It's often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the case of Dungeons, its imitation of Dungeon Keeper doesn't so much flatter as it does take the game out on a date and buy it breakfast in the morning. Nearly everything, from the character you play as to the world map that expands as you spread your reign of evil, is lifted from the Bullfrog classic. There are some new ideas, but more often than not, these make the game worse. These include lifeless hack-and-slash combat, an unrewarding leveling system, and tedious resource gathering. An injection of humor and some good voice acting take some of the pain away, but it's not enough to save Dungeons from being a dated trip down memory lane.
6297539None Deimos isn't one to turn down a spot of grave robbery.
Most of the humor comes at the beginning of the game, where a silly plot introduces you to a dungeon master known as Deimos. He's having relationship troubles with his demonic girlfriend Calypso, and sadly, not even a bunch of flowers and a back rub is enough to win her back. Instead, she decides to steal Deimos' throne and cast him into exile at the top of the dungeon. It's your job to guide him back to power by rebuilding his empire and exacting revenge on his ex-girlfriend. The basic gameplay is ripped wholesale from Dungeon Keeper. You have to build a thriving dungeon in real time, filling it with monsters, such as mutant frogs, flying snakes, and rabid rats; traps, such as floor spikes, swinging stones, and arrows; and decorative items, like skulls and statues. Your main objective is to lure enemies called heroes into your dungeon. They run around your dungeon calling out for "more experience!" and threatening to destroy your dungeon heart, which can end the game. Rather than ask you to immediately kill them, Dungeons puts a new spin on things by asking you to look after them before you indulge your sadistic side.
Heroes carry a certain amount of soul energy with them, which increases as they find interesting things to look at, fight with, or learn from as they explore your dungeon. You need soul energy to build decorative items and other structures called gimmicks, which in turn increases your prestige level, unlocking new missions that allow you to progress. To keep that soul energy flowing, you need to cater to each hero's need. If heroes crave gold, build a treasure chest; if they crave knowledge, build a library; or if they're masochists, create more monsters. Catering to the needs of mere mortals becomes incredibly tedious because the heroes never seem to be satisfied, often complaining about a lack of amenities such as libraries or armories, even if you've built several. When you've had enough, you can choose to kill the ungrateful adventurers and steal their gold or send them to a prison or torture chamber to extract more soul energy.
The charred remains of your conquests can be seen on the map.
Unfortunately, killing heroes isn't as simple as sending your monsters after them, because you don't have direct control over any monsters you've built. They just sit in their pentagram homes until an enemy happens to walk past. They often ignore passing heroes, and are barely strong enough to defeat them on their own. To deal significant damage to heroes, you must increase your monsters' experience levels by using soul energy. This requires a large amount of energy--more than you can gather from just a few heroes. This is fine in levels in which monsters are used more as bait than as dungeon defenders, but can be frustrating in levels in which you must fend off large groups of enemies. By the time you've gathered enough soul energy to level up your monsters, hero levels have increased several times, making it incredibly difficult to keep up with them.