I miss seeing games where you play as the bad guy.
I’m not talking about story-driven games where you play as a guy who is considered evil by either his peers or the contextual history, like The Darkness or Mafia, but more about controlling an all-powerful force who his actually the villain in stories. Overlord, Dungeon Keeper and Plague Inc., that sort of thing. It’s a good thing that Dungeons 3 came out, and can leach off of the now-tarnished legacy of Dungeon Keeper. Thanks EA.
Dungeons 3 comes to us from Realmforge Studios, a German studio with an interesting history. Developing the last 2 Dungeons games along with today’s evil example, they also have some oddities developed which surprised me. For one, DARK, a fascinatingly awful experience which had a fantastic camp appeal to it, and M.U.D. TV, a plain awful romp through an unfunny TV studio.
3 games in, and the eponymous Evil has conquered everything in the world ever, and some more conquering after that. Considering space travel hasn’t been invented yet, the Evil sits at home eating his fingernails like a nervous Maury audience member, until some MacGuffin on the other side of the world has arrived to simply live. Not on the Evil’s watch, as he kidnaps the king’s once-evil daughter and begins to take over the world, all over again… for some reason.
Dungeons has been a series I pay attention to, but never fully enveloped myself in, as Kevan Brighting, famed narrator of The Stanley Parable, is more of a deterrent to me, than the actual mechanics of the game. Call me a heretic, but I simply don’t find him as charming as everyone else does, his smug self-satisfaction to convicted voice lines come off like nails down a chalkboard, and in this game, he’s no better.
Given my loose connections to the series, I booted up the tutorial and was greeted with Kevan being his usual sodding self. Gurning and harping on like he’s trying to improvise in front of Donald Trump, he made the first hour of the game harder to experience than what it is. Thankfully, you can turn him off in the options menu, and I severely recommend you do so, as the writing isn’t nearly as clever as it was in say, The Stanley Parable.
The writing and story of Dungeons itself is painfully unbearable. Backed by Kevan and other awful voice actors struggling for comedic air, is a childish art style which seems like concept art drawn on a handkerchief, and DOA jokes featuring references you would find in an episode of Family Guy. Yeah, replacing the band name’s letters with others so it spells “AB/CD” and “ToRn” instead is hilarious, but WAIT A MINUTE! WOOHOO, IT’S IN THE MIDDLE AGES HAHA WACKY!
After his annoying British accent is switched off permanently, and you fall into planned comas in upcoming story telling sections, the game becomes a lot easier to stomach, with the mechanics being robust and plentiful. It’s a bit nerve-racking at first, as the goblins and soldiers you provide aren’t exactly generous that you haven’t turned them into chutney yet, and demand extra supplies, but in due time, it flows smoothly.
Thankfully, the predecessor’s bulky and messy HUD has now been more streamlined, and with that, comes a more natural experience. Battles and dungeons you’ve created are simplistic but the tutorial and the game itself are able to make you feel like you’re creating something worth fearing, no matter how much of an amateur you are.
I’d almost say that the tutorial is the best part of the game, as the campaign itself is so bloody average, it’s amazing that Realmforge remembered to QA test it. Starting off with a stealth section, the writing and cutscenes get progressively worse, with more and more memes and references from 2009 B.C. populating the voice lines like plague in a rat. The constant fourth wall breaking from Kevan can also get lost in a bag of used needles.
Before I could get into any meaty section of the game, however, my playthrough stopped after the second mission, as all of these impressions and thoughts were while I was at a friends house, playing Dungeons 3 on a sleek n’ shiny 4k monitor. When I returned home and began to play it on my 720p TV, it was unplayable, mainly due to the HUD overlapping the screen edges, and the options menu doesn’t allow me to re-size the screen. Gameplay then turned into a frantic impossible guessing game, with it turning into a game of chance, rather than one of strategy.
HUD overlapping is nothing new. In fact, I’ve ranted about it before, but never have I been unable to play a game due to the elements being missing. Again, it’s not my fault for gaming on a 720p TV, as I’m not the only one behind the times, and screen re-sizing is a feature that every game should have at this point, regardless.
In the meantime, watch this space and heed this warning. If you do plan on buying Dungeons 3 and plan to play it on a TV unable to broadcast 1080p images, then please refrain from buying it until the screen re-sizing option is patched in. Until then? I dunno, get a copy of Overlord 2 or something, at least you won’t want to rip your ears off.