(This is part of my a special week in which I sampled several smaller or more niche retro games from my GOG library. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)
1999’s Dungeon Keeper 2 was one of my all-time favorite base-building games. It ran pretty slowly on my computer back in the day, but I still loved the humor as I got to play an evil dungeon master who was trying to fend off invading heroes. In a way, it was precursor to the now-popular tower defense games, albeit with less structure.
Taking place entirely underground, DK2 starts you off with a base core (your dungeon heart) and then leaves you to expand as you can. You direct your imps to tunnel passages, collect gold, and build rooms. Minions, such as goblins and succubi, wander in when you’ve created rooms for them, and generally you want as many minions as possible to protect your dungeon and ultimately defeat the invaders and the boss.
Since there isn’t unlimited space, you have to trade off between expansion and keeping your dungeon defensible when the “good guys” come attacking. Creating narrow hallways that lead to special rooms for retaliation is important, but you also have to create lairs and hatcheries to attract minions in the first place.
The 3-D design always struck me as very interesting and stylized, with nary a straight line to be seen. Everything is crooked, even though it’s on tiles. Reminds me of early World of Warcraft.
Dig far and long enough, and the good guys will come calling. Like the RTS Majesty, Dungeon Keeper 2 was unique in that it didn’t let you directly command mindless units, but instead the game lets you encourage them and hope that they will go fight for you if taken care enough back at home. So it’s more about mapping out the dungeon design and choosing rooms than it is directly commanding armies, which is actually kind of relaxing.
He’s such a happy demon.
It was a shame that the series didn’t really progress past this second installment. There was an absolutely horrid free-to-play mobile game in which EA showed that it had no shame in trying to monetize every aspect and force timers down our throats. That tanked, by the way, and was taken offline. Would be great to see a proper DK3 some day!