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Dungeon Keeper

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Released: 1997

Genre: Strategy

Format reviewed: PC - Windows

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Bullfrog

Submitted by: John Delaney

Until GTA: San Andreas came along, this real-time strategy game by Bullfrog was my favourite game of all time. I even took my internet name from it (for the last FREAKING time, I don't play Dungeons & Dragons). It's an absolute gem that has, unfortunately, fallen a little into the mists of time.

On the surface, the game's theme offers nothing new; the usual dank, evil lairs, demonic plots and horrible abominations menacing some peaceful land you could find in any fantasy game. The genius thing is, that's you. You have to build and manage an underground stronghold, attract and manage the choicest vile creations and repel any meddling armies of heroes that try to stop you.

The humour in the game is as dry as a vampire's Martini. Your denizens must be kept busy, happy and well supplied, just like any employees, or morale will plummet. The dungeon's cash flow must be managed carefully and it's layout must be planned to ensure maximum efficiency. It's no good having the torture chambers too far from the graveyard, after all; the bodies will decompose en route. Occasionally, bands of heroes will get it into their heads that you’re not welcome and will dig their way down to destroy you – they need convincing otherwise.

The game world is polygonal so you can spin and zoom in on it as much as you need to; you can even enter the body of one of your minions and micro-manage things if you're that type of boss. The characters in the game are all sprite-based, though, meaning the game looked a little dated even on it's release. Levels are passed by building your dungeon up and defeating all enemies. They're failed if your Dungeon Heart is destroyed by invaders.

I had this game mastered to the point where I had to donate massive rooms filled with treasure to enemy dungeons before they posed a challenge. That wasn’t the point; as in any management sim, the fun isn’t in winning, it’s in playing. And sometimes, in Dungeon Keeper’s case, carving the countryside into interesting shapes.