Have You Played… Dungeon Keeper?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Yes, of course you have. Wait: unless you think I mean that abomination on smartphones a little while back? No. Nooooo. Ack, between that nasty little thing and the depressing stuff Molyneux’s up to these days, it’s easy to forget just how good at management/strategy games Bullfrog could be. I will love Dungeon Keeper – the original Dungeon Keeper – forever.

Where, at the time, it was the humour that sold me on it, these days the gags about how deliciously naughty it is to beat up heroes, or recruiting self-flagellating dominatrixes and flatulent demons, do seem tired and safe. What works is the general tone – the gloom, the uncertainty of what’s around you, the barely-concealed resentment of your dungeon’s denizens, the sad, lonely tapping noise of a tired imp chipping away at cold, hard rock…

And all the time, this delicate struggle to contain chaos, make it work for you, to apply a drip-feed of learning about what likes what and who hates who as you set down rooms and usher monsters about the place. Dungeon Keeper is tight.

Of course, what I really want is Dungeon Keeper 1 with the UI and control improvements of the otherwise slightly inferior Dungeon Keeper 2. Can someone whip that up for me, please?

59 Comments

  1. eggy toast says:

    I bought it on GoG and installed it but it was so ugly looking I couldn’t figure out what anything was or how to interact with anything and I gave up.

    The game, aesthetically, has aged horribly.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cooper says:

      The manual. Read it. This is a game from those dark ages of gaming where manuals came with the game and you were expected to read them…

    • Redcoat-Mic says:

      You don’t even need to read the manual, the first few levels are learning levels…

      Seriously, how hard is it? You dig, build rooms and you can pick creatures up if necessary, there’s more to it than that but that’s pretty much all you need to know to get started!

    • MisterFurious says:

      I got it for free and tried it out. I’ve heard for years about how great it was but I really didn’t see what the big deal is. I didn’t like the game at all. I can see how people that were kids when it came out and played it back then may have liked it, I probably would have at the time myself, but I think a lot of people have Nostalgia Blindness in regards to this game because, as you said, it has not aged well at all.

    • hng says:

      Press alt + r for high resolution.

    • Sucram says:

      Try using Keeper FX.

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      Sometimes I think a bigger problem with games is instantly figuring out what everything is.

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      teije says:

      DK 2 is nearly as good I think, and far more accessible to us “modern” folks. One of my son’s favourite games (I’ve brainwashed him wonderfully into loving the old-school stuff).

      He’s probably the most scathing person I know about the mobile abomination. It’s all he talked about for 2 weeks. Ah, the innocent outrage of the young…

      • BlueTemplar says:

        DK2 is very bugged, especially multiplayer, you have to pick and choose between different versions which have different broken features :
        link to gog.com

    • Razgovory says:

      This was the first game I had to upgrade my computer to play. Great fun. Maybe I’ll rebuy it on GOG (love that site).

  2. Premium User Badge

    Cooper says:

    Okay, to get DK1 playing nicely with contemporary Windows without using GoG’s DosBox wrapper and, simultaneously get pretty much any resolution you want, you need KeeperFX.

    This is not a remake so much as a means of wrapping the existing DK files such that they run on current windows and, simultaneously, re-writing bits here and there for better functionality (such as resolution).

    Also, the package comes with a consoldated set of user-made campaigns. Some of which are very good.

    Other links: KeeperFX section of the Keeper Clan forums
    RPS coverage of KeeperFX

  3. EOT says:

    Bought it in one of those 5 games for £20 deals at GAME in or around 2000. It wouldn’t run and that’s as far as I got.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cooper says:

      My above comment is awaiting moderation. In the meantime, what you’re probably needing is KeeperFX

      • EOT says:

        I was 13. Finding fixes for ‘old’ games wasn’t top of my list of things to do. KeeperFX likely didn’t exist 14 years ago either.

        Regardless, I would still like to play it some day. So I’ll keep your advice in mind.

  4. RedViv says:

    I have a very strong desire for a much deeper DK game, instead of a streamlined or completely differently focused one.

    • BTAxis says:

      KeeperRL maybe? I don’t know if it fits the bill, I haven’t played it.

  5. Big Murray says:

    Who HASN’T played Dungeon Keeper?

  6. Fitzmogwai says:

    It was the voice work and the easter eggs that really got their hooks in to me. Playing at stupid o’clock, only to be told “It is late. Go to bed” by the game. Levels only available at certain phases of the moon. Or Elvis’s birthday. And those amazing level descriptions on the map….

    • RegisteredUser says:

      And all of this in an age where space was still at a fair premium.
      I sincerely believe that in the “early days” people just had far more love than “let’s just use high-end technology and they’ll enjoy it” as a tool when making games. And it showed, and its what people miss, and its what makes me so sad that all of these modern “AAA” churnware titles are so popular with the “current” generation.

      Loved all those little gimmicks and quirks. Its those little winks and nudges that tied a real bond between game makers / game and me.

      • SomeDuder says:

        It’s pretty much why I enjoy PC games the most – while it’s obviously very much possible on consoles as well, it was PC games which used to have the most details, soundworks and general quality.

        A bit more recent example – Supreme Commander. This is a PC game, for PC people who know how to move a mouse and with a cold, hard logic necessary to multitask a few different fronts, while still appreciating how each different unit has several different articulating turrets and launchers that can track independent targets.

  7. lordebon says:

    No conversation on DK can be truly complete without mentioning War for the Overworld, a spiritual successor in pre-release/Beta. It’s far from finished, but it’s got the same fundamentals and even has Richard Ridings onboard for voiceover work (you might know him as the narrator in DK/DK2).

    Another one that should be mentioned for those that love the genre is Evil Genius. It’s a bit different (for one, it’s themed around the 60s spy era, a la austin powers) but it’s got the same twisted humor.

  8. Jamesworkshop says:

    no, no i have not

  9. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Special mention must go to the Narrator, whose sepulchral voice drips into your ears like poisoned honey as he deftly switches from condescension to naked threat to absurdist humour without missing a beat.

    • Arathain says:

      “The people of Smileville are plagued only by aching facial muscles, and not anthrax as we had hoped…”

      Amazing delivery.

    • RedViv says:

      A true modern DK could not do without Richard Ridings. So it’s good that the most promising modernisation of it does not lack in that regard.

    • N'Al says:

      Regarding that, I’ve always loved the narrator in Startopia, in the same genre.

      • Railway Rifle says:

        Startopia’s narrator was the voice of the The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (TV version).

        Relatedly, I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t a “Have You Played…Startopia?” I saw of copy of it for 30p in CEX. Sounds like a great deal even though I already have it. Anyway want a copy of Startopia for the price of a self-addressed envelope (within the UK)?

        • MadTinkerer says:

          I own Startopia thanks to GoG (unlike DK and DK2, I missed out on the original version of Startopia) and I really should try it out…

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      Bluerps says:

      I never heard him, because I had the German version. However, unusual for the time, the German voice actor was brilliant (during the 90s the German voices in translated games were almost always beyond horrible). So, basically, what you said applies to the German version too.

  10. OliverM says:

    I’ve played it, and my memories of it are fond even if I wonder if it was a game of its time. The narrator was excellent. Magic Carpet is my true Bullfrog love though…

  11. Gilead says:

    I’ve still got a big box Dungeon Keeper Gold collector’s edition thing. It had the game, the expansion and a bonus disc that had a Windows 95 theme, wallpapers (now in comically small resolutions) and bonus sound files of the narrator saying things like ‘My god. It’s full of pie’.

    Never forget.

  12. mickygor says:

    DK’s one of those games which is a mandatory install every time I format. I never stopped playing it, though the disks wore out long ago.

  13. Velthaertirden says:

    So is this like a section dedicated to old games? Because it sounds familiar to an idea I’ve head from a friend that has applied for a job at RPS.

  14. BathroomCitizen says:

    Back when I was a kid, I used to rewatch the intro at least 10 times a day.

    Edit: also, why is DK 2 considered the inferior product? Just plain curiosity, as I don’t remember it quite well.

    • Werthead says:

      I never really got that. It looks a lot better than DK1, You can drag-select areas to dig which is much faster and the game is otherwise pretty much identical. There’s a few more rooms and perhaps a little more ‘busywork’ (having two different training rooms for creatures, but I thought the combat training pit and the animations of everyone charging in to cheer on the combatants was brilliant) than the original, but it’s very much a modest evolution of the orginal than anything massively different.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Agreed. I still play both (and that says a lot about the first one, actually) but I definitely wouldn’t call DK2 inferior.

    • ssh83 says:

      The level design in the original were much more consistently creative. The pacing of unit and creature were also better. DK2 is a better balanced and challenging RTS, but that actually restrict the player to play more seriously and less creatively. DK’s core fun is the creative factor, not so much any actual challenge. In DK, you could go “this map i’m going to just do all traps” and you’ll probably still win. Winning encourages the player to do more of the same, so player would just feel free to keep doing funny things, and that makes for better watercooler conversation and fond memories.

    • sinister agent says:

      I much prefer the second. In fact I only played the first this year, and got bored within an hour or so. It’s ugly and much clunkier, and I didn’t really see any reason to bother carrying on.

      Oddly, reading the comments here is the first time I’ve got the impression that “the first one is better” is a common opinion at all. Always thought the second one was generally much better received.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        The second version of the game improved the already-well-developed-for-the-time UI and made everything proper 3D so your brain didn’t get irritated by trying to figure out the 2D sprites’ position in a 3D world. But they took away demon spawn and dragons and the Scavenger room (which, admittedly, was of limited use) and the Ultima references and other things that were part of the charm of DK1.

        Making Horny a summon helped encourage players to actually use him. Decoupling magic from gold while keeping imps a spell helped balance the main mechanics. But the way mana resources (fountains or nodes or whatever they were called) work needed to be fixed: I never noticed enemy keepers or heroes ever seeming to care about mana resources, and they needed to be treated a little more like capture points.

        In short, while many of the changes were improvements, some of the additions really needed a bit more thought before the versions that we saw in the game. But overall, I do think DK2 is slightly better than DK1 gameplay-wise.

    • Turkey says:

      I think most people consider the 2nd one to be superior.

      I don’t like it because I feel it shifts the focus from a game about turtling into a clunky RTS, but I feel like they already made that mistake in the first one by introducing other AI driven dungeon masters.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Because it’s very bugged, doesn’t have as much flavor (EA bought DK2, Molyneux moved on, EA made the game a lot less dark than DK1 to have lower parental ratings and killed a lot of its uniqueness in the process), and uses very early 3D that looks worse than DK1 isometric 3D. Level design is also uninspired. Pretty much the only thing better in DK2 than in DK1 are the awesome movies :

  15. Rolento says:

    I loved the level introductions. I can still kinda remember them…

    “Water-dream-down, a region of pointless frolicking and endless pleasure. No one here understands the meaning of random shocking violence meeted out arbitrarily”.

    Good times:)

    • Niko says:

      Yeah, those were the greatest level introductions! I remember being frustrated because my grasp of spoken English at the time was quite poor and I didn’t get everything.

  16. CookPassBabtridge says:

    EVERY TIME I google for info on the second Oculus Rift development kit, I am reminded this game had a sequel.

  17. Lagran says:

    Dungeon Keeper 1 was one of the first games I’d ever bought — picked it up at Game, read the back, and instantly wanted it. I got it some time later and despite my lack of knowledge of specs it ran perfectly on my computer. I played until the disc no longer worked; I then copied the files to a pen drive and ran the game from that. When the pen drive stopped working (circa 2007, I believe) my almost ten years of playing the game on and off game to an end.

    Until I bought it on GOG in April 2013, anyway.

  18. karmafarm says:

    I tried to like the freemium version that came out on mobile but ugh. Reinstalled the original back in Feb and found it unplayable, but then this thread reminded me of KeeperFX, and after 20 mins of tinkering I had myself a nostalgia smorgasbord. Thanks, RPS!

  19. TRS-80 says:

    I quite enjoyed it until I hit a level that was miserly on resources and couldn’t progress. Looking through level lists it might have been Platditz? I had the same problem with Magic Carpet actually, got stuck without enough thingies and gave up because there was no obvious way to progress.

  20. JustAchaP says:

    I had a go at the original and couldn’t get into because of the UI and graphics. Even though I used KeeperFX I still getting get into it. I moved on onto DK2 and loved it, the RTS I have ever gotten into and gotten far in the campaign.

  21. Gothnak says:

    I remember seeing a review of Dungeon Keeper and as a DM at the time, i couldn’t wait. I played the game, loved the idea of building my dungeon to fend off the attackers but was less interested in the more standard city builder aspect.

    However, when i got attacked for the first time, i realised i could just pick up all the creatures with one mouse button and drop them on the heroes. And lightning bolt any heroes left alive. That basically ruined the whole game for me, as the optimum strategy had no skill at all, just get as many creatures as you can, and store up excess mana for lightning.

    I have heard rumours (from people that worked on it) that someone asked for those gameplay elements to be added near the end of development and they never got a chance to properly balance them.

    Since then i still haven’t played a game where i build a dungeon to kill heroes.. I did talk to the War of The Overlord guys at EGX last week and they said they had fixed that particular problem.

  22. Michael Fogg says:

    I haven’t. Sue me.

  23. Mr Coot says:

    Have played it and have the orig, it’s expansion and DKII in the bookshelf in front of me as I type this. If you are hankering for some DK, you might like to look at War for the Overworld which is an indie reboot of DK made with Molyneaux blessing and Richard Ridings as Narrator :D . Progress is slow but it is true to the original in essence (obviously EA doesn’t allow them to use the monster names), purchaseable in alpha/beta form on Steam.

  24. Enkinan says:

    Played the hell out of it.

    Feeling very old now. My son is the same age I was when I played it…

  25. frenchy2k1 says:

    Another indie reboot of Dungeon keep I just found through a bundle today: Dwelvers
    link to dwelvers.com

    It’s on Steam Early Access:
    link to store.steampowered.com

    People seem to like it even though it is far from finished.
    Personally, I’ll keep an eye on it…