For a long time, Dungeons has been a series that’s tried to emulate Dungeon Keeper and never truly succeeded, with Dungeon Keeper as the aging champion that stubbornly held onto its crown. Now, though, after nearly two decades, Dungeons 3 is a title that is not only worthy of being compared to past classics, it's also a fun game in its own right.
In Dungeons 3, players play as the ‘Dungeon Lord’, a malevolent presence that's determined to stave off his boredom by conquering the world and being an all-around jerk. In a continuation of the previous two games, the introductory cinematic explains that with the Dungeon Lord conquering the known world, he is now so bored that he is going out of his way to find something else to subjugate. When that happens, Dungeons 3’s twenty-hour-long campaign begins in earnest.
Gameplay-wise, anyone who has played Dungeon Keeper or Warcraft III should be right at home in this game. As the Dungeon Lord, players slowly build an underground base in a somewhat inefficient manner. This is because the Dungeon Lord is forced to rely upon Little Snots, which are extremely unmotivated peasants who move on their own and generally work at their own pace. They do slow down after a period of time, to the extent that the narrator tells the player to ‘encourage’ the Little Snots by hitting them to work faster.
This results in an experience that can sometimes be painfully slow. Essentially, tasks that the player is used to doing in games such as Warcraft III are now automated and must be continually monitored as a result. While doing this, the player should also be updating their talent tree to help accelerate these tasks, building an army to complete objectives, and constructing a vast array of traps to ward off invaders. There’s a lot to keep track of, and it can be overwhelming for a new player even after playing the tutorial through a few times over.
Dungeons 3 finds itself in a weird and unique position where it is both elevated and brought down by its sense of humor. While the banter between the main character, Thalya, and the narrator, a snarky British man, is hilarious, the frequent pop culture references are only funny for the first dozen times or so. Afterwards, I only audibly reacted when I was surprised by the randomness of the references. Yanna Overproud of Dollaran was probably my favorite, which is a reference to Jaina Proudmoore of Dalaran in the Warcraft universe. This leads to a storyline in which fantasy ripoffs are expected and encouraged, leading to a cheekily-written campaign that knows it isn’t a high-stakes adventure.
As expected, while the game’s humor and atmosphere mostly keep the player engaged, what ensures the title from falling off a cliff is its sound design and voice acting. While every creature is easily identifiable by its look and vocal reaction, the voice acting in Dungeons 3 is exceptional. The voice actress for Thalya - who constantly battles between her ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ alter-egos - shines, as her voice continually shifts from harsh and grating to soft and conciliatory. The narrator is excellent as well, evoking the image of a bored middle-aged British chap who is only there to bemoan his sober state, collect his paycheck, and to encourage Thalya to destroy as much of her world as possible.
Dungeons 3 is a graphically pleasing game. The environments are bright and colorful, and each place you go to is dynamically different from the one before. In one mission, Thalya and Yanna are caught in a duel which has bolts of magical energy crossing across the map, centering on a single unit which has the capability of winning the mission, but only if the creature has support. What this meant was that if either side was in the creature’s immediate surroundings, the creature was either pushed up the map or down back to the Dungeon. It was a unique mission, which was only elevated by its strong visual effects.
What is not elevated, however, are its settings, which are surprisingly non-existent. As a PC gamer, I expect to have the capability to change things such as shadows, anti-aliasing, textures, and a dozen other settings to help maximize my performance. Instead, it's extremely an extremely lackluster setup that begs for more attention.
While in the end, my performance was fine (only slipping downward in heated battles), this shouldn't feel like I'm gambling with my performance. If someone were to have an unacceptable framerate, all they would be able to do is lower the resolution, which would make their game look dramatically worse. I cannot overstate how much of a basic requirement this is for any PC game. If the developers wanted to make their options menus neat and tidy, they could have easily added an ‘Advanced’ option that can be clicked and expanded upon, like almost every other game. Not cool, Realmforge Studios. Not cool.
There are also some strange bugs that I've encountered throughout the campaign. Over the course of thirty hours, I've crashed a half-dozen times and was forced to restart the same amount. The crashes were random, but the restarts were due to a bug that messed with my settings. For instance, the key 'Escape' no longer worked, minimizing the game rather than bringing up the in-game menu. This extended to Windows 10 as a whole, not allowing me to type anything and opening different windows when I tried to. Only after a restart was this problem fixed.
Thankfully, what didn't require a restart was the audio problems. Infrequently, I would minimize my game and come back, only to hear the music and not the sounds of gameplay. Sometimes saving the game and returning would fix the problem, and when that failed going to the main menu and re-entering the game would fix it. This is annoying and worth a mention, but not game-breaking like the aforementioned issues.
Another thing that I didn’t appreciate was the lack of players for the online portion of the game. Every time I would queue up for co-op (every mission can be played via co-op) or through the player vs player online mode, I couldn’t find anyone. Literally. I sat there for a good five to ten minutes more than once on multiple campaign missions and for the online mode in general, and I never found anyone. I couldn’t find confirmation that this because I have the GOG version and not the Steam version, but for prospective buyers be warned that it could be very difficult to find multiplayer games unless you have
Dungeons 3 is a title that has a very specific clientele. If you are a Dungeon Keeper fan, you have probably bought this game already. If you are an RTS fan, then you should consider this title if you are willing to go outside of the box. Overall, this is a title that knows what it wants to do and sets about doing it as efficiently as possible, nothing more and nothing less. It’s fun to be Evil in Dungeons 3, and while the multiplayer is seemingly dead and the campaign doesn’t have any surprises, there is enough value here to justify a closer look.
Dungeons 3 is a title that toes the line between nostalgia and gameplay almost perfectly, although at times its humor becomes self-indulgent to the point of exasperation. Non-existent multiplayer population and bugs aside, Dungeons 3's campaign has enough going for it that it's worth a look.
- Excellent Graphics
- Hilarious Voice Acting
- Good Mission Variety
- Non-Existent Multiplayer Population
- Few Configurable Options
- Crashes and Bugs