In 1997, an amazing game titled Dungeon Keeper was released for the PC that would shake up the world of strategy gaming. Now in 2011, the new Realmforge Studios title "Dungeons" has been tagged by many as a hopeful spiritual successor to the classic series of hero killing good times. Don't get too excited though as a numerous amount of hiccups and poor design choices keep Dungeons from being able to stand out as anything other than a less than mediocre title.
The story focuses on your character, the Dungeon Lord, who starts the game as the Prince of the Underworld. A traitorous girlfriend ends up sending you down the hierarchy of dungeon crafting masters and in turn forces you to have to build your way back to the top. The plot is supposed to be comical and light-hearted, but some awful voice-acting and lack of any character depth leave the player wishing for more. Throughout the game, you're followed around in spirit by an annoying goblin who doesn't stop talking. The dry script for this character is shadowed completely by his high-pitched voice that will have you yearning for some earplugs. Trying to mute this creature and just read the text is a task all unto itself thanks to a squint inducing font. These issues become trivial once you're forced to begin playing the game.
Once you escape your bitter ex-girlfriend you must start a new dungeon. Now when I say "new" dungeon I really mean following a linear path of construction. There are rooms scattered throughout the map that you can connect to the main trail of your dungeon, making every dungeon seem like someone else's creation as opposed to your own. The main goal of Dungeons is to create the most challenging and rewarding dungeon for incoming heroes. You accomplish this by filling your dungeon with furniture called gimmicks. The more gimmicks you place in your dungeon, the more prestige you receive. This is a very superficial concept and in reality is just another nuisance that you have to focus on.
While you can place monsters around your dungeon in the form of pentagrams that spawn different types of monsters, your character is mostly responsible for defending your maze. The pentagrams that you place also extends the area that you're capable of building in. If you reach the cap of your monster population you'll find out that in order to create more pentagrams, to extend your area of creation, you'll have to destroy previous pentagrams first. The whole system involved is broken and very stressful to use.
Once the heroes that enter your dungeon become satisfied, you are responsible for killing them before they escape. You will undoubtedly find yourself many rooms away from escaping heroes without enough speed to return to the entrance. While this would already make some pull their hair out in frustration, side quests and monsters that threaten your Dungeon Heart force you to leave your main mission. Managing the whole system turns playing a game into a tedious job that has no visible reward. Many of the issues seem to stem from having to control a singular character in a game that requires a very large amount of constant observation of your whole dungeon.
Graphically, Dungeons is nothing special. When observing your dungeon from the top-down isometric view it can become hard to see exactly what is occurring in the blandly colored levels. You can also zoom into a 3rd person perspective which is almost pointless as you cannot adjust the camera from this angle at all. The soundtrack is what you would expect a game of this nature to have (its not packed with techno or death metal). A major issue of the audio is the horrendous voice-acting that will have you clenching your teeth to stop from laughing.
In most situations one can overlook some downfalls of games that aren't "AAA" titles. Most of these types of games are $10-$30 at the most. I cannot have any sympathy for Dungeons though as it is listed at a unworthy $39.99. An obscene amount of technical issues, ranging from small to large, keep this game from deserving anything other than a poor score. At $40 one would expect a whole lot more in every department. Dungeons is an unfortunate example of what can happen when a great concept is cluttered with tedious tasks that keep any sort of fun at a minimum.