Dungeon Keeper used to be much more than run-of-the-mill, free-to-play mobile game. Much, much more.
My first encounter with Dungeon Keeper was through a family friend who was a few years older than me. “It’s good to be bad” was the tagline, and the thought of not only being able to do bad things in a game, but even encouraged to, was hugely attractive to the mischievous 13 year old that I was at the time. It was also, to my knowledge, one of the first god games I had played, and the amount of power given to the player was addicting.
The goodly heroes were invading the underworld, and had no business doing so - it was up to you, the Keeper, to defend your dungeon heart and drive them out using any means necessary.
The campaign progressively gave you new creatures and taught you their ins and outs - usually it required building certain rooms in areas carved out by your imps. Each was unique and fulfilled various functions - Trolls were attracted by workshops, and worked in them crafting your devious traps, Mistresses were attracted by torture chambers, and assisted in torturing and converting enemy units (although they would torture each other if left alone in the torture chamber too long) Rogues by casinos and so forth. You would have to pay your units, or they would grow dissatisfied and rebel, attacking you instead. This also happened if they ran out of food, or if you slapped them around too much.
The Keeper can do more than just tell their imps where to dig. Troops are disposable, and since you are evil, you should feel nothing when sacrificing them for mana so that you can cast the gold spell because you don’t have enough gold to pay your creatures (the evil advisor smarmily reminds you, sounding like he fully hopes your creatures rebel and destroy your dungeon heart) And well, you don’t have to pay creatures if they are dead.
You can also toss the ones you don’t want back in the portal, but good luck if an enemy attacks and you have just sacrificed a bunch of creatures you couldn’t afford to pay, or because you were hoping for a dark angel and got a bile demon instead, and had tossed him back in the portal.
You could also possess any of your creatures and explore the world through their eyes, simply to explore your dungeon or to scout for enemies, perhaps even getting blown up by a trap that you make a mental note of. The possibilities felt endless at the time.
Included with DK2 was a trailer for Dungeon Keeper 3: War For The Overworld. We see the Horned Reaper, affectionately called “Horny” (lol) and the denizens of the nether realms breaking out into the overworld, the realm of the goodly heroes, in what was intended as a direct sequel to DK2.
Heavens know why they included the DK3 trailer, since arguably anyone who played DK2 wound up salivating over a sequel that would never materialize. It seems kind of cruel.
According to the Dungeon Keeper Wiki, production was halted in favour of Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter for platforms like PS2, I don’t remember any of them being particularly good. So this is quite sad.
There was not a scratch of gameplay in the trailer, and it is kind of hard to imagine Dungeon Keeper in an overworld. There is War for the Overworld on Steam, which started as a fan-made sequel to DK2, Molyneux himself even encouraged people to support the Kickstarter. How close this comes to scratching that itch it comes, is up for debate. Maybe someone else can weigh in in the comment section. It has received favourable reviews, and looks promising.
Perhaps, at the time, what the DK team wanted to achieve was not possible without a few years of development and funding, and EA wanted to capitalize on the popularity of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, which both received games from EA in 2002, 3 years after DK2's release in 1999. Both games appear to have been favourably reviewed, which is nice, but at the cost of one of the most popular and unique franchises of the 90's.
We will never really know what a true Dungeon Keeper game would be like in 2017 had EA not pulled the plug, and maybe it’s better that way. It is nice to know that War for the Overworld is a Kickstarter success story, appearing to have delivered the goods and fulfilled the longing fans had for a sequel.
It would be nice to see EA take the franchise seriously, but the amount of work involved in redressing the mobile abomination that is the salt in many a fan’s wound would be better spent on their next FIFA game probably.
What would DK3 be like? Perhaps War for the Overworld is the answer, and the spirit of the franchise is better left in their capable hands.
It seems Dungeon Keeper in it’s current form has become truly evil, and not in the fun sense that invites you to share and delight in it’s cruelty, but rather the purest form of evil in games. Memorable and coveted IP has been squandered in a blatant cash grab, using the most fiendish weapon available to greedy developers - microtransactions.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts and memories! Also, let us know what you think of War for the Overworld if you have played it, I am particularly curious since I only discovered it was a thing while researching this article. Anyways, thanks for reading, and I hope everyone has a great weekend!