Dungeon Empires ReviewBy: Necroscourge posted at Apr 17, 2012 4:41 pm
I rolled a Knight, and was then faced with one of the most useless, confusing tutorials I have ever seen in a game. You are walked through a painfully terribly translated series of steps that explains how to add to your dungeon and how to fight. At the start you feel like the game has absolutely boned you because unlike most tutorials the game gives you most of your starting stuff after the tutorial has ended, leaving most players to have never even built a second room because they thought they started with absolutely nothing. At time of writing there were over 150 dungeons in the very bottom bracket (Less then 300 hp) and maybe only 10-20 were likely active.
There are two main types of gameplay. The dungeon editing and Hero raiding. Your hero regains his health very slowly, taking atleast 30 minutes to hours depending on your HP total. And in most dungeons without any potions you can expect to take quite a bit of damage as many generic monster combos can actually hurt you amazingly bad. You see unlike other RPG’s monster levels are not equal to hero levels. Heros can go up to level 50, unlocking new gameplay mechanics, abilities, and getting more stats as they progress. Monsters on the other hand are leveled up by mastery and can go up to level 5.
Levels matter too because most monsters double in health from level 1 to 2. This really matters because having to fight too many strong monsters will eventually drain your mana because you have to pull out your strong attacks and despite what the tutorial states using extra mana for your moves is far less efficient than just casting it again until much later in the game when you are leveled up enough to be doing huge chunks of damage. Mana and health cannot be regained in dungeon without potions or feats. And by the way hold out on assigning talents until you know what you are doing because the game does not give you a free respec leading to you being absolutely boned when you find out your talents are completely useless.
That brings us to the pay model. Dungeon Empires is ran by Gamigo, a generic online game company that abuses cashshops. You see almost everything that helps you is pimped out for absurd amounts of Dragon Ore, the games pay currency. Refreshing the shop, buying potions mid dungeon, purchasing better shards (Useless), buying powerful hard to find monsters, and more. Whats worse is that the conversions are absolutely terrible. For a whole three dollars you get 20 Ore. Guess what you can buy with that? One potion.
A potion that by the way you can just buy for a handful of gold at the shop. For a whole $15 you can buy one purple room, or a handful of mildly useful monsters. If I am paying that much in a game that I can realistically play once a hour I would expect a little more than that. I can’t really get behind paying for a game that so obviously will go to any rotten length to extort you. Especially when you can level up fairly easily until level 15 or so and quickly farm the best chests in the dungeon to get better rooms and objects. In a lot of cases it's quantity over quality in most monsters and you only need a few really big rooms to significantly harm a adventurer.
Every players dungeon can be raided by you once a day, with not much preventing you from biting off way more then you can chew and dying. The game is also not fucking around with the death penalty, being only slightly more forgiving then Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. First Edition. You lose all of the experience you gained in the dungeon, not most of it. ALL. Thats right, you can attack a big dungeon and die at the very last monster who gets a lucky hit then immediately lose several hundred experience points. At least give us some of it! I just wasted upwards of 15 minutes killing monsters for items that do not improve my hero directly on top of the hour regaining my strength and must now wait another hour to regen from this attack. 5-10% would be many times better then 0%.
Every room you clear gives you a small selection of loot, from which you can take one item and one item only. This has the potential to get insulting as you can easily be put in a position where you are forced to decide between two or more amazingly rare drops that may take days to find again. What's more you can option to just take some gold, needed for placing monsters and buying skills and this is one of only three methods of getting it. What I do really enjoy about the game is most of the monsters are actually well balanced and enemy size is not the only dictating factor of its strength, though after awhile you start to notice there really is not that large of a monster selection until late game when the obscure monsters start popping up.
Found items go from grey(Common/Rubbish) to Purple (Very Rare) and each type of item has its own bonuses for being really rare. Rare rooms tend to have better slots for monsters and fixtures, Rare monsters are stronger and have better access to their racial abilities, and rare fixtures and gear are way more beneficial. The rarity of the monsters you fight and how many at once gives you better reward options as well as the chance to take keys. Keys are dungeon specific and are not carried over and for good reason, because there are three multi lock chests by every dungeon exit of varying size. The smallest gives mostly green, the medium gives mostly blues, and the largest mostly purples. Opening them however is pretty hard as you usually need to fight the hardest monsters in the dungeon to be offered keys and there is absolutely no way to go back if you forget to grab or use them.
Your dungeon is comprised of a not-marked-in-any-way generic empty room that adventurers start in, a exit portal room that also contains the locked chests, and as many rooms you can crowbar into the fairly large map they give you. You can get rooms pretty quickly and it's not hard to have a big and tough dungeon after a few days of play which is one of the best design decisions in the game. Every room has variable slots for monsters, fixtures and doors. You can unlock more of the rooms features by spending shards from scrapped loot that you don’t feel like using. Runes can be damned hard to find and the prices get pretty gnarly after awhile so be prepared to spend most of your time looking for stuff you can’t use to shred it in the wholes of rolling high and getting good runes.
Monsters come in small, medium, and large just like fixtures. Larger monsters include dragons and hellspawn where smaller monsters are usually thieves, skeletons, and giant ants. The rarer rooms will have better spots for you to put down monsters, as the rooms blueprint determines how large the slots can be. Blue and Purple rooms can even have one or two Large slots, while green ones normally have a Medium slot or two. Rooms however despite their name all pretty much look the same untill you put fixtures or room styles such as mine or crypt in. My first green room is called the Gunroom and despite how hard I look at it there is nothing in the room period indicating this. The rooms look too bland and could use some unique features to go along with its unique name. If its a gun room put a damn cannon in it! I would like to see a big bridge room with a large slot on it perhaps, or something that makes your dungeon look more unique.
When a player goes through your dungeon they are looted and hero objects are put in your loot chest accessible from the editor. . This is the way you will be getting most of your items because hero gear cannot be found in the dungeon at all. This puts you in a terrible catch 22 situation because not many people actively play the game, meaning you almost never get raided to earn you gear. The best way to get raided is to get a stronger dungeon and to do that you need to go through stronger dungeons and fight the angriest monsters there. Trouble is that without very good gear and a high level you will usually get slapped aside if you do that, when that happens you lose every single point of experience but retain all of the dungeon stuff you looted that is likely is not going to be enough to really bolster your dungeon too much. This restricts you to having to farm experience from small dungeons to get a bunch of common objects and shredding them for insignificant amounts of runes because if you attack a bigger dungeon they may have a strong room that decimates you rendering your raid near useless and serving to only waste your time.
As mentioned earlier the game is not translated well. There are many broken sentences in dialogues and some of the games terms are rather odd. The game also has a chatroom integrated that for some odd reason considers most of the english language to be offensive. Words like Poo, Euro, Pot, Damn, and more are completely censored leading to such gems as “I ran out of ***ions and I am too ***r to afford more of them.” Atleast it still shows the words with asterisks instead of completely removing the message like other games.
The game also has a elemental system with four elements. Fire, Water, Light, and Dark. All this does is give the monster part elemental damage to make it hurt more and a resistance to its element. In most cases the monsters element does not have any say whatsoever on its actual abilities. Dark monsters can cast Light spells and Fire monsters can use Water spells which is a critical error that no fantasy based dungeon crawler should mess up. Undead and Dark aligned monsters should be completely unable to cast holy magics, yet for some reason Dark Spiders and Ghosts can fling around exorcisms around willy nilly for large chunks of damage making them the best monsters for damage early on before most players get holy resist.
The games dungeon building mechanics are very well designed despite a few minor nitpicks here and there and rather slow progression at times. There is also a notable lack of any real multiplayer. The game tells you that you can take a party of players into a dungeon at around mid-game however these are just copies of friends that have given you a hero license and can be led into combat. I would much rather being at square one and able to cooperatively tackle the strongest dungeons with them by my side. I also have to bring up that spells are unlocked by progression in level and there are not many of them which is also very disappointing. Would it really hurt them to read through some Advanced DnD spellbooks and work those in somehow? Maybe toss in some traps that the dexterity class can disarm easier?
The bottom line is this game is worth your time if you have any love of dungeon crawlers. Building your dungeon is genuinely fun, and later in the game you can point at your dungeon and say “I earned all of that”. You start with rubbish and are quickly able to make a pretty sweet place for other players to raid. There are some inconsistencies in how they think elements work, and the cash shop is a very badly worded joke but the fact you have the potential to earn just about everything in the game without having to pay is a huge plus and because you can’t permanently damage another dungeon paying for good hero items does not really hurt anybody. I really suggest this game for fantasy nuts and for fans of Dungeon keeper. My biggest complaints are actually fairly minor and easily fixed, and the best advice I would give to the Dungeon Empires team is to add in more variety to drops for monsters and rooms as well as more spells.
Written by Necroscourge
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