Blast From The Past
It’s good to be bad in Dungeon Keeper
When I first laid eyes upon Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper it was as a birthday gift from my dad. At first I wondered what the heck it was, and thought it was one of those DOS-based shooters like Hexen or Doom. I could never have imagined how much joy I was about to get out of slapping imps.
The entire genius of Dungeon Keeper is that it turns everything on its head. You’re not playing the goody two-shoes hero plunging down into the dank and dark dungeon to slay monsters. No. You’re the Keeper of the dungeon and you’re building it, attracting and managing frightful creatures, mining gold to pay their wages, and of course preparing for the inevitable showdown with the local forces of good. It was such a refreshing spin and didn’t take itself too seriously.
Each level you start by staring at the Dungeon Heart, which can take quite a bashing from heroes or creatures on a rampage, and so it goes without saying you had better have it well protected. From there you’ll start to examine local surroundings and use your floating hand to mark out dirt blocks for your imps to dig out. As you expand you’ll start plotting where rooms will go, what defences you might build and of course be looking for another gold vein to flood the treasure room.
“Your creatures are under attack!”
It’s the dungeon’s creatures that are the real star of the game and there’s quite a wide array of choices from the more mundane spider and fly, to demon spawn (which become dragons for some reason) and even ghosts! Just because you’ve attracted these creatures doesn’t mean your job is done either, because some types really don’t get along with others. Spiders and flies for instance, and the fat bile demon with the skeletons. You can even convert heroes into your thralls with enough torture though you’ll need to be liberal with healing them until they break.
A special spell called possession lets you actually ‘possess’ a creature in first-person to explore your dungeon, and even attack enemies, as otherwise creatures do want ever they want. It’s what I originally had thought the game was all about before getting the surprise of my young gaming life at age 11. The perfect age to learn about sticking it to the forces of good, imp slapping, chicken slapping, gold hording and getting narrated to by the awesome voice of Richard Ridings. “Your minions have a craving for chocolate.”
“You have conquered this realm!”
You progress through a picturesque and disgustingly peaceful realm by building your dungeons beneath their lands. Once you’ve had enough time to expand out, level up your creatures with training and hopefully learn some spells in the library, you’ll get waves of heroes trying to break into your labyrinthine creation and destroy your heart. Finally you’ll get the “Beware; the Lord of the Land approaches” message and it’s the level’s boss. He’s tough, and will likely be flanked by his friends who come in all shapes and sizes.
It’s a fantastic ‘god game’ that lets you revel in being bad and enjoy every bit of it along the way. From the fun of building your heavily fortified dungeon, to exploring out into the dangerous corners just beyond your reinforced walls, and taking the fight to dungeons of even rival keepers or heroes. There are just so many aspects you can love toying with individually. Don’t forget to hunt for that special hidden box that lets you take your favourite creature with you into the next level!
Where to get Dungeon Keeper today
Having originally released for MS-DOS, Windows 95 and macOS back in June 1997 the game is certainly long in the tooth. Fortunately the dark gods are with us as Dungeon Keeper Gold can be readily purchased from EA’s own Origin store, or from GOG.com. In fact if you’re a subscriber to Origin Access then you already have the game to play, and even its sequel. If you’re looking for a modern take on the setting, then this spiritual successor – War for the Overworld – will be well worth looking at too.