Dungeons: The Dark Lord Preview

Ever played Dungeons and Dragons and really hated your dungeon master? Does it seem like the traps just keep getting harder and harder? Well, if your dungeon master is anything like the Dungeon Lord in Dungeons: The Dark Lord, Kalypso Media’s standalone expansion to Dungeons, it’s not hard to see why.

The objective of every level in Dungeons: The Dark Lord is to protect your Dungeonheart, a giant red orb that provides your dungeon with life and grants the Dungeon Master its powers. Not only can your Dungeon Master engage in combat with heroes intent on plumbing the depths of your dungeon, but you can also create dastardly traps, as well as distract heroes by catering to their needs (Magic, Gold, or Equipment) – this portion of the game certainly seems to play like a medieval Theme Park Tycoon, except the rides here kill your patrons, allowing you to gather precious Soul Energy.

Soul Energy allows you to create Prestige Items that will distract heroes and grant your Dungeon Master additional power and eventually level up, offering a skill tree and attribute setup similar to that seen in Diablo. As you progress through the game, additional prestige items are unlocked, allowing for faster leveling and more Prestige, which in turn unlocks further awards.

Customization of your dungeon is an easy task, thanks to the game’s overhead view. Directing your goblin minions to clear land, mine for gold to purchase gimmicks (what the game calls objects that classify the different rooms in your dungeon), as well as placement of these gimmicks are all easily done. That’s not all your goblin slaves can do – in times of need, the AI will direct them to assist you in combat.

Speaking of combat, Dungeons: The Dark Lord boasts a large repertoire of spells and strong melee abilities to combat the would-be heroes looking to explore your dungeon. Though things are certainly moving in the right direction with the combat, we would recommend sticking with the overhead view, as the more traditional Third Person viewpoint seems to need some work in the preview version that we tested.

The game boasts a much expanded campaign over the original, as well as an expanded set of gimmicks, spells, and over 50 unique prestige items. The campaign is fully voiced and features the signature tongue-in-cheek humor that made the original popular, often parodying adventuring troupes that appear in pop culture, such as the Fellowship from Lord of the Rings.

Though it was not live as of this writing, the game features a few new multiplayer modes as well: Deathmatch, King of the Hill, and Survival. What’s interesting about these multiplayer modes is that a whole new set of spells have been created specifically with Player vs Player combat in mind. In addition, players will be able to take control of popular boss characters from the first Dungeons such as Minos The Zombie King, Calypso (who you also control during the game’s robust tutorial missions), and of course, the Dungeon Lord.

Dungeons: The Dark Lord has a unique style that I would say blends the bright colors of a game like World of Warcraft with some of the grit of much darker games like Diablo and Hellgate: London, all without darkening the game’s light tone too much. It seemed to run well enough on our laptop at medium settings – so don’t expect to have to be playing on a high end machine.

Of course, we couldn’t leave out the many tile sets that seem very crisply drawn and keep with the game’s unique visual style – in particular the new Ice Crystal tile set was very well done.

Dungeons: The Dark Lord seems to be taking a lot of steps in the right direction, adding many features that fans wanted out of the original, the most important of these being multiplayer – so if you were a fan of the original Dungeons, we expect you’ll fully enjoy this unique blend of genres. We’ll see if Kalypso can maintain, and perhaps improve upon the level of quality we saw in our preview version. Dungeons the Dark Lord releases on September 27, 2011.

Dustin Steiner is GameZone’s eSports Correspondent! Follow him on Twitter @SteinerDustin