Middle Management in Dungeon Delving
Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Master is a perfect example of video games being Pringles. It’s empty calories that really have little value, but you can’t help but keep eating them until it’s finished. This is not a knock on the game per-se, but it most certainly reflects the overall experience Legend of Keepers is in its beta stage; it’s a game, by all intents and purposes, that is too shallow to be memorable, but it works in its favor.
Indie developer Goblinz Studio created a game this is part Dungeon Keeper, part Darkest Dungeon in its premise. Players are the manager of a dungeon helmed by a massive monster, employing monsters and traps to protect your bosses’ treasure. As the manager, your goal is to strategically place monsters and traps so you can wear down adventuring heroes.
Legend of Keepers | Entertaining Yourself
A lot of the charm of Legend of Keepers is how nonchalant it is with its premise. From in-game events to the more sarcastic banter writing scattered throughout the package. This harkens back to the overtly comedic flairs of Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper, just with 16-bit pixelated graphics and less edgelord snickering. It gives Legend of Keepers an identity right off the bat and helps to sell the absurd premise.
While the premise is simple, the gameplay is even simpler. Legend of Keepers is all about strategic placement and resource management. For placement, monsters under your employ have individual stats and abilities, ranging from health to attack speed to armor and resistances. Their special abilities can also inflict secondary effects, such as slowing down enemies, poisoning them or enraging your own monsters. Attacks also don’t do just some damage; some focus on the morale of the heroes which can see them turn and run if worn down.
Since the dungeon is just a linear line of rooms, monster and trap placement is crucial. Do you want to wear down the invaders early on? Poison them for extra damage. Want to make them weaker for the next room? Make them weaker to an element like fire, so your fire attacks do more damage. Maybe use a trap to lower morale and enrage your monsters in the next room, or your boss creature casting a spell to tip the scales in your favor. This is the ebb and flow of Legend of Keepers, you wear down the heroes until the collapse or flee, using the dungeon to play to your strategy.
Legend of Keepers | Monotonous Downtime
On paper, there is little to consider when it comes to strategy. In-game you have enough depth in the options you must experiment though. Creating synergized combos to wear down heroes is the main draw here, and while the roster of monsters and abilities are thin; the options and combinations available are solid. It is incredibly addicting to see your monsters grow and overwhelm heroes, and this is all because of player engagement, your choices can make or break how easy the next string of adventurers are, and to have some control over this is a great feeling of accomplishment that Legend of Keepers achieves.
The rest of the game, generally focused on the management of resources, is much weaker when compared to the meat of the experience. Randomized events occur for multiple weeks, which eat up resources that you acquire both in the dungeon and outside of it. Three primary resources are available to players: gold, blood, and tears. Blood and tears are only found in the dungeon crawls, depending on whether you killed or broke the morale of adventurers. You also need to manage the stress of your monsters; the more they fall in the dungeon, the more stressed they become.
The biggest problem with Legend of Keepers is how it comes almost to a crawl in this other phase. You have merchants who you can buy traps and monsters from, you have training days to level up your monsters, pillaging expeditions to steal money or other resources, vampire tax collectors who can give you gold at the cost of your boss monster's blood; all of these are just some of the near dozen randomized scenarios that can come up.
Legend of Keepers | Middle Management Blues
The randomization plays into the roguelite elements advertised by Goblinz Studios, but like most roguelites, it’s a matter of when you will lose over if. Some events can lead to boons, others massive busts that can cripple any preparedness you may have for the dungeon crawl. You will always be hungry for more resources to keep pace with the increasingly powerful adventurers that flood your dungeon, Skill boils away from the earlier hours of the game, it then becomes an exercise of tactics in the dungeon combined with some good luck.
This hurts the game more than it helps. The randomness in Legend of Keepers is fine in theory but robs the player of any control or agency they have in the dungeon segments, which as I stated was one of the game's better points. The loss or gain of resources makes later stages being totally out of your control. If you can’t keep pace with the enemies, it will eventually be impossible to go far in Legend of Keepers.
That is, of course, part of the challenge that Goblinz Studios baked into the experience. It is also what makes Legend of Keepers so compelling. It has that hypnotic quality that gives it some extra firepower despite how ultimately shallow and frustrating it really is. It is a challenge that is well worth pursuing, as players ultimately have enough control of their actions to scrape by and be victorious.
Legend of Keepers Preview | Final Thoughts
There is a lot of promise in Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Master. Despite how frivolous it is, it has that spark of addicting quality in it that makes the game worth investing into, a fun experience that really scratches an itch for a few solid hours here and there. Hopefully, Goblinz Studios can continue the momentum by adding more creatures, traps, and challenges throughout the experience through its beta stage.
TechRaptor previewed Legend of Keepers on PC with a code provided by the publisher.