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Dungeons 2 review: Almost the Dungeon Keeper 3 you've been waiting for

Hayden Dingman | April 27, 2015
I don't really want to spend most of my Dungeons 2 review discussing the mobile "game"/extortion attempt/mockery that EA put out a few years back and slapped with the name Dungeon Keeper in order to prey on people's nostalgia for the classic PC game. Mainly because I never want to think about that piece of garbage ever again.

This is Dungeons 2 at its best — a frantic scramble between two different games, like trying to play chess against a grandmaster at the same time you're competing in a Twister tournament. Dungeons 2 isn't exactly shy about its inspirations, but it doesn't need to be. Just like Darksiders shamelessly flaunts its Zelda  inspirations, Dungeons 2 gets to be cavalier about where it's ripping ideas from because it uses those ideas in new and interesting ways. It's two very safe, derivative concepts (Dungeon Keeper and an RTS) that when combined present new challenges.

Unfortunately, there's a compromise: Dungeons 2 is neither a great RTS nor a great Dungeon Keeper game. It's just "pretty good" at both.

As Ron Swanson once said on Parks and Rec: "Don't half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing." I'm not sure I completely agree — there's a brilliance to the underlying concept of Dungeons 2, and I'm glad the game exists.

But the problem with Dungeons 2 is that neither the RTS side of things nor the dungeon management side has any real depth. On the dungeon side this manifests as a lack of rooms. I often finished levels with massive amounts of empty space, because I just didn't need a second treasure room or a second hospital or a second brewery or what have you — to say nothing of the fact that Dungeons 2 barely even tries to innovate on the Dungeon Keeper formula. On the RTS side, combat relies more on throwing enemies into the grinder than it does on strategy and micromanaging.

The problem is exacerbated once you leave the campaign's training wheels behind. The Dungeons 2 campaign is actually kind of brilliant because it masks the game's biggest problem — when you run out of things to do, you can ascribe it to the level's built-in constraints. Play a normal singleplayer match though and you'll quickly reach the same impasse, and this time it's not because the game's holding something back. There's just not a ton of depth.

It's not too surprising. If either side were as fully-featured as your standard RTS or Dungeon Keeper imitator, there's no way a player could pay attention to both sides. The problem is the initial challenge of managing both your dungeon and your aboveground troops is all-too-quickly replaced by the feeling you're knocking against the game's skill ceiling.

There are a few other knocks I have against the game — namely, that the dungeon controls are super picky and imprecise, which is all the more noticeable when you come back from the tight RTS controls in the other half of the game. Also, the UI is cluttered and often completely obtuse. Why, for instance, do I need a separate menu for "Rooms" and "Production Rooms"?

 

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