Dungeons 4 Hands-on impressions
After the glorious subjugation of the empire six long years ago, new hijinx are afoot as evil is back! With the release of Dungeons 4, Dungeon Lords both new and old will find themselves in their comfort zone — taking over and eliminating good!
Taking place sometime after the events of Dungeons 3, the newest title takes off a run as our loyal servant, the Dark Elf Thalya, is captured by her brother. Normally we, as the powerful overlord, would gather our forces and get her back, but due to a combination of less-than-stellar events, our corporeal form is no more, and we must begin building anew!
The gameplay of Dungeons 4 has two sides, which are fittingly enough separated by literal depth: dungeon management and RTS, both with corresponding maps! The first, and main activity in the game, is building and maintaining the eponymous dungeon. Situated underground, you start off with a handful of workers, called Little Snots, and the most important structure of your Dungeon, the Dungeon Heart. Above everything else, you need to keep this giant red crystal from harm, lest it's game over. From this nexus, you can have your Snots start digging! Using a grid system, you are free to have your minions dig in any formation or layout you see fit, though there is more to the Dungeon than looking pretty, more on that later. After you dig out a serviceable area, you can then assign the space to act as one of many specialized rooms, be they for storage, monster spawning, or other devious uses.
While you dig around, you may also come across the many resources you need to keep your evil empire afloat: Gold, Mana, and Evilness. The latter is more often created via acts of violence, but that’s beside the point. After you’ve set up the necessary rooms and functions to get your Dungeon up to snuff, you can start planning for the inevitable invasion. Yes, regretfully the foolish forces of good are not idle while you plot and plan, and will send troops in to take over your Dungeon from time to time. These incursions need to be dealt with swiftly, as they can steal your funds, break your toys, and even destroy your Dungeon Heart! To combat these do-gooders. You can pick up your forces to hurl at them, but you can also build many a menacing trap to stop them in their tracks! I got weirdly invested in optimizing the usage of space I had, to the point of forgetting the mission for half of the playtime in the mission.
After the home base is covered, you are ready to head into the second main side of the game, the RTS! Taking place in the Overworld, you will have to send your troops there to destroy hero-spawning camps and obtain key resources. I personally loved the Overworld, as the land visibly changed from an idyllic setting to a corrupted scape whenever you took down an outpost! The visual effect is stunning.
So far so Dungeons, but is there anything new? Well, one big change is the addition of the Dwarves. These industrious diggers are your main competition in underground real estate, as they will build their very own Dungeons! In addition to being space hogs, they will also eventually find their way into your tunnels, or even your treasury, so keeping an eye on these sly engineers is a must! Additionally, everything, from the underground Dungeon to the Overworld itself, is bigger!
Fans of the series will be happy to hear the humour Dungeons is know for is still going strong, with the familiar narrator always having something witty to say on most occasions. Thalya and her brother also have some fun banter, though personality I just enjoyed all the fun names all your minions have.
I have enjoyed my time with Dungeons 4 and suspect I will continue to do so! The levels have been interesting, with varying challenges and setups, which have kept things fresh, and I honestly just enjoy trying out different combos of units and tactics. It may not be the most strategic game, but it does enough to require some strategic thinking! For example, don’t throw all your units out of the Dungeon, if you think a wave of intruders is coming! They may not make it back in time! Don’t ask me why I know that.