Wot I Think: Impire

By Alec Meer on February 19th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

Impire is a strategy-management game about building an evil underground lair, from Blood Bowl and Game of Thrones devs Cyanide.

If I was mad, I would write this entire piece without once referencing Dungeon Keeper. I am not mad.

Make me a sandwich. Go on it, it’ll be easy: you know exactly what’s involved. There’s just one catch: the name and concept of ‘sandwich’ has become copyrighted. So you need to make me a sandwich which isn’t a sandwich, that instantly evokes sandwichiness but won’t result in the Earl of Sandwich’s lawyers paying you a visit. Of course, there must be bread, there must be filling, and there must be spread, but whatever you do don’t put them together in a neat little three-layer stack. Find some other way of doing it, won’t you?

Whatever awkward bread’n’cheese construct you came up with would be to a sandwich as real-time strategy/quasi-management game Impire is to Dungeon Keeper, the legendary Bullfrog title it makes no bones about being ‘inspired’ by. It’s Dungeon Keeper that’s trying incredibly hard not to be Dungeon Keeper, made up of all its components but apparently putting them together with the primary motivation of not making EA cross rather than because there’s an ingenious new game design underneath it. It’s kind of like opening someone else’s picture in Photoshop and flipping the image or inverting the colours so you can argue it’s your original creation.

Which isn’t to say that Impire is a disaster, or even a bad game. Its parts are fine, the sum of them perhaps is not. It feels as though it’s searching for purpose after the fact, as though it was made to a brief – be like Dungeon Keeper but not too much like Dungeon Keeper – and is now in the grip of existential crisis. It has its bread, filling and spread, which is to say building an underground lair, raising and training an army of fantasy monsters, duffing up heroes and accruing resources, but I’m not sure how to best describe the game these elements belong to.

I don’t really know what Impire is, or even what it means to be. Is it Theme Dungeon? Is it a real-time strategy game? Is it a lightest-touch RPG? While Dungeon Keeper’s answer to those questions was ‘yes, all of them, cocktailed effortlessly’, Impire is ‘uh, bits of them, just sort of there.’ It’s like buying a model aeroplane set from a car boot sale, but when you open the box you realise it’s full of parts from three different kits, there are no instructions and someone’s left a lollipop stick in there to replace a missing wing.

Here’s how a typical level of the game works, and I’ll do my best to demonstrate how it avoids being Dungeon Keeper while sounding and looking a hell of a lot like it. You are the malevolent overlord/architect of a vast subterranean lair, carving out caverns to house, feed and train a small army of unintelligent but aggressive monsters with which to visit chaos upon the heroes, royalty and rival evil overlords of this land. So far, so good. Here’s the first… well, I hesitate to say failing, because that presupposes copying Dungeon Keeper is correct, but in this instance I think Impire has made a mess of the key appeal of lair-building. You can’t choose the shape or size of the rooms (kitchens, monster bedrooms, training rooms, labs, that sort of thing – most are analogues of DK rooms, but then there’s only so many different types of underground chamber under the sun anyway. What do you want, a bidet? A sauna? Ping-pong tables? Sex-crucifixes? Actually, all those things would be infinitely more entertaining than the witlessly bland rooms Impire settled on).

All the rooms are pre-fab, dropped near-instantly into the precious few chunks of rock large enough to accommodate them, so all construction is a matter of necessity and Tetris-style gap-filling rather any sort of freeform design. The sole exception to this are the tunnels which can link rooms or open up access to the enemy-filled parts of the map, which you can build more or less where you want, but again you’re seriously constrained by having to leave space for the large, inflexible rooms.

The other negative effect of building being FarmVille-style click’n’place is that it neuters any urge to go watch the construction in action, to treat your rocky environment as a living place with sights to see and surprises to uncover. Instead, you’ll find yourself simply treating the whole game as an overhead map, a near-2D bird’s eye view in which you track icons and place a few squares, rectangles and circles wherever you can find a suitably-sized spot for them.

The same’s true of combat: a combination of the game’s murky, indistinct art and the requirement to have your homogeneous units grouped into a maximum of five squads of four (individual control is possible, but the game’s not really built for it, so it’s a total headache and unnecessary) means you wind up just watching numbered icons dart about from maximum zoom-out. When an enemy icon appears, you right click and teleport everyone over. Then you’ll probably send ‘em back to eat or train, then you’ll teleport ‘em to the next enemy icon. Monitoring health, level and ‘aggression’ (energy) all takes place in the squad menu window, unless you’re mad and would prefer to painstakingly track some tiny meters individually, at the expense of seeing whatever else is going on in your dungeon. Compounding this are ‘overworld’ missions, required to grab bonus resources or meet certain objectives, which really are just icons on a flat map. You don’t even get to see the battles: instead, you units return with their loot and casualties you shall never know the cause of. Edit – oops, I’m wrong there, there is a (characteristically fiddly and poorly explained) way to watch after all. Thanks to those who pointed this out

Net result: the 3D engine might as well not be there. Impire would have been far better off going down the Atom Zombie Smasher route, embracing the fact that it’s an interactive map rather than wasting all that time and effort on character models and lighting effects players will never look at. The other game it reminds me of in that regard is Republic: The Revolution, another example of the intricate 3D world being all but purposeless because the meat of the game was icons and bar charts. I don’t have any problem with playing a game that way – indeed, it’s often the case that I much prefer the purity of control over the pizazz of presentation – but again it’s hard to not feel Impire’s a case of game engine and assets first, concept and design second. Why is all that stuff, all that world and all those characters, in there if it serves no real purpose?

There isn’t much strategy to combat or success either. Again, all the DK mainstays are in there – levelling up units, unlocking brawnier fighters, mixing melee and ranged soldiers, casting big-effect spells yourself, intervening to get prized units out of trouble, placing traps to soften up heroes who invade your dungeon – but again a lot of it’s incidental in practice. What you’ll do, again and again, is fill your squads with the best units you can, teleport them to objectives, kill everything, replace any losses and repeat. I’m not sure I’d call it micromanagement as there really isn’t much that needs keeping an eye on, but it is heavily based on loops and routines, and mastery is a matter only of time, not insight or ability.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to reach a fail state, but you can waste a whole lot of time if you try to shortcut by doing everything with the starting units. It winds up being a bit of a grind, hauling your squad of uncared-about, easily replaced imps and minotaurs and shaman back and forth to fight and eat, because the idiots can’t manage themselves at all. Again, I’m bouncing off my expectations and unfortunate sense of entitlement in terms of a Dungeon Keeper-like game, and lamenting that Impire is not at all a living place. It’s a real-time strategy game in a constrained environment, with the pre-fab buildings and obedient marionettes that usually entails.

Treated in that spirit, and putting aside the disappointment that a dungeon I built out of toilet rolls in five minutes would feel more of me than would an Impire construction which took two hours (levels are long, or at least long-winded, often playing for time with banal sidequests and repeated objectives), Cyanide’s game does have the comfortable compulsion of reaching every branch on the tech tree. Even were it more plausible to rush through its long levels, I don’t think I would. There’s too much silent satisfaction in hitting every optional objective, filling my squads with the best-possible units and placing every type of room even though I don’t really need half of them. I kept on playing despite the sure sense that I’d seen everything, that I’d be repeating the same often dreary procedures again and again and that the cramped, ugly interface would present more of a challenge than the enemies ever would. I do so hate to stereotype developers, but naff UI does seem to be something of a Cyanide mainstay. Like Blood Bowl before it, Impire would sing so much more if its window dressing didn’t look quite so much like a 1993 version of Lotus Notes.

Again, though I don’t and probably never will know the motivations behind Impire’s creation, there’s that creeping sense that it’s putting far too much effort into being a Dungeon Keeper clone that isn’t a Dungeon Keeper clone, but not enough into into being something specific, something its own. That side of things it only does through its narrative, endless chatter and abominable humour. God, it talks. God, it talks shit. Why is it that the games least capable of comedy so often seem to be the ones which include the most of it? It’s a string of terrible characters making terrible puns in terrible accents, not to mention the cheap-game-standard that is repeating the same terrible catchphrases every time you click on a character. By level two I’d muted the damn thing entirely and was listening to some jazz records instead.

Hmm. Writing about Impire makes me realise I dislike it a lot more than I thought I did. I’ve given it so much time because I’ve been compelled to make all the numbers go up, but I can’t say it’s done anything that’s actually impressed me, either as a Dungeon Keeperlike or as its own real-time strategy game. I just don’t understand why it exists, other than because it might make a bit of money from Dungeon Keeper fans.

Oh, one really neat thing it does: a pop up picture-in-picture window showing the 3D action when you’re watching in map-mode. That’s an idea any and every management game could benefit from.

Impire is out now.

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104 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    So, you could say, it needs improvement?

  2. Hoaxfish says:

    After reading reviews of not-DK games I wonder how long it’s been since I actually played DK.

  3. almostDead says:

    Is this review almost the definition of a Cyanide game. A ho-hum sort of experience. They are only on my radar at all because they did Blood Bowl. I can’t imagine many would know their name otherwise.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      They did say they were going to start tightening up on that if I remember correctly.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Their Game of Thrones RPG is underrated if you ask me.

      • Premium User Badge

        strangeloup says:

        Yeah, I’m quite enjoying it (edit: as in, the Game of Thrones RPG, not Impire) myself. I also thought Confrontation was pretty decent.

  4. caddyB says:

    7/10?

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      It killed my grandmother. It is all that is wrong with the world. I award it the score of the Beast, 73%.

    • transientmind says:

      You’ve seen the Penny Arcade strip ‘Xenotriptych’?
      Reviewers talking to each other:
      “Aliens: Colonial Marines is bad, guys. It’s a digital nightmare from which I cannot wake.”
      “So, it’s a seven?”
      “No. I need you to bring me… the forbidden numbers.”

  5. cavalerie says:

    You forgot the part about the game randomly crashing every hour or so.
    Couple that with the lack of an autosave feature, and you get a cocktail for a VERY frustrating time.

    Also you can watch your troops fight as well as cast spells when you raid locations outside the dungeon.

    • rapchee says:

      that sounds like a feature they boldly copied from dk2. i was even okay with it, but gog fixed that too.

      • socrate says:

        the raiding location thingy is just a thing stolen from a facebook Dungeon keeper clone which isnt that great but not that bad either unless you play more then a few days…name is…Dungeon Overlord thx google,anyway in that game its 1000x more well done and its actually 1000x more fun to raid a place because the city,keep and castle you raid get pissed off and call other city around them to send assault on your dungeon and they walk into either…well a death trap of….trap…or a swarm of well leveled monster.

  6. SuperNashwanPower says:

    This totally isn’t on topic, but I had to tell someone.

    I just looked in my Steam list and for a full 3 seconds believed, via the magic of mis-reading and a slightly small screen, that I had a game called “Hitler: Abomination”.

    Agent 47 would be most unimpressed.

    • cavalerie says:

      Did you buy it ?

    • almostDead says:

      Seeing as we’re doing off-topic posts, I came to RPS today a couple of times when it was down.

      And tried to play the text based adventure that is their maintenance page.

      *taps screen*

      ‘HEY RPS, your game needs more work!’

      Do something.

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      strangeloup says:

      And now I’m imagining a sort of Lovecraftian alternate-history WWII game.

      Actually, that’d be pretty great.

      • Aatch says:

        I’m pretty sure that’s a plot element in the newer Wolfenstein (2009). Nazis and some sort of otherworldlyness going-ons.

  7. abandonhope says:

    I realize that Paradox was just the publisher here, but I hope this doesn’t foretell of terrible things to come for Cartel.

    • The Random One says:

      Is that the RTS based on the original Syndicate? I was under the impression that was being made by an independent dev.

    • socrate says:

      paradox is already terrible how could it become worst? they from time to time get a good thing out…but so does EA and UBI and any publisher…doesnt mean they aren’t crap.

      A game of dwarf was horrible also and they are starting to just try and make money on the fame of old game…which all suck and are all terrible remake….personally i didin’t have much respect for paradox and anyone working for or with them…they tend to push their title out before they are actually finish and are shipped with tons of issue including bug and technical and gameplay issue.

      Add to this that their dumb fanboy are fanatic that think they are for some reason making godlike game and it just turn me off even more…each time they come out with a new product i just sit down with a drink and wait for the crash with a smile.

  8. Filden says:

    I was weak and pre-ordered this game solely on the basis of Adam’s RPS hands-on that described it as “solid”, because I was so desperate for the concept, even though I knew better from the Cyanide track record. It reminded me how subjective the concept of being “solid” can be.

    I don’t know what they were thinking with the “feeding” mechanics in this game. You essentially have to manually order each of your squads to eat every couple minutes to keep them at fighting strength, which will take take them forever to do unless you pick up and drop your units squad by squad outside of a kitchen. You will do this for each squad, every 2 to 3 minutes, over and over and over. After a certain point, the levels become all about managing your squads’ hunger, in between playing “whack a mole” with hero ladders that pop up in waves like clockwork every few minutes.

    The game claims to be a hybrid between a base building RTS and a management style God game, but I can’t think of an example of either of those games where that mechanic would be welcome. In a proper mangement sim your units feed themselves when you build them facilities, and imagine having to manually feed each of your squads in Dawn of War (a game that the developers like to reference frequently, without bearing much resemblance to it) or Starcraft every couple minutes.

    It’s twice the micromanagement of a base building RTS or a management style god game, with half the satisfaction of getting to lovingly craft a dungeon, as there’s not much experiment with in terms of layouts or building strategy. Traps are simplistic and pointless as you can’t control or predict the flow of heroes into your dungeon, and simply dropping a squad on them is almost always a better solution.

    I think there’s a “decent” RTS at its core with more polish and getting some of the micromanagement issues under control, but it won’t scratch the same itch as Dungeon Keeper for people looking for that, unless you only enjoyed Dungeon Keeper for its combat aspects, which would be odd.

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      Lacero says:

      It’ll inevitably be in the Sunday Papers, but here’s an article for you to read about previews.

      http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/186840/What_are_video_game_previews_for.php

      • Filden says:

        Oh, yes, I’m aware of all that. It’s entirely my own fault. I lust after the concept so badly, Adam’s

        “brief hands-on session revealed Impire to be a solid take on dungeon management, with a neat incorporation of simple overworld missions and combat that is more engaging than it first appears”

        allowed me to read what I wanted into it.

        I’m not blaming Adam. I don’t know how I would caution against a game I’m not allowed to caution against. It’s all my own stupid fault, and I knew I was making a terrible mistake even as I did it. I just have blinders when it comes to anything mentioned with “Dungeon Keeper” in the same sentence. I wanted to believe this is when Cyanide would finally get it together.

        • AngoraFish says:

          I feel your pain. I made the same mistake with Dungeons.

    • Strabo says:

      Simply stop pre-ordering games. The aren’t a rare commodity that you need to reserve. They don’t go up in price or are sold out for months (rare exceptions like WoW around 2005 nonwithstanding)*. The bullshit pre-order bonuses are usually completely worthless and the whole pre-order concept takes the industry in a direction that’s not a positive one for creators and customers (only for publishers).

      *I can see an exception for things you absolutely will buy no matter how the game turns out or super-expensive Special Collector Limited Titan Edition.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        It’s so true. I fell for it myself with Fall for Cybertron. Sure, I justified it for myself cause I’d purchased War for Cybertron for like 5 euros and I really wanted that classic Optimus skin, but ugh.

  9. Sian says:

    “Compounding this are ‘overworld’ missions, required to grab bonus resources or meet certain objectives, which really are just icons on a flat map. You don’t even get to see the battles: instead, you units return with their loot and casualties you shall never know the cause of.”

    This is not quite true. You can right-click on the overworld battles after your group leaves the dungeon, but before the battle is over, and select the arrow icon to view the battle. Better yet: You can cast spells to help your creatures out. Basically, overworld raids are the same as battles in the dungeon, just with a slower teleport.

  10. Archonsod says:

    You can see the battles on the overland map, there’s a “view site” added to the context menu whenever your squad is en route. The real problem there is the enemies they face are the same guys you’re fighting in the dungeon, which turns the raids into little more than a “whack a hero group for a little extra reward”.

    Talking about groups, there is some effort to encourage you to mix it up by including squad abilities dependent on the combination of units in a given squad. It’s not very well explained however and there’s no way of seeing what or why you get certain abilities that the whole thing is a bit of a crap shoot though.

  11. Cryptoshrimp says:

    I for one am unsurprised. It’s a bit of a shame though, but perhaps it’s time to let that old game pass in peace and evolve the concept, instead of constantly trying to ‘improve’ it. Every attempt at that has ended up as, uh, pretty terrible.

    Perhaps make it an FPS!

    • Filden says:

      Well, one generally “evolves” by trying to improve.

      It’s not like it’s the format of the game that is in question, as none of the recent attempts to evoke Dungeon Keeper have done more than superficially resemble it. It’s the attempts to “evolve” the game at the cost of what makes games of that style rewarding that is the problem. We haven’t had a proper graphically appealing building/management Sim in quite some time. I would welcome a game that actually tries to improve on Dungeon Keeper by being a better version of that game, which was not without flaws, rather than by being a different type of game altogether.

      I don’t know why people won’t just unapologetically make a proper builder god-sim like DK, Evil Genius, or Planetopia any more, without cross-breeding it with a mundane contemporary RTS . I personally think Dwarf Fortress is the greatest game ever, but I want to play something with some graphical polish and some living breathing environments every once in a while. If WftO and Maia fall short I might be forced to do something drastic, like play SimCity.

      • Skhalt says:

        Do not forget Clockwork Empires, my good man!

        • mckertis says:

          Come now, you know Gaswork or whatever bit on too much with their insanely humongous promises, they will never deliver all they said they will.

      • Cryptoshrimp says:

        Yeah, I should have said it better. You seem to verbalize my own thoughts better than myself, so, thanks!

    • AngoraFish says:

      I just want DK with better graphics and fewer bugs.

      • Gibbonius says:

        So we go back to waiting for War for the Underworld then.

  12. Simon Hawthorne says:

    Hmm…the game sounds dull so what jazz were you listening to? I’ve been entranced by GoGo Penguin recently.

  13. Xardas Kane says:

    Cyanide.

    That is all.

    • trjp says:

      Just to clear that one up, they’ve gone to some trouble to indicate this is a different studio/team to that ‘other’ Cyanide you’re talking about

      Not sure if that does them any good now, but…

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Why any company would want to be mistaken for one of the shittiest developers in the industry is beyond me.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        I dunno, fits their agenda perfectly – nice idea, deeply flawed execution. Just like GoT and that orc thingamajigger.

  14. Moraven says:

    Some of the later Dungeon Keeper maps were chaotic enough where you had to play with the overhead view to cast spells and the constant re-position of your minions. Bile demons would destroy your mages.

  15. Akimbo says:

    It’s a string of terrible characters making terrible puns in terrible accents

    So it’s basically RPS: The Game?
    Hooooooooooooo

  16. The Random One says:

    “Make me a sandwich. Go on it, it’ll be easy: you know exactly what’s involved. There’s just one catch: the name and concept of ‘sandwich’ has become copyrighted. So you need to make me a sandwich which isn’t a sandwich, that instantly evokes sandwichiness but won’t result in the Earl of Sandwich’s lawyers paying you a visit. Of course, there must be bread, there must be filling, and there must be spread, but whatever you do don’t put them together in a neat little three-layer stack. Find some other way of doing it, won’t you?”

    It really depends on what school of sandwich design you follow.

    http://basicinstructions.net/basic-instructions/2010/5/23/how-to-agree-on-a-definition.html The Meyer school.
    http://nameremoved.com/comics/633/ Or the Wolfe definition.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      The norwegians put meat on top of bread. They leave the top open. I don’t think its patented.

    • hypercrisis says:

      I cannot for the life of me fathom what is happening the third panel there.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lacero says:

      This is madness. We clearly need an SI sandwich held in Sandwich for people to calibrate against so we can have a single universal measure.

      This sandwich will be made of two slices of bread , and only bread, with a filling between. Note butter or similar does not count as a filling on its own, in that case what you’ve got are some slices of bread and butter.

    • iucounu says:

      Heretics! As Sandwichfinder General, I sentence you to be toasted!

  17. Captain Joyless says:

    The sad thing is, legally, nothing really stops anyone from completely remaking Dungeon Keeper, so long as the images, sounds, and words are different. And maybe the UI layout a bit.

    In America, anyway, you cannot copyright the rules of a game. You can copyright art, sounds, writings, and the way arts, sounds, and writings are packaged together, but can’t copyright the rules and mechanics.

    That’s sort of why the sandwich analogy is a bit of a fail: you could absolutely make a sandwich, and as long as you don’t call it a “sandwich” there’s nothing saying you can’t do it. (Bit of a weird analogy anyway since a “sandwich” isn’t a creative work fixed in a tangible medium of expression, but there you go. But more like patent, but patents wouldn’t really be the issue here.)

    • Cooper says:

      Is that a sad thing?

      The inability to copyright game mechanics means we get things like “War for the Overworld”.

      Not even the bloody sound is different it’s the same voice!

      This is not sad thing. It is a thing of joy.

      Hooray for weak copyright laws \o/

      • Xocrates says:

        I think the “sad thing” is that they could have copied Dungeon Keeper, but didn’t. As opposed to copyright laws being too “lax”.

        • Cooper says:

          The sadder thing is to think that maybe the devs honestly thought they could improve on the formula and have made something better than DK…

          • Filden says:

            Nothing but speculation on my part, but the game strikes me as something that did actually start much closer to Dungeon Keeper, and eventually went in this direction due to a lack of funds (or possibly ability). The game makes more sense to me as something they thought they could achieve with what they had at one point, rather than something someone envisioned from the start.

          • AngoraFish says:

            @Cooper. this

        • Captain Joyless says:

          Xocrates is correct on my intent.

          As an aside, “Hooray for weak copyright laws” is a cry from an alternate universe.

  18. NinebreakerN7 says:

    I actually enjoy the game. I get annoyed at the lack of auto-save. Or even the ability to save WITHIN a mission. If you save, it just restarts you from the beginning anyway. I’m not sure whether I would have spent $20 on this of my own money, but with Steam credit and nothing else interesting occurring, I figured “Why not?” I’ll easily get my $20 out of the game.

    Alec – Assuming you get this, which path did you proceed down for Baal?

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      No you don’t have to restart!
      You are clicking the wrong button. Just to the left of the “Start” button is the “Load” button (on the last screen before launching the level)
      when you click Load it will load the most recent (only?) save

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      Diziet Sma says:

      Yay I am not alone! :D

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Well it hardly makes sense.
        I also restarted on my first attempt at reloading.

  19. BobbyKotickIsTheAntichrist says:

    I wonder when someone at Cyanide will catch on to the fact that they’re just plain too incompetent to ever create something decent. Maybe they should switch to accounting software.

  20. N says:

    I played thsi thing till mission 2, then i just installed Keeper FX lol. Dungeon Keeper 1 is still pretty damn fine and it looks just great, I love the dingy look of the game.

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    Andy_Panthro says:

    So… wait for War for the Overworld then?

  22. Jimbo says:

    It’s also quite broken. There’s some kind of bug that makes the camera break entirely – the ui remains semi-responsive but the ‘view’ is just blackness. This happened to me during the very first level and I can’t fix it without restarting the whole level (it’s kinda long and very slow)… which basically means I’ll never play this game again.

  23. mckertis says:

    “Of course, there must be bread, there must be filling, and there must be spread, but whatever you do don’t put them together in a neat little three-layer stack. ”

    Of course ! Why would you do something as insane as putting it in three-layer stack ? Just make a butterbrot, as always, and give the usual finger to lord Sandwich.

    “You can’t choose the shape or size of the rooms”

    Why does it matter ? It sure didnt matter in DK, except as pre-requisites.

    “The other negative effect of building being FarmVille-style click’n’place is that it neuters any urge to go watch the construction in action”

    As opposed to…DK ? I fail to see the connection here. Not like there was a whole lot of “construction spectacles” to see in DK. Not even in Evil Genius.

  24. Shiri says:

    Whew, sure dodged a bullet by waiting for the Wot I Think on this one, thanks.

  25. Alextended says:

    Hmm…

  26. Premium User Badge

    Diziet Sma says:

    Wow. Clearly I am pretty much alone. Apart from the awful voice acting and script I’ve been enjoying it quite a lot. I agree with some of the criticisms though, identikit rooms and feeding but they’re not that onerous in the grand scheme of the game. No worse than many RTSs.

    As for the crashes, that’s actually something in the game that has impressed me. It has not once CTD’d. It chucks an exception every now and again, which is caught. Thus the game appears to freeze, hit alt-tab and click OK on the error message you will undoubtedly find and the game goes back to normal. No crash and no apparent adverse effects. Normally edge condition or off by one errors like ‘index out of range’ etc.

    I’ve not really seen proper exception handling so visible in a game before.

    • Filden says:

      I agree with some of the criticisms though, identikit rooms and feeding but they’re not that onerous in the grand scheme of the game. No worse than many RTSs.

      Can you think of any other RTS that requires you to click through each of your available squads, every few minutes, and manually order them to go feed themselves, taking them out of action for up to a minute? Can you think of any RTS where that feature would add anything but tedium to the game?

      Not to say the game is entirely without appealing aspects, but I think that by definition means it is worse than many RTS in that regard, and quite a few others.

      • Archonsod says:

        Every few minutes is a bit of an exaggeration. Particularly since half your squads are going to be following Baal anyway, which dramatically slows down aggression loss.

        It’s usually only the squads you keep back at base to ward off hero invasions that you need to worry about, and even then it’s pretty simple to send them off to eat after every hero spawn (particularly since feeding also heals them).

        • Filden says:

          It is absolutely not an exaggeration. I’m not talking about the time between your squad’s orange bar is full, and the point where it completely empties. I’m talking about the need to constantly manage all your squads’ hungers, and *keep* it from running out, so their combat ability won’t tank.

          With 4 squads in the game, each squad was getting below a half or a third of their orange bar in about 3 minutes of real time. Combat seemed to speed up the depletion. Combat waves happened every few minutes like clockwork, so you had to juggle your squads in between send them in staggered batches to feed, in order so they wouldn’t be depleted by the time the next wave of whack a mole ladders popped up.

          Since it could sometimes take more than a minute for them to complete the feeding task (no matter how many extra kitchens I built, they still seemed to take forever to get it done, unless I physically teleported them to right outside a kitchen, adding even more micromanagement to the process), and if you interrupted the process they wouldn’t feed, you had to be proactive about the feeding, and keep them topped off.

          After a while, I felt like I was playing the squad management panel more than I was playing the actual game. 60% of the game experience was managing squad hunger and playing whack a mole with ladder incursions. I was willing put up with many other things, but this just broke me. And I play Dwarf Fortress regularly, so it’s not like I shy away from micromanagement and clunky interfaces on principle.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        Honestly, there are a lot of SC2 features like that. Yet Blizzard weaves them together to add “skill” or make it a choice.

        For example, using Energy on Terran command centers. Mostly it’s just MULEing. Sometimes you scan. But when it’s just MULEing… it’s horribly boring, just remembering to click it at the right time every so often. Same thing with Inject Larva. Chrono Boost is more of a choice but it’s also about tedious micromanagement of energy level timings.

        • Filden says:

          I don’t think it’s the same thing. I’m not talking about the need to keep applying active abilities of some troop types. I’m talking about the absolute requirement to manually tell each and every one of your squads to return to base and take themselves out of the game for up to a minute, every few minutes.

          It would be like having to manually click on each of your units in Starcraft and tell them to take a bathroom break so you had to fight your battles around who wasn’t in the toilet at a given time.

  27. MadTinkerer says:

    Well here’s hoping War For The Overworld does better.

  28. hermpesaurusrex says:

    At least this was only $20. I’m not entirely disappointed, but damn do I want Dungeon Keeper. The feeding mechanic is dreadful. I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish there. The voice acting is godawful. I want to kill that horrid adviser guy in the scrotum, really, really, badly.

  29. Cyrius says:

    I think the game is fun and it scratched an itch that has been there for a long time.

    Its not dungeon keeper, but it feels much more active imo. I personally like teleporting and ladders and health bars and energy. Feels like I am doing more and watching less.

    I do wish the management portion of the game had more management though.

  30. City Builder says:

    Actually, you can watch the battles that occur on the overhead land map, you just have to right click on the icon and choose the loopy arrow button to enter that raid instance.

    However theres nothing interesting to see in there, your squad enters, you might help them along by throwing a lightning bolt at the enemy and when the battle ends you are taken out of the raid instance. It’s rinse and repeat for all raid instances, boring at it’s finest.

    Game is not fun to me, it’s filled with busy work and some things feel like they were added into the game only because Cyanide did not have the imagination or skill to do anything else, like the constant need of teleporting troops around the dungeon. Without that the game would be dead on arrival for most players but it seems it was added because they knew that not because it’s any fun to teleport troops where ever you need them. Gone is the excitement of whether or not your squads would be able to get where they need to go to battle the enemy, just teleport them there instead.

    No need to worry too much about your minions health, just teleport them out of the room they’re losing to that skunky fire warlock that pops out of a chest that gives you a lousy 25 reward, you should have just gone to the surface map to collect that.

    And the UI is absolutely horrid, it feels to me uncohesive and that they had multiple people working on it at the same time each doing their own part to the UI but nobody around to make it all mesh together. Either that or they had Cybil working on the UI with her 6 different personalities.

    I really don’t say this about many games but this one is a big fat turd.

  31. Redd says:

    Cyanide are fundamentally talentless.