Some of the most popular mobile games are tower defense and city builders. Dungeon Keeper by Mythic Entertainment (a company that specializes in MMO games), is a game that combines the two genres in a very interesting way. Based on the Dungeon Keeper series of PC games developed by Bullfrog Productions (Both Bullfrog and Mythic being partnered with Electronic Arts) in 1997, the Dungeon Keeper mobile game is a city builder in which you create an underground dungeon city for minions and monsters. In the original PC game, the focus on top of building your dungeon was to attack CPU dungeon keepers and defend your base from random hero attacks. Now in the mobile game, other players take the role of the other Dungeon Keepers.
Similar to the King of Thieves talked about last week, Dungeon Keeper splits into two main focuses outside of building your city which is offense and defense. Most of your active time will be spent with offense. You’ll spend resources and time building up troops and spells to use, then you can launch an attack either on a random player’s base or a pre-made base for a story mission. The trick is that you have some strategic control over how your minions attack. Depending on the base, you can have your minions enter from up to four different spawn points at the edges of the map. From there they will advance down the nearest corridor to the nearest room based on how the base is laid out. You also don’t have to spawn all minions at once, as you get to choose the timing and starting position of each individual troop. You can pour all of your troops at once into one spot to attempt to overwhelm your opponent, or you can send a couple cheap minions in from different points to prod for traps and act as meat shields for the rest of your army. You also will gain access to spells which can be used to temporarily freeze enemy traps or troops at opportune moments, or break down walls to create shortcuts around well placed traps.
Defense is mostly your own prep and then done offscreen, however there are some story missions where you can bare witness to a CPU attempting to breach your base. This is where a lot of your city building will come into play. Building new rooms and buildings for upgrades, minions, and resources is great and all, but to an enemy it all paints one big target, so you’ll need some traps and a little ingenuity. This is where Dungeon Keeper shines as a mobile game. The thing is, since your base is entirely underground, that means you need to dig out spaces for your city, the rooms, the corridors, the traps, everything. In other words, the entire layout for your base is in your control. If you want to force invaders to have to take a really long corridor filled with traps to even get to your base, you can! If you want to make your base wide open and just surround every room with several traps, you can do that too! Get creative with your defenses. Make a long corridor end in a rolling boulder trap to damage the entire invading army. Make the first trap a single use springboard to kill off the first minion that they may use to spring all the traps. Make the invading force pass by minion making buildings first so they have to contend with your troops before moving on. Whatever strategies you think will make for the best defense, just be prepared for some troops that can fly over walls straight to the nearest room to attack.
There are two ultimate goals in Dungeon Keeper which is to either get through all of the story missions, or to climb to the top of the leaderboards. Personally I’d recommend a focus on story missions, as there will always be someone with more money or more time who can easily climb the leaderboards without much effort (pay-to-win always ruins good games). I’d also highly recommend playing the game with volume on, as your advisor in the game (whose name will be stricken from the record of this review) often gives some humorous banter depending on what you’re doing.
There are of course some downsides to the game and some negative feedback regarding it. The main issue being that the game relies heavily on micro-transactions to speed up processes that can take an astronomical amount of time even in mobile game standards. Since then, EA has taken it upon themselves to dial the waiting times back a bit and overhaul the economy of the game. Having put the game down for a few years and recently starting again, the changes I immediately notice is that digging a block of dirt can take anywhere from 3 seconds to 6 hours to dig which is an improvement over previous waiting times (I recall some blocks taking upwards of 3 days before.) I also notice that many of the units and/or powers I had unlocked previously are now unavailable to me which is likely due to some game balancing changes that have been made. Lastly I notice a few quality of life improvements made that were pointed out to me by the advisor. Overall, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try, though some may say the mobile game isn’t anywhere near what the original 97 game was, it’s possible they may be caught up in nostalgia for the old games which no one can blame them for (I love my old games too.)