Dungeon Keeper 2
Yey, we all get a little carried away sometimes. Here at like to confess to getting a little carried away back when we reviewed the original Dungeon Keeper. Sure, it was unlike any other game around. Sure, it was incredibly absorbing. And sure, it was one of the most ambitious games we'd ever seen.
Y'see, the breathless excitement that overcame our reviewer (er, yours truly, incidentally) wasn't uniformly matched across the team. Chris, for one, wasn't entirely enamoured with the thing: "Too repetitive and too bloody brown" summarises his overall opinion. And many of you agreed with him. The graphics, which were cuttingedge when the game went into production but technically outdated by the time it finally appeared, received the fiercest criticism (some people even argued that the blocky visuals alone spoiled the game for them), while the recurring cycle of dungeon-building that formed the majority of levels also got a kicking.
Which isn't to imply that the game stank. No, no, no. It really was excellent (you voted it Strategy Game Of The Year in our readers' awards). But 96 per cent? Maybe that was a lickle bit generous. So now what do we do, faced with the sequel, faced with Dungeon Keeper Here's what: we wipe the slate clean and play the new game entirely on its own merits. And you know what? It's staggering.
Start Here, Stupid
Now, may we direct those of you unfamiliar with the original Keeper in the direction of the What's It All Abaaaaht? panel on the right? It tells you everything you need to know about the general concept behind the game. Okay? Cheers. For the rest of you, we'll press on and explain what's new and different and now and wow about this here sequel.
First things first: the graphics. Jesus, the graphics. Having played this, going back to look at the First game would be like gazing into an alternate dimension of shit. That's not to denigrate the sterling work of the artists involved in the first Keeper (if you've got any doubts about the ability of Mark Healey, who designed many of the original Keeper's menagerie, check out Lionhead's upcoming Black & White and try to stop your jaw from dropping), but it does effectively illustrate the visual leaps and bounds PC games have made in the space of a few short years. When Keeper numero uno turned up, 30 accelerator cards were just starting to make their presence felt. Nowadays, any game that doesn't feature more rotating polygons than your mind can process might as well be binned as far as the paying public are concerned. The way things are going, it'll be a miracle if the next edition of Microsoft Excel doesn't include volumetric fogging, polygonal text, and a texture-mapped cursor casting real-time shadows across an intricate model of the Eiffel cocking Tower that rotates continually in the background whether you want it to or not.
Er, hang on. Where were we going with this? Oh yes, 3D cards and the effect they've had on the games we play. As we were saying, Dungeon Keeper II is a cracking example. In the first game, all the creatures were represented by blocky, prerendered sprites which looked jarringly out of place against the polygonal dungeon walls. Now it's all polygonal. And the cast looks amazing, thanks in part to cunning texture design (peer closely and you can see that each beastie actually consists of very few polygons indeed - which keeps the frame rate healthy - yet the seamless 'skin' stretched across them ffectively masks that fact).
And speaking of frame rates, the animation rocks great Mm big polygonal bells throughout - check out the crawling salamander monster, for instance.
All things considered, the dungeon inmates have sacks more personality than before. They're far more alive, the imps scamper more skittishly; the bile demon looks fatter and wobblier; the horned reaper is genuinely scary (and he's on yourside).
Variety Is The Spice Of Life
Enough about pretty pictures and madness. This is a review, not a conversation, so here's what it's like to play. Each level opens with a neat, fully narrated 'fly-by' scene which helps to illustrate your objective. Let's say you've got to wipe out some highfalutin Lord Of The Realm or something; it'll float by his castle as he paces up and down, then move on to point out a useful bit of information - a prison, or a big seam of gold, say - before moving toward the heart of your dungeon-to-be and kicking off the action proper.
Then you're required to do a fair amount of dungeon-building, of course; although on some stages you find yourself starting from scratch, and on others you have half the thing built for you already. There's often a lot to be done, mind, and it's the repetition of dungeon construction (albeit enjoyable construction) m that soured the first game for many people.
Ah, but. Ah, but what? Ah, but this: in Dungeon Keeper IHUe levels are far, far more varied. Each one comes in the form of a distinct mission, complete with its own set of subobjectives. And they're all different, too: one minute you're slogging your way through enemy territory in order to reach a particular knight before he disappears down a portal, and the next you're desperately defending you're dungeon from covert giant attack. Sometimes you've got shedloads of money, other times you're counting every penny; sometimes you're cramped inside huge areas of impenetrable rock, other times you can dig around in any direction you damn well please. You're forced to switch tactics from stage to stage, and it's by doing this that you begin to appreciate just how much is going on in the game.
The game also manages to control Bullfrog's one 'little problem': thoir tendency to shove all their features and surprises right into your Y ,ace during the first half of the game, thereby reducing the final half to a potentially dispiriting slog through a tried and tested landscape. None of that here: new features - important new features - are still being introduced right up to the final level. There's always something to look forward to; the pace is absolutely bang on. That's boring to read about, but incredibly important in practice.
If You Didn't Like The Original...
...then why should you buy this? Good question. Well, if you tatedthe original, absolutely despised it, then steer well clear. And calm down. This isn't an entirely different game. Far from it. Underneath, the basic structure remains fundamentally the same. On the other hand, if you merely felt a little let down or frustrated by the first offering, then hip, hip, hooray, you're in luck, because Dungeon Keeper II really is the game Dungeon Keeper ms trying so damn hard to be. The crazily ambitious features and diverse gameplay elements hang together far more coherently than before. There's a far greater sense of purpose and direction on every single level. Not to mention control and excitement-the combat makes a lot more sense than it did (although it still isn't the game's strong point).
The AI appears to have improved too. And then of course there's those graphics. And if you fovedthe first game, we won't bother trying to convince you any further.
Okay, let's summarise the whole game as neatly as we can: it's like someone took every different gaming genre in existence and hurled them into a blender, whizzed it up, and poured you out a great big helping of all the creamiest, loveliest bits. Sort of. Look, just go back and read the review.
Choose a monster and 'become' it
Once you've seen off the first couple of levels, you're granted use of the 'Possession' spell, which is approximately ten billion times more interesting than it sounds, because it enables you to choose any creature in your dungeon and 'become' it for a bit - at which point the point-'n'-click interface vanishes and you find yourself scampering around in full-on 3D Ouate-o-vision.
Fantastically, the way you move and the way you see alter radically from creature to creature. Possess a winkie little elf, for instance, and you skitter about almost at floor level; take over a giant and you pound about like Ray Winstona What's more, each monster has its own range of unique weapons and abilities: some can fire spells, some can enter a kind of 'sniper' mode, and some can fly. Old-skool Keeper had the same feature, but it never really became useful-and besides, the pre-rendered monsters looked pretty ropy when viewed up close. In Keeper tin's been developed in all the right ways, so much so that utilising the first-person option is downright essential on some levels.
The single most useful change is the ability to form groups when in first-person moda Hit the right key and you can wander around the dungeon highlighting anyone who catches your eye - and they'll follow you around. Once you've assembled a decent gang you can lead them wherever you like - which is often the best way to intrude on enemy territory, especially since they'll attack anything you attack.
What's It All Abaaaaht?
It's a bit like this, a bit like that, and a bit like...
Dungeon Keeper is a highly unusual game that shakes a defiant fist in the face of reasonable explanation by managing to straddle about 27 different gaming genres at the same time. The idea is this: you are an unseen evil being who's in command of an underground dungeon. You control every aspect of this dungeon, from the construction of new areas to the upkeep of existing ones, and your aim is to expand your evil little realm as far and wide as possible, conquering neighbouring dungeons and the like, all the while keeping an eye on resources.
So far, so SimCIty. Which all sounds a bit yawnsome, and probably would be were It not for the fact that your dungeon teems with life - and ugly, dirty, smelly, violent life at that. See, faintly dull managerial duties aside, you also have to look after a vast menagerie of different monsters who come to dwell in your lair and do your bidding. If you don't look after them properly, they get bored, or angry, or fight among themselves and smash the place up.
It's also a bit like Command & Conquer, in that you have to order your minions into battle, and work out tactics, and be all clever and that. It's also a bit like Quake, because you can possess any monster in your realm and run around in a 3D first-person view.
Interested? You should be. Sceptical? Yes, you probably are, and rightly so - it could be a case of jack of all trades, master of none. But It isn't It works. It all hangs together. Sure, any one element taken on its own couldn't be considered the finest example of the genre, but collectively, with one whole section of game merging seamlessly into another, it works shockingly well.
You People Are Monsters
Some of the motley crew you command in Dungeon Keeper II
Yer basic dogsbody. Imps do all the groundwork in your dungeon - digging, fixing, claiming new areas for yourself - and are firmly at the bottom of the pecking order. They're cute. But not that cute. You wouldn't want to kiss one or anything.
Goblins are the regular schmoes of the Dungeon Keeper world. They don't really excel at anything in particular, but they're sort of handy to have around. A bit like the Swiss.
Hey, It takes nerve to dress like this. Warlocks study in your dungeon libraries, and as you might expect they're good at casting spells - like fireballs and that. They're rubbish at hand-to-hand combat though.
These handy little critters can fly over anything, and also provide their own light source. As such they're Ideal for reconnaissance missions.
Clad from head to toe in tight-fitting leather, Mistresses enjoy using the torture chamber and fighting other creatures. (Games are sick and wrong.)
Lizard-like beasties which would be really rather rubbish were it not for their peculiar ability to wander unharmed across red-hot lava. Which, as you might imagine, comes in very handy during some stages of the game.
Another cool one, this. Take control of a rogue and you can sneak inside enemy territory without being rumbled (well, almost).
Overweight, ugly, smelly, and with poor control of their bodily functions, Bile Demons would be hell to share an office with. Luckily you only have to share a dungeon with them. And they're actually pretty useful in a fight - they get stuck right in at close range.
Say hello to Eddie Punchclock. Trolls are your factory workers. They're good at manufacturing traps, doors and... er, more traps and doors.
Once you've 'built' a graveyard, you can start harvesting Vampires in a similar manner to the skellies. They play dirty in fights by hypnotising people and that And they drink blood. Tch, what's the world coming to?
Skinny sods who know a thing or two about archery. Pop one into first-person mode and you're rewarded with an excellent 'sniper' option.
You get to manufacture skellies yourself - just lock an enemy creature in your prison until it starves to death, and it comes back as one of these. Now that's eco-friendly.
Or Mister Fisticuffs to you and me. Black Knights are fighters through and through. Look at him. See - he wants to fight you right now. Either that or kiss you. Can't tell.
Fallen angels, these guys, and therefore not to be trifled with. Among their more trifling talents is the ability to raise entire armies of warrior skeletons at will. Available for children's parties and How Do They Do That-type TV shows.
Download Dungeon Keeper 2
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
2018-12-24 Dungeon Keeper 2 game added.
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