs (where monsters sleep), hatcheries, because monsters eat eggs, training area, where monsters train for battle, libraries, where wizards go to learn spells and treasuries that hold gold. There are also Guard Posts, Casinos, Arenas, Graveyards, Dungeons and Portals. With Portals, that is where the monsters enter to join your dungeon.
Digging is easy, mouse click and drag. You’ll have a highlighted area that your imps will then dig out over time. The more imps you have, the faster things get done. Strong walls become dirt and get plowed through. Your imps level up and become more efficient, or you can right mouse click to slap them. Once they’re done digging, they pound out a floor and make a sturdy wall to protect you from rival dwarves. They do it all automatically, because you’ve got bigger things to do. Once something is dug out, it can’t reappear, so you need to have some strategy to create bottleneck doorways versus open areas for easy traversal.
The heroes have their own counterparts to your vile crew. Along the way, you’ll find gold that is needed to pay for rooms and minion wages. Did you think they’d work for free? When its payday, everyone heads to your treasure room.
The bulk of the game is the single player campaign that is a joy to play over and over again even if it never changes. There are rival dungeon keepers, heroes and a vague storyline that pushes you through the game. Its such a fun game to play that there doesn’t need to be a story, but the game’s light story elements do a great job of introducing new creatures and how they work. The main goal of most scenarios is to kill a heroic champion. It sounds easy, but the problem is finding them, going through their army and defeating them. The more troops you send, the more vulnerable your own dungeon is.
Since you’re not a physical character, you have your own champion Horny that can be summoned with a spell and enough mana. He teleports in with a burning fire, before he stomps his way to the heroic champion, killing everything in his way. While he’s not necessary, Horny is rare, but powerful.
This game has a countless number of monsters and creatures at your disposal. Instead of horrifying and scary ones, they’re more like funny charming ones that still have an evil edge to them. Trolls, goblins, giants, wizards, wasps, skeletons, vampires, salamanders, angels, rouges and each with a specific use.
Wizards study a number of spells, which you can use, anything from healing, creating an imp to lightning striking an enemy and possessing a monster so you can see what they can see in a first person perspective and you can control them when fighting. In battle, they’ll support your troops with long ranged fireballs and they can even be upgraded to have their own health spells.
Trolls and bile demons construct traps that you want placed. Everything from hidden doors, boulders that roll over enemies in a single direction, to freeze, lightning and fire traps. They’re very useful, but cost mana. While your mana does regenerate, traps constantly use your mana. This is to balance everything to ensure that you don’t become too powerful. Your spells also use mana, so there’s a sort of give and take there. There are a few mana vaults here and there to keep a steady stream of mana flowing.
Skeletons are fearless minions. Where others are afraid, they’ll charge straight into battle, so you need to watch them or they’ll pick a fight with an entire army. These boneheads don’t come through portals like the rest, instead they’re born from death. When a hero dies, your imps will pull them to a graveyard if you have one. When they die, they’re skeletons.
Of course if you want the heroes to align with you, there’s the torture chamber and the mistresses. Take a living hero from your graveyard and plop them in here, watch them get tortured. Oh but you’ll need to heal them or they’ll die. You want them alive so they can join your side. When they join, you’ll uncover a bit of the map. You can do this with a rival dungeon’s minions as well, but when you have heroes working for you, the dynamic changes. Heroes and creatures hate one another, so to keep things peaceful and happy, you’ll need two separate sections for each.
Salamanders can walk on fire and spit fireballs. Dark elves stay back and fire arrows. mistresses hang out in the torture chamber, but they’re quite fierce in battle. Thieves skulk around or hang out at your casino.
All of your creatures can train in a training room, but at level four your troops won’t level up, unless they’re in direct combat. So then you’ll have to use or build a combat pit where like gladiators they’ll compete to the death! Well when one of them goes down, your imps will drag away their body to rest in the lair, but if your imps are too late, you’ve just lost one of your crew.
There are two main ways to play (3 ways including multi-player), single player campaign where you go through a series of dungeons (levels), which have different plots to them, such as slay a single knight, kill a colony of dwarves, invade a castle, prevent an evil wizard from escaping and torture information out of someone.
Then there is the “my pet dungeon mode” where like the Sims you build your dungeon to your hearts content, and you control the heroes and elements (which having control of the elements gets boring). On top of that there are skirmishes with pre made dungeons for you to compete against humans online or the computer. There’s a lot of variety with the computer players and the way they play. It keeps things engaging and you can chose a computer player to be a stalwart, psychotic or any other trait.
The graphics are dazzling, and there are cinematic cut scenes between the levels when it gives you a briefing. The big downfall is that your computer needs some real processing power for this game, because of the details when your monsters are fighting the heroes.
This game is so much fun even to this day. Maybe I’m gushing here, but I’ve gone through it several times, over and over again. Its definitely a must have for its humor, fun, strategy and management.