Dungeon Keeper Reborn: Yay?

By Alec Meer on August 19th, 2009 at 8:18 pm.

So Dungeon Keeper may be returning, as evidenced by not one but two trademark applications on EA’s part. My feelings on the matter are the very definition of ‘mixed’.

Of course I want to play a new DK game with ultra-graphics and drop-in multiplayer and perhaps even some degree of persistence (as I’m perhaps foolishly guessing any new take on the series would involve), but my huge attachment to a game I revisit at least once every 12 months has very little to do with the license – which was always broad, generalist fantasy with a satirical twist, rather than something howlingly unique. A new DK would be the same characters with a different team, and that means little. This isn’t that I’m lost to Bullfrogian retro-fetishishm – even the same theme with the same team mightn’t inspire me greatly at this stage. I want to be told this will be awesome, not simply this is happening.

Similarly, I have no fear that someone is going to foul up the license. DK means as much as it does to me because it was a perfect storm of passive observation and active strategy. Construction and action: two of the key pillars upon which my PC gamingdom is founded. What I want is the reassurance that the same values, the same degree of fun, will persist and be expanded upon, not that I get to look at a Horned Reaper with more polygons. Drooling fervour for old IPs is meaningless: it is the values that matter, not the characters. The underwhelming if fun Overlord games have proven that the evil-as-hero concept isn’t enough on its own.

Nonetheless, a possible return, even if it is only desperate hope based upon the renewal of a copyright, which surely happens all the time, is exciting. But it’s exciting because a rich company might fund a subversive, flexible, funny management game after years of the genre being neglected, not because I might get to see a Bile Demon with pixel shaders.

On the other hand entirely, I bloody love Dungeon Keeper.

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91 Comments »

  1. Cutman says:

    Finding out I could possess my little goblins and run around the dungeon I made is still one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had playing a game.

    Also, modern rebirths of older games don’t really seem to pan out well. Sure there’s the diamond in the rough here and there, but on the whole it never really works out.

    If it turns out that there is a new one, I’ll still blindly love it, and if it doesn’t, I can always rest assured knowing that an awesome series wasn’t potentially ruined. That being said, whatever happens with this I’ll more than likely be happy because I too, bloody love Dungeon Keeper.

  2. Schaulustiger says:

    Please, don’t.

    This could in no possible way fulfill the nostalgia-driven expectations that we built up over the years. Some gaming series should rest and I think Dungeon Keeper is one of them.

    Btw, I find DK2 still very playable, except for the utterly broken multiplayer. I’d rather see some fan fix for that than a new iteration of the series which would most likely be made for consoles as well and therefore hacked to streamlined pieces.

  3. Inigo says:

    I thought the DK rights had been sold to a Chinese developer to make an MMO?

  4. BuDong says:

    Then someone in the press will find out you can torture fairies in the game…

  5. Torgen says:

    I found the first Overlord cloyingly *good*, and, piled on top of the consolesque boss fight, killed any enjoyment I derived from the demo. I’d relish an actual bad character for a change. In Overlord, you should have been able to torture and consume the souls of those impertinent villagers, after having your gremlins scale the palisade and lower the drawbridge.

  6. SwiftRanger says:

    Problem is which studio would be suited for this? It probably won’t be any in-house developer EA has (EALA is just a cookie-cutter RTS factory) and other ex-Bullfrog talent isn’t centralized anymore (Lionhead is owned by MS and I don’t even know if I would trust the present-day Molyneux with a new DK).

    I don’t see this ending well, especially not when it would also come to consoles.

  7. Sam says:

    I came so close to loving the original Dungeon Keeper, so close. The “try-to-grab-speedy minion” control scheme was infuriating. I constantly found myself clicking on the spot one of my creatures had just vacated, or picking up a fly when I wanted to pick up the skeleton next to it.
    That game cried out for something like a Spacebar pause or a snap-to-nearest-creature button. I’d welcome a remake or sequel if it fixed that problem (or advice from others on how they got past this problem playing it back in the day).

  8. cowthief skank says:

    I’d love to see a Bile Demon with pixel shaders.

  9. phat_chopps says:

    Bah humbug!

    If you want nostalgia, or feel the new game isn’t up to scratch, you can always go back and play the old one. The making of a new version isn’t going to make the original game disappear from existence, or change it any way, is it?

  10. Howard says:

    I really want DK to return but given even the original team managed to feck it up with DK2 (which was appalling!) I doubt a new team will do any better.

    @Sam

    Jeez… did you miss the point./ DKs control mech was spectacular!

  11. Vinraith says:

    @phat_chopps

    That’s a common fallacy. Actually, the making of a bad entry in a series damages the reputation of the series as a whole, plus it makes it far less likely that a GOOD entry in the series will ever be made again.

    As to a new DK game, I’d be thrilled if such a thing actually turned out well. As others have said, though, in EA’s hands I think that’s very unlikely. The inevitable consolization is just one of many ways in which they can (and almost certainly will) screw this up.

  12. inanimotion says:

    Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

  13. Alez says:

    I want dungeon keeper 3…NOW. I don’t care if it’s copy paste of 2 but just modern graphics. In fact, i’d rather they do that than fail.

  14. Archonsod says:

    They promised us the surface dammit!

  15. DMJ says:

    I want Dungeon Keeper 3 to be like Dwarf Fortress in 3D. And I want a pony.

  16. phat_chopps says:

    @ Vinraith.

    Nope, sorry – I stand by my humbug! The original games will always be there for DK lovers and nostalgia fans. Surely to suggest they won’t is madness?

    As to sullying a good name and it never recovering it’s past glories – I rather enjoyed the new Monkey Island adventure despite utterly loathing Escape From. So bring on DK3, says I.

    Point taken about EA being spuds though.

  17. Radders says:

    I’d think Inigo is right, I would assume this is probably linked to them licensing the rights to a third party and wanting to make sure they still have the rights rather then a new game.

  18. Heliocentric says:

    Quit bitching and play the eventual demo. Oh, and this will lead to more people picking up dk 2 and playing multiplayer which is nice. My favourite multiplayer strategy involves a few traps, a few temples and legions of undead.

    If this was activision i’d be worried, but ea only seems to have poo for brains when it comes to racing and sport. Sure their online free to plays could do with a nudge in the right direction but i am not honking the failhorn yet.

  19. cowthief skank says:

    Vinraith: what is this ‘reputation’ you speak of? I play games I like, I couldn’t give a fuck if they are considered ‘good’ by others.

    If Dungeon Keeper 3 turns out to be rubbish, and the youth of the day get it into their heads that this means Dungeon Keeper was rubbish and therefore do not play it (if indeed they would ever have any intention of playing it), that hardly equates to any loss for me.

    Though it is a fair point that a crap game makes it less likely that a good game would be made in the future, I think that no game would have a similar effect…

    Of course, perhaps I missed your point.

  20. Railick says:

    I think Dungeon Keeper 2 could easily be updated to play very well on the Wii

  21. Dominus says:

    WOOOOOOT! @____@ i fucking loooove this game
    if the rumors are true, then I really hope EA will do its best for DK3 to be worthy of its predecessors!

  22. Howard says:

    Oh good grief! You people didn’t…you didn’t actually LIKE DK2 did you?! O_O

  23. jalf says:

    Yay! More Dungeon Keeper. And honestly, I’m not worried about it failing to live up to nostalgia, or it “sullying the series”.

    It’s really what Alec said. The concept, the gameplay, the mechanics are what made the game stand out.
    I don’t really care about Horny, the imps or the bile demons. Replace them with ants, rhinoceros beetles and spiders for all I care. Give me a game based on the same ideas, and I don’t *care* if it is called Dungeon Keeper or not, if it has Horny in it or not, and if it takes place in the same universe or not.

    So if they fail, so what? They might ruin a franchise which has been in a coma for a decade anyway. Big deal… Never releasing another DK game would have the same effect.

  24. Alaric says:

    I approve.

  25. hitnrun says:

    @Vinraith: You have a point, as far as it goes, that a crap revisiting of an old franchise to mine “nostalgia” stands a decent chance of killing the series forever. Just off the top of my head, it’s unlikely that we’re ever going to see another Bionic Commando or Turok. In a different tack, the success of the kiddy “Advance” take on Final Fantasy Tactics means that the original game will never see the proper sequel fans have clamored for.

    But is there any reason to think this Dungeon Keeper entry couldn’t be good? Why can’t it be the rebirth of the legend? Of course, it might not be, but considering that the DK franchise is deceased and interred and likely to stay that way, there’s hardly anything being risked.

  26. destroy.all.monsters says:

    Well they’re also apparently developing a new Syndicate so we should know by how good or bad that is what to expect from this.

    As Syndicate is one of my holy grail games (as DK is yours) it will be more than a bit sobering if they do screw up Syndicate.

    With Deus Ex 3 coming along with this and Syndicate I can see this either turning to me being in joyous harmony with the universe, with a bad case of acid reflux or needing to invest in truckloads of valium to get over my morbid depression at devs butchering my beloved past.

    Criminy that was a horrible run on sentence. Of Doom.

  27. Cooper says:

    Persistent world, did you forget:
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/12/01/dungeon-keeper-3-the-mmo-eh/

    In anycase, I love DK. DK2 wasn’t bad, but relied too much on hominid creature models – I preferred the variety of the original in terms of creatures.

    I just loved how difficult DK was to just keep a dungeon ticking over. Half your time was spent retrieving flies from buzzing off and brining heroes to your dungeon (flies always go straight back into the portal. Or get dropped next to a spider… Or keeping bile demons and skeletons apart, or saving your imps from stray fireballs from interrupted warlocks… Or painstakingly building a whole apartment complex just to keep one horny happy, and hoping that he doesn’t go mental in there..

  28. destroy.all.monsters says:

    @Vinraqith – What do you think about the westernized Front Mission? Think it will doom the old style games? Doom the series? Or do you have other thoughts on it?

  29. Railick says:

    I really like the modern heir to Dungeon Keeper is Dwarf Fortress. I can’t think of anything that would improve on Dwarf Fortress so I don’t know how Dungeon Keeper 3 could be any better than it . If they just attempted to do Dungeon Keeper 2 with more than 1 Z level and a surface level it will be even more like Dwarf Fortress but not as much fun ;P

  30. Railick says:

    like – think, dunno what I was liking ;P lol just kidding . my typos are getting worse as the day drags on.

  31. Vinraith says:

    @hitnrun

    I’m actually not the one arguing that this will definitely suck, so you might want to address that one to some of the other posters here. I’m haven’t got high confidence, because EA isn’t exactly noted for their respectful treatment of pre-existing franchises, but I’d love nothing more than the see a modern incarnation of DK that actually worked.

    @destroy.all.monsters

    I’ve never played Front Mission so I couldn’t really comment.

  32. Taillefer says:

    Dungeon Keeper is one game where I’d be happy with more of the same. They got almost everything right. Right down to the sounds and music.

    I’d like to know how well it could work without letting you pick up and drop your creatures (but maybe allow it for imps). It made defence too easy, and outposts pointless. You’d have to put a little more thought into dungeon design without it. But, I know I liked being able to do it at the time. Hmmm.

    Dwarf Fortress is great, of course. But there’s still an amazing game to be had even if you removed half the complexity (or more).

  33. almonds says:

    @ Railick

    Oh, how about graphics? Documentation? User-Interface? There are MANY things that can be improved upon in Dwarf Fortress.

  34. Railick says:

    I’m wondering, which DK-alike game is you favorite? Evil Genius? StarTopia? Anyone have any thoughts on that?

  35. Howard says:

    Startopia was great, but then given who it was made by its no huge surprise =)

  36. HexagonalBolts says:

    Dwarf Fortress is only in an early alpha, it’s fantastic now but it could be truly amazing in the future

    When will someone modernise Populous??

  37. Heliocentric says:

    What was wrong with dk2? I mean actually wrong. DK 1 is one of the only bullfrog games i never played on account of it never working, so i’ll accept my position is weakened here. But dk2 had valid multiplayer which even the later evil genius didn’t bother with. 2 vs 6 coop lan is awesome fun. Its tile based nature makes map making easy. I can imagine great things coming from a properly made sequel. Shame surface missions seem unlikely. If we are lucky maybe we can send beings to attack the surface evil genius style.

    What is somewhat exciting is that ea is finally getting their head around persistent content so maybe i can carry over my converted dwarves from mission to mission and slowly level them up into mining super soldiers.

  38. AtkinsSJ says:

    HexagonalBolts – there was a modernisation a while back. Google ‘Populous the Beginning’. It wasn’t that great, IIRC. Though you may well be meaning a modernisation of that.

  39. Railick says:

    I really wish Muckyfoot would have stayed around longer. I loved Startopia and was really looking forward to more of those types of games from them. Theme Hospital was awesome and I feel like Startopia was kind of the space version of that :P

  40. Heliocentric says:

    Populous got modernised. Its called black and white.

  41. Vinraith says:

    Startopia really was fantastic. I still mourn the passing of Mucky Foot.

  42. Howard says:

    @Heliocentric
    DK2, in comparison to DK1 was just awful. It was slow, clunky and filled with stupid gimics that did nothing for the gameplay.
    Its hard to really describe exactly what is wrong with DK2: just play the first one and you will see how much better in every respect it is.

    Oh and Populous was a good game so calling B&W a modernisation of it is just insulting…

  43. Heliocentric says:

    @hitnrun bionic commando rearmed is fucking A. We will see further 2D efforts once the stink from the 3D one has washed away.

  44. Heliocentric says:

    Black and white 2 city building was really relaxing. Build a 200 floor high sky scraper then punish your people for building a tower of babel.

    Startopia was 2 or 3 patches from being really perfect. Evil genius was a bit of a mess, but i hold high hopes for a sequel. I find dwarf fortress utterly impeneterable, i’m sure its very good though.

  45. Howard says:

    Oh B&W2 wasn’t too bad, but the first one was dire. Such a buggy mess of Molyneaux lies it was ridiculous!

  46. Taillefer says:

    A good number of missions let you take a selected minion with you in DK1 with a secret item, and bonus levels often rewarded you with it too. I always took a level 10 vampire. Then I’d possess an imp, dig straight to the enemy, possess the vampire then proceed to slaughter everything. Those vampires were so powerful… Bit cheap really.

  47. Stupoider says:

    As a fan of Bullfrog games, there is no doubt that the original was amazing, unfortunately I never got to play it but I managed to watch a trailer for the sequel in Populous: The Beginning.

    However, I don’t feel that EA do old games any justice. Classics are classics, and reviving them can damage the grandeur.

    @phat_chopps: It’s always best to end on a good note. :< It might be safe to assume that the possibility of EA hitting a good note is hampered by their track record.
    I just have a feeling that EA have put on their apron and the pig carcass that they've castrated this time is in the form of Dungeon Keeper.

    @Howard: I'm with you on the Populous comment! (Even though I enjoyed both that and B&W.. :D) B&W and Populous don't share enough similarities, and I had much more affection towards the awesomeness of the shaman rather than my floating, and strangely glowing hand. There weren't enough hilarious screams and groans from your believers in B&W, and disciple breeders can't beat packing a group of men into a hut to produce offspring.

  48. The Great Wayne says:

    If this one ever goes live, it have to be online and multiplayer: join the keepers, or join the phat loot seeker team.

    I would play that, if only to be able to exact rightful justice on those WoWies…

    Torture chamber, here they come.

  49. Railick says:

    I don’t believe Black and White series has anything to do with Populous other that the fact that your a god. You didn’t have very direct control over your followers in Populous other than being able to set a flag and use miracles and raise and lower land. They set up their own buildings and took care of themselves. I’d like to see a modern game like that where you have no control over the people directly but can cause various things to happen like floods and lightning ect. Act Raiser 1 was very good in this regard I really enjoyed it but it wasn’t the same :P.