Realmforge Studios and Kalypso Media continue their Dungeon Keeper-inspired saga with Dungeons 4, a game that treads familiar ground while offering a devilishly delightful experience in the world of dungeon management. Let’s take a look at the game’s narrative, gameplay, humour, and overall performance, exploring whether it successfully builds upon its predecessors or falls into the trap of repetitiveness (spoiler alert: it does, a bit).
Narrative Evolution: A Witty Twist on Evil Conquests
The fourth instalment kicks off with what seems like a decisive battle gone awry for the Absolute Evil and its minions. As they seize control of the land, a few valiant heroes persist in resisting their tyrannical rule. Notably, Thalya, the Evil’s most trusted servant, and her not-so-brilliant brother play pivotal roles in the unfolding chaos. The game weaves a humorous tale, laden with comedy, pop culture references, and meta elements that are cleverly integrated into the scripts.
The abundance of dialogue, both from the narrator and in-game characters, contributes to the comedic atmosphere. However, the option to adjust the frequency of these dialogues proves essential, as the charm wears thin, occasionally bordering on distracting and annoying.
Gameplay: Balancing Darkness and Humour
Dungeons 4 follows a straightforward gameplay loop – progress through the story-driven campaign, which strikes a balance between length and engagement. The campaign introduces new gimmicks and situations regularly, preventing monotony. However, the game grapples with the common issue of repetitiveness found in many management sims. Waiting for resources to accumulate or manoeuvring armies through convoluted paths extends the levels artificially, occasionally testing the patience of players.
The core base-building and combat systems, honed over four games, remain robust. New additions and streamlining enhance the overall experience, making it addictive. While managing the dungeon, the role of Snots, diminutive goblin-like creatures, becomes crucial. Their tasks, from farming resources to maintaining the system, contribute to the intricate web of gameplay mechanics.
Strategic decision-making, inherent in most management sims and RTS titles, becomes prominent as objectives escalate, requiring effective multitasking against mounting pressure from adversaries.
Cheesing the Darkness: Finding the Path of Least Resistance
Despite the complexity of scenarios, the game provides numerous opportunities to exploit its mechanics. The developers encourage players to discover unconventional strategies, be it rushing to find endless diamond deposits, leveraging specific trap combinations, or exploiting the F2 key shortcuts. While not a cakewalk, the scenarios demand effective multitasking, offering a smooth ride for those well-versed in the game’s mechanics.
Multiplayer and Modes: Extending the Evil Empire
Beyond the Campaign mode, Dungeons 4 opens avenues for cooperative play and a flexible Skirmish mode, offering different scenarios based on the campaign. This mode accepts modifiers unlocked through story progression, allowing dedicated players to experiment with dungeon builds and systems. The performance on the PC version is commendable, with no crashes or stuttering observed, showcasing a game that runs smoothly even during busy and resource-intensive moments.
Visuals and Continuity: A Fine Balance
The PC version of the game delivers near-perfect performance, with no crashes or stuttering and a consistent framerate even during intense moments. The slightly dated technology behind Dungeons 4 contributes to its stability, with a colourful and easily readable art style reminiscent of Warcraft III. While some might perceive the game as sticking closely to its roots, it manages to achieve a clear vision without unnecessary complications. The intentional continuity may be seen as a strength, maintaining a delicate balance that has proven successful over the years.
Final Verdict: Embracing the Dark Legacy
In the realm of RTS and management sims, Dungeons 4 stands as a testament to its legacy. The game offers an enjoyable experience for players familiar with the series, striking a balance between innovation and preservation. While some may yearn for more drastic changes, the deliberate approach taken by Realmforge Studios and Kalypso Media ensures a game that stays true to its essence.
The success and enjoyment derived from Dungeons 4 hinge on players’ expectations. For those anticipating a continuation of the series’ evolution, the game delivers a satisfying experience with room to grow into something more memorable. Conversely, those looking for something new may find themselves disappointed. As the Absolute Evil reigns supreme once again, Dungeons 4 remains a worthy addition to the dungeon management genre, embracing the dark legacy with humour and strategic depth.