By Jason Van Horn
Hearing the classical piece 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' for the first
time is a fond memory from my elementary years, so when I heard the magical song
playing in the background of Dungeon Overlord when I first fired it up I thought
I was going to be in heaven (despite the very hellish vibe of dwelling
underground). Dungeon Overlord certainly starts out full of promise, but after a
few days gameplay slows down tremendously and the fun starts to dwindle away.
Dungeon Overlord is a civilization sim of a sorts, though one that's focused on
the underground dungeon of an Overlord demon rather than some ancient Japanese
or Medieval setting like a lot of games; plus there's a bit of minion raising in
the process too. The unique setting gives the game a nice flavor unlike other
games in the same genre, which is one of the reasons why you'll get sucked into
the world of the game when you first start.
The game has a very nice tutorial that takes you through many aspects of the
game and its various mechanics and systems. Dungeon Overlord is built around the
idea of rooms, which you have to have placed in your dungeon in order to use
them. For instance, you'll want to protect your dungeon from invaders and be
able to send creatures like orcs out to do your bidding, but before you can
attract any you have to have a Den built so they have somewhere to live. Having
a den isn't enough, however, as you have to craft a mat and place it in the den
in order to attract them. Getting an orc to move in is only the first step, as
you need to level them up in order to make them a more formidable foe, but in
order to do that you have to build a Training Ground to send them to so they can
learn and level-up. Orcs need food to work though, so you'll have to build a
farming plot in order to raise food and then a tavern so you can store the food
and the minions have a place to eat.
When you're going through the tutorial quests this isn't a problem, as the game
usually provides you with enough land plots (rooms start by needing a 2x2 space)
to complete early goals. Build a mine. Build a training room. Once the tutorial
quests are done, however, you find yourself needing to buy new rooms or upgrade
currently existing ones, which soon require a 3x3 space. The problem is that
you're only given so many land tiles and you're never told exactly how you earn
more. So when I found myself trying to complete later quests, I often had to
sacrifice tiles that were important earlier - such as sacrificing a few plots of
farm - only to find out that later I needed those tiles because suddenly I'm not
able to provide enough food for my monsters.
Crafting and research are two more important parts to the building equation as
some crafting can't be done until research is completed. Having Warlocks seem to
earn you research points, but this is never clearly explained either; I just
assume they do since they hangout in the research lounge all the time and that's
where various scrolls and crystal balls drop (you have to manually click on
resources in order to harvest them). Research costs are very low to begin with,
but soon you're dealing with projects that cost hundreds or thousands of
research points. Crafting is easy to do though, as a menu will have highlighted
all the items you can create and crafting one is as easy as clicking it and then
waiting the required amount of time until it's ready.
Like I said before, the game starts off well enough and everything is easy to
follow, but then the game starts throwing things at you and you'll have no idea
what to do or how to go about acquiring something that's needed. I currently
find myself looking at crafting and upgrade quests that I'm unable to do simply
because I haven't the foggiest where the resources I need are found or earned.
I've clicked and looked around, but there's none to be found anywhere on the
maps or in the menus. Another problem then arises, as I'm now left to tread
water and bide time until I either amount the massive resources or research
points I need to do something. I know Facebook games are created so that they
can be played in bite size increments, but I at least like to feel as if I've
accomplished a little something when I login. For the past two or three days the
most I've been able to do when I login is scroll around the map, click
resources, and maybe send an orc or two in for training or outside the dungeon
to raid a nearby settlement, but that's it. I'm not completing old quests or
earning anything new, but rather they just sit there collecting dust.
I can't do much outside of my dungeon either. You can raid nearby settlements
for some resources like leather, but your creatures you send on the raid have a
chance of getting killed, and it takes time to revive them and money and
resources you need for other projects. Most of the bigger settlements pack a
punch too, so you really need to have a pretty beefy army in order to stand a
chance, but how do you get a bigger army when you don't have the tiles to build
an extra den or expand the one you got or the tiles needed to provide the food
that the army is going to eat? Once again I'm given things I can do, but no way
to actually do them.
Technically speaking Dungeon Overlord is one of the best looking and sounding
Facebook games that I've played. As I said before I love 'In the Hall of the
Mountain King' playing in the background, but the sounds of your little goblins
trying to balance crates or cutting wood in the workshop are cute too. The music
and sound effects are all completely optional, as you can either turn the music
off, the sound effects, or both. The game is also nicely animated when it comes
to your dungeon, but you surprisingly need a decent computer to properly run it.
I can play Dungeon Overlord on my gaming rig with no problems, but on my regular
Internet and work computer dragging around the map often chugs and I've had the
game freeze and crash my Internet too.
Dungeon Overlord is a great game when you first start playing and I thought it'd
be the one Facebook game I could see myself sticking with for a while (usually
my interest lasts a few days or a week and then that's the end of that). Once
the tutorial quests were finished, however, it seemed like the real meat of the
game finally showed itself and it wasn't an enjoyable experience. I don't need
my hand held when I walk across the street, but it'd be nice if someone told me
if a car was coming. If Dungeon Overlord reduced some of its resource needs,
sped things up a little, and helped better explain how to acquire certain
things, the game would receive a much better score, but in its current state
it's just not happening.
Rating: 3 out of 5