Review: Dungeons III

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.

The surface world in Dungeons IIII 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.

Some rooms in Dungeons IIIThe 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.

Evil does pay after all.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

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Gaming Round-Up: The Lightning Round

Been having trouble settling on a “main” game lately. I’ve run out of stuff to do in Anthem, and The Division 2 is more something I just pop into from time to time (plus I’m a little burnt out on shooters right now).

A cutscene in DemoniconInstead, I’ve decided to try out a long list of games, rapid-fire style. Most of these were via Origin Access, which I subscribed to for a month just for the sake of testing out games, but a few were from my Steam backlog or other sources.

Demonicon

I really liked the world-building for this. It seemed like a very unique setting. However, everything about the game is just super janky, from the outdated graphics to the inexplicably wonky controls to the weirdly incest-focused storyline.

Fractured (alpha)

I got a key for this via my gig at Massively Overpowered. Honestly, I don’t why they dropped the NDA. Fractured is in such an early state it barely qualifies as a tech demo. You can run around, do some basic crafting, and kill wolves, and that’s it. At least the music was nice?

I’m not saying Fractured is a bad game. I’m saying it’s not a game at all yet.

Pillars of Eternity

I’ve been wondering for a while if my newfound love of table-top gaming would improve my view of CRPGs, which seek to replicate that experience in a video game environment.

My character in Pillars of EternityNo, it has not.

Mechanics that make sense in tabletop just don’t work as well in a video game, and Pillars of Eternity is especially egregious example of why I don’t like CRPGs. Combat pretty much plays itself, and victory or defeat is determined on the character sheet, not the battlefield. What’s the point of playing a video game with so little interactivity?

Some of the class concepts are pretty cool, but it isn’t enough to overcome how dull the actual gameplay is.

Also, wow, is the UI for Pillars of Eternity ever bad. Why are all my active abilities teensy weensy icons I can only access by hovering over a tiny widget in the corner of the screen?

Tyranny

Another CRPG, I found the gameplay of Tyranny far more palatable than PoE (though that’s a low bar). I actually got to press buttons sometimes, so there’s that. I also think the premise — being the servant of an evil dark lord — is interesting, but it doesn’t seem to do it justice.

I was hoping for something like the experience of playing a Light Side Imperial in SWTOR — struggling to balance your personal conscience with your loyalty to corrupt superiors. Instead, Tyranny seems content to pigeon-hole you into the roll of the villain no matter what. It’s not even a case of choosing the lesser evil; you’re just the bad guy.

Combat in the CRPG TyrannyI don’t think You Kick Puppies: The Game is a very compelling premise.

Beyond that, I also found myself exhausted by the information overload this game throws at you. The game mechanics are overwhelmingly complex, and every NPC has absolute reams of dialogue. I’d say it’s like reading a novel rather than playing a game, but novels have editors.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

This one was pretty fun. Force-lifting people off of ledges was good fun, and I felt like the force of destruction a Sith ought to be. I did find some of the controls a bit odd, and the way the camera changes for boss fights is jarring.

Ultimately, I lost interest because there didn’t seem to be much of a story.

Torment: Tides of Numenera

I probably wouldn’t have tried this if I’d known the combat was turn-based. Again, it makes sense in tabletop, but not for a video where I’m trying to be immersed in the moment.

Also, like Tyranny, the amount of reading was ludicrous.

Combat in Torment: Tides of NumeneraDarksiders

Like Force Unleashed, this was fun, if a bit mindless. I enjoyed hacking and slashing my way through demons for a while, but the story didn’t grab me much, and when I got stuck on a platforming section, I became frustrated and walked away.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

I know this is considered one of the all-time greats, but to be honest I only lasted about twenty minutes. The graphics have not aged well, and the combat turned me off right away. Then I bugged out(?) and couldn’t move, and I lost my will to keep trying.

Grim Dawn

Seems like a solid game. Very similar to Titan Quest, but not quite as tedious. As in Titan Quest, you can combine classes, which allows for some interesting combos. I went with shaman and occultist, focusing on nature magic and pets. I also liked how, well, grim the setting is. Very ambient.

On the downside, the voice acting is abominable, I felt very starved for skill points, and I strongly dislike games that require you to unlock higher difficulties. Normal is too easy.

My shaman in Grim DawnI’m definitely tempted to buy Grim Dawn and play more at some point, but I will have to think about it.

Dungeons III

Now this game I liked. So much so, in fact, that it deserves its own post…

New articles

Finally, before I go, I’d like to drop a link to my latest article at MMO Bro, where I explore group roles outside the traditional trinity.

And don’t forget to follow my Not So Massively column at Massively Overpowered! I have some more detailed reviews of new games I’ve tried recently over there.