Slap my Imp up: Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper

Monsters need to earn a living too

Bullfrog Productions: Dungeon Keeper 1997

Antique Code Show This January EA managed to piss just about everyone off with their greedy micro transaction-fuelled Android/iOS reboot of Dungeon Keeper. How dare it sully the joyful memories of this near perfect mix of god game/RTS that kept me busy being an evil overlord back in 1997.

Bullfrog Productions: Dungeon Keeper 1997

Fiendishly good reviews on the box cover

The Dungeon Keeper’s Horned Reaper – who appeared as the box logo – always reminded me of one of my favourite 2000AD characters, Nemesis the Warlock. Indeed, once I started building dungeons, my reign of destruction and mayhem was not to be stopped.

Dungeon Keeper was the last game designed at Bullfrog, with the god of all god games at the helm, Peter Molyneux. The game acted as a brilliant parting shot to his time there.

Bullfrog Productions: Dungeon Keeper

A wandering Worlock

Syndicate will always be my Bullfrog game of choice, but this predecessor to Molyneux’s brilliant Fable series with its cynical take on the usual candy floss fantasy fair was hilarious and addictive.

Like some would-be Internet troll, I hid underground plotting the demise of all those princesses and unicorns above in the land of Eversmile. God forbid they come to my territory; I might have to send them to The Mistress, my own personal dominatrix, for a whipping! Just watch the world map aesthetically change as I conquer kingdoms from Monet to Hieronymus Bosch.

Bullfrog Productions: Dungeon Keeper 1997

The scenic route

Demonic World domination is a serious goal, but the tutorial system made sure that I was never overwhelmed. Slowly unlocking monster types, skills and strategies as I progressed through the levels ensured the game never got boring and stayed controllable. Beginning each level with a bare chamber I command a hellish workforce to construct a dungeon fit for my monstrous minions.

At first, there are only a few rooms and monster types. However, as I advance everything slowly unlocks and I can start turning enemies into Vampires or skeletons – I’d feel a genuine sense of glee when gaining a new minion.

Bullfrog Productions: Dungeon Keeper 1997

Every Worlock needs a library, apparently. Here, tended by an Imp

The tutorial system’s ability to prepare me for sudden changes in game play difficulty and overall solid gameplay mechanics make Dungeon Keeper feel like a superior production with remarkable attention to detail. Yet, thankfully, it never takes itself too seriously. The key is to strike a balance between reinforcements, research, and hostile expansion.

My main slave the Imp is brought to life with a click of the mouse and a cheeky “Yipee!” This most common creature is the foundation of the game, his essential chores include digging, reinforcing walls and mining gold. If he ever gets slovenly, all it takes is a few slaps delivered by a disembodied hand and a right click, to get him back to the everyday dungeon errands.

Bullfrog Productions: Dungeon Keeper 1997

The heart of the dungeon

Fill my treasure room minion! Awash with humour, Dungeon Keeper has a Pythonesque narrator willing to add comedic insult to sadistic injury at any level and is the first to remind me “Your creatures are fighting amongst themselves!” This demonic infighting will happen if I don’t pay enough attention to the characteristics of each monster.

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