The one big success story to come out of my recent flirtation with Origin Access is Dungeons III. I liked it enough I managed to play through the entire campaign (though not the DLC) before my Access subscription ran out.
I hadn’t played the first two, but the story isn’t exactly deep, and I didn’t find my lack of experience with the franchise made things any less enjoyable.
Dungeons III is a mix of real time strategy, simulation, and city-building. You play as the Ultimate Evil, a cartoonish Sauron-type figure. You construct dungeons, defend them against incursions by parties of heroes, and raise armies to bring ruin to the surface world.
While underground, the game plays a city-builder. You have less direct control over your troops, and the focus is on building rooms and traps and managing the big picture. When you send troops to the surface, the game turns into an RTS, with more direct control.
The difference in control schemes between the two set-ups is occasionally jarring, especially as you’ll spend a lot of time going back and forth between them, but mostly I would say the variety of the two modes is a strength of the game.
The other great strength of Dungeons III, I’d say, is that it’s a very relaxing experience that you rarely have to work too hard at. The pace is slow, and you can take your time building the evil empire of your dreams.
The tone of the game and its story is quite silly, too. At no point does it even approach taking itself seriously, and it breaks the fourth wall about once every fifteen seconds.
The story is mainly built around Thalya, an Elven priestess of the light whom the Ultimate Evil corrupts into a champion of evilness. So, you know. Sassy Elf girl. I’m sold.
On your journey to confront and defeat Thalya’s paladin foster-father, you cut a swath through his allies and his kingdom, including locations such as “Dollaran,” “Twistram,” and “Stormbreeze.”
Nudge nudge, wink wink.
The Blizzard-like feel is further enhanced by the bright, stylized graphics, whose vivid colours and exaggerated proportions make even the darkest pits of your dungeon seem inviting. It may not be pushing the technological envelope, but it’s still a very nice game to look at.
My health has been bad lately, and Dungeons was exactly the low stress gaming I needed while I was coughing and wheezing. No “srs bznz” here. This is a game that was just built to be fun.
That said, it is of course not perfect. It does get very repetitive after a while. They make some effort to throw different mission types at you, but you’re still going to be doing mostly the same stuff every level. I think it would have helped if they gave you more established dungeons to start with later in the game, but you pretty much start from scratch every time.
The pacing of each match could also be balanced better. The rate at which you gain resources is heavily throttled, so no matter how well you play it takes a long time to get established, and this can make the early game a bit of a rough ride sometimes.
Conversely, once your economy finds its footing and you start laying down traps and mustering your army, things start to snowball very fast.
I’d have liked to have seen the early game be a bit easier, and the late game be a little more challenging. I’m mostly okay with your dungeon being unassailable past a certain point, but it’s too easy to run roughshod over the surface once you have your deathball up and running.
Still, it’s a game I’d recommend.
Overall rating: 7.4/10