[Retrospective] 25 years later, evil is still strong in Dungeon Keeper.

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Evil is good. We’ve all been told that in advertisements for Bullfrog Productions. jailer. Unlike most video games at the time in 1997, this RTS bucked the trend of playing as the good guys and let you reveal your dark side as the boss of your own villainous hideout trying to conquer a righteous kingdom ( with a touch of humor). , not less). While the series met its demise far too soon (and was briefly resurrected as a cheap microtransaction-packed mobile game), the first game gave those who wanted to be over-the-top villain bosses the redemption they needed. And 25 years later, his influence can still be seen.

If you’ve never heard of it jailer, the story is as simple as it is simple: you are a dungeon guard who must literally dig out his subterranean empire to take over the peaceful and blissfully clueless lands above. As you expand your domain, attract monsters to join your cause and slaughter any heroes that venture into your lair to stop you. Of course, the task itself is not so simple. In addition to building hiding places for your monsters, you must provide them with food and training grounds, and pay them. They also have rival dungeons that don’t find it too friendly to share the loot.

Instantlyjailer captivates you with its presentation. The tone of the game plays it straight but also shows that offbeat humor that many Bullfrog games had at the time. That Intro cinematic where a lone hero ventures into a dungeon in search of treasure, only to meet his fate at the hands of the Horned Reaper, strikes the right balance of humor and dark fantasy horror that players were hoping for. At the beginning of the game, before each level, you’re greeted with voiceovers by Richard Ridings, who comes so close to being an exaggeration in her description of the peaceful and good country you wanted to corrupt, but thankfully steered clear of being really a camp to be. They really felt like a villain but in a lighter-hearted way, similar to a Saturday morning cartoon but with a touch of horror that permeated throughout the film. It’s still a delightful delight to pick up chickens from your hatchery and dangle them over your chosen creatures before dropping them as a reward for a job well done.

Graphically, the game expertly dives into this evil experience with its dark and foreboding visuals. Your dungeon is dimly lit and you can almost feel the dampness of its corridors. While it didn’t initially benefit from those newfangled 3D accelerator cards upon release, jailer eventually received an update that took advantage of 3D maps, which while improving the graphics, was still a mix of a 3D dungeon and 2D sprites. Even so, it was still gloriously evil. If you weren’t in charge of the dungeon yourself, coupled with the pounding of your minion feet, you’d feel a great hesitation about entering it if you were one of the heroes. The score by Russell Shaw only added to the creepiness with its mix of ambient sounds and foreboding chants.

Despite the first impression jailer is less of a real-time strategy game and more like Bullfrog’s other “god games”. Populous and theme hospital. It’s this mixture of the god game aspect and an RTS that makes the game so fascinating even today. You can create units, but you don’t control them directly. Rather, you oversee the management of the dungeon, commanding your creatures what to do, and the game’s AI would do the rest. You also have specific areas of your dungeon that serve a specific function, such as: B. a breeding ground for food, a lair for creatures to rest, or a library for spell/space research. These rooms also depend on what creatures you are luring into your dungeon.

This is where things start to get interesting jailer. Creatures have their own requirements for joining you, but they also have their likes/dislikes that you had to consider. For example, creatures like spiders will avoid spinning their webs in a hideout if it is occupied by flies. If they’re forced to share a hideout, don’t be surprised if they start fighting. Creature happiness also extends to how you treat them. Waking a vampire from his nap? Too much banging around a bile demon? Don’t have enough money on payday? Your creatures will react with anger, and too much anger will result in them potentially abandoning you, causing fights, or even damaging your dungeon in revenge. Each creature has its own set of abilities, so it’s imperative that you keep these aspects in mind rather than just focusing on direct control.

This is not to say that direct control is not impossible. If things get hot in the fight, you can intervene. You can (literally) help pick up and drop off your units in an area you want to focus on, or pick up gold and transport it to your treasury to save time. There’s also the helpful motivation of backtracking your units to make them work faster (and relieve a bit of stress) like a good villain. In fact, the mistress unit enjoys something like this.

But again, direct control isn’t what jailer is about. The game’s AI will do much of the work, but you can still intervene in the form of spells, e.g. B. cause cave-ins, spread disease, or even turn enemies (and allies) into chickens. But it’s all at the expense of gold. fight is probably where jailer comes up short. There isn’t much strategy involved, which essentially boils down to a chaotic war of attrition. All they had to do was lure in new creatures to replace the ones that had fallen, cast healing spells for those that were still alive, and hope for the best.

Despite the shortcomings in combat, jailer impressed many critics and fans upon release. Remember, apart from playing one or two games at a time (such as Blood Omen: Legacy of Cain), you didn’t have many titles that had the unique concept of you playing as the villain. That, along with the aspects of dungeon management and aesthetics, made it jailer a hit. It even won Computer Roleplaying Game of the Year at the 1st Annual AIAS Interactive Achievement Awards (which preceded the DICE Awards).

jailerSuccess led to expansion The deeper dungeons, improving the AI ​​and adding more maps for players to try out in both single-player and multiplayer. Ultimately, jailer 2 was released, but that was after Bullfrog was acquired by EA and Peter Molyneux was not involved. Unfortunately despite DK2 As well received, it would be the last real entry in the game, as a third entry in the series was ultimately canceled by EA after shifting focus to other projects.

But part of the test of a game’s longevity lies in the games it inspires. and jailer had plenty of it. Titles like Brightrock Games’ War for the Overworld and Realmforge Studios’ dungeon were seen as spiritual successors jailerwhile Elixir Studios Evil Genius took a lot of DK‘s management side of things, but with a significantly less horror focus. And if you think about it, Triumph Studios’ overlord has the same game aesthetic as the villain while managing his squad, albeit not in an RTS way.

Despite it, jailer is still a unique offering of strategy management games that revels in its often humorous take on being the villain. While some prefer to paint the walls of your dungeon with the remains of your enemies, there’s always the appeal of a leader who prefers his minions to do the dirty work while you take all the glory. Also, someone has to write the check.

If you want to relive the experience or try it for the first time, GOG is your best bet, like Dungeon Warden Gold includes the base game and the expansion.

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