Let’s get evil — Dungeons 2 hands on preview

While at a Kalypso press event, I was able to get a demonstration as well as some hands-on time with Realmforge Studios’ Dungeons 2. I bought the original Dungeons hoping to get a solid Dungeon Keeper-esque game, and while it did scratch the itch, it played more like a tower defense than the rich and varied dungeon builder that I wanted. Well, I’m happy to say that Dungeons 2 has all the bits and pieces I wanted to see in the original, and adds deep dimensions with whole new gameplay elements as well.

You play as a godly figure who must protect the Dungeon Lord from the enemy, the goody-goody Alliance, who controls the overworld. Your job is to build up your underworld lair and infiltrate the overworld using a variety of nasty creatures meanwhile defending your Dungeon Lord from the waves of Alliance soldiers coming from above.

handPlayers interact with their dungeon indirectly using their devilish hand, ordering snotlings, the game’s little grunt workers, to mine out pathways and dig for gold. As the game progresses, you’ll unlock new character classes you can summon to your dungeon, like the brutish orcs, or crafty goblins that can make traps for you. In the underworld, players can only give suggestions to creatures. Mark whichever blocks you want to be knocked down or where you want traps to be placed, but you’ll never get to decide exactly when or in what order the job gets done. Taking away control forces players to plan even further ahead. There’s no time to react and just drop down traps in Dungeons 2; it’s absolutely necessary that you have a plan for anything that might happen.

Creatures have certain needs that must be fulfilled for them to come into your dungeons. Goblins need a workshop, and Naga need mana factories. Minions needs must also be maintained. Requirements like boredom, anger, beer, wages, and work are necessary for your workforce to function. And believe me, the last thing you want is your army of orcs turning on you because you forgot to make a brewery.

factoryBuilding in Dungeons 2 is simple. Just carve out a room, assign it as the type of production room you want, and place an appropriate “gimmick” inside, giving your creatures plenty of work and supplying your dungeon with whatever provision the room dispenses, whether it’s traps or spells.

The Dungeons universe has so many great little touches. Orcs beautify your dungeon’s walls and “encourage” goblins to work harder. Snotlings that have nothing to do will bow down and praise your Dungeon Lord. Character pours out of every orifice of Dungeons 2, and that charm is only enhanced by the iconic voice of Kevan Brighting, who you might know as the voice from The Stanley Parable.

OverworldDungeons 2 has an all-new feature with its overworld map where once they enter, players can control minions directly just as you would in a traditional RTS like Starcraft or Age of Empires. The overworld gameplay isn’t as robust as in a dedicated RTS, but there are some amazing aspects that I’ve never seen before tucked within.

The underworld and overworld maps are always running, so while your snotlings are collecting gold, you can be controlling your orcs and naga soldiers in battle. Flipping between the two maps is as simple as just clicking on a corresponding minimap on the lower left or right. Keeping tabs on each world is a source of constant action, and if you get distracted for even a second, then you might find your dungeon lord getting sliced to bits.

BattleThe overworld has Alliance camps in certain areas, and killing the soldiers in them claims the territory for the Dungeon Lord, converting the land from an overly lush green forest into a hellish and desolate landscape. “There are little rabbits and cute creatures running around now, but sadly they must die to spread your evilness.” Victor Linke, the game’s art director, joked.

The imbalance of each world is what makes the asymmetrical gameplay work so well. In the underworld, players have the upper hand, unleashing an onslaught of traps and orcs on unsuspecting foes. Meanwhile in the overworld, the Alliance reigns supreme. In one level, enemy soldiers were able to ambush my characters with ease, and had fortifications like castles and camps already set up.

Dungeons 2 will also feature a multiplayer mode for up to four players. It will have several different game modes such as deathmatch and king of the hill. Maps made specifically for multiplayer will be included with at launch.

I went into the Dungeons 2 demo skeptically. I played the original, and while there were definitely some good ideas in it, I didn’t really want more of the same. Luckily, Dungeons 2 appears to deliver an insanely clever experience that surpasses its predecessor in every way, offering up new mechanics at every term with a cheeky sense of humor.

Dungeons 2 is being published by Kalypso and developed by Realmforge. It will release in Q1 of 2015 for PC, Linux, and Steam OS.

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