Dungeon Keeper 2: Day 5 – it pays to listen

A Dungeon Keeper 2 screenshot

Dungeon Keeper 2’s Level 12, “Scavenger” – Goldenglade, took a lot longer to complete than it should have, and it was all my fault.

Throughout the early stages of the level, and in the level briefing, I was given several clues:

  • You’re not going to have everything on this level and will need to make do with what you have
  • Skeletons are okay to get started but aren’t going to be strong enough to win the big fights
  • Nurture and train vampires and they will be a formidable force
A Dungeon Keeper 2 screenshot
The main mechanic of the level – raising vampires

Naturally, I failed to listen to all of this advice.

On my first attempt, I stepped into auto-pilot and started building all the rooms I would normally build (a library, a workshop). But having no access to a portal meant no creatures came into my dungeon, and so I’d wasted money and space on these completely useless additions. Money is very tight in the early game, so I decided to restart.

Second attempt; with no access to a portal I felt I needed a way to bolster my forces. A prison it is then – capturing downed enemies and putting them in here turns them into skeletons that join your side. So my skeleton army grew, but this too, ultimately doomed me. Why? “Skeletons are okay to get started but aren’t going to be strong enough to win the big fights”! I was told this, but ignored it. Additionally, and even more detrimentally, turning downed enemies into skeletons means corpses don’t form. Corpses are taken to the graveyard and spawn the powerful vampire unit. No corpses, no vampires. Restart.

Third attempt; no prison, corpses to graveyard, vampires. I now have 5 vampires – great! Let’s attack. Stomped. Level 1 vampires are good, but not strong enough to win the level. Oh yes, I remember being told I needed to train them up. Restart.

Final attempt; take my time, train my vampires, pick smaller fights, destroy enemy, snowball, win. What a plan. All is going well until I come to their final stronghold. It’s easy enough to breach entry into it, but this enemy has level 5 imps somehow (stronger than my puny imp army) and an endlessly supply of creatures because they have a portal in their dungeon.

For the best part of 30 minutes, I repeatedly tried sending my imps in to capture territory and using my trained up vampires to overpower an army far larger than mine. But nothing was giving, with the game feeling like a MOBA where the forces would be battling at the same line of engagement, neither side taking or losing ground. Because the corpses were falling in the enemy base, my imps weren’t taking them back to my graveyard so no additional vampires were ever spawned my side. With my forces depleted, I finally realised I had to do something different; capture the portal. This would have two benefits:

  1. The enemy’s unlimited creature supply would run out
  2. Creatures could now come through the portal to my dungeon, meaning I can recruit, most importantly, trolls to work in my workshop
A Dungeon Keeper 2 screenshot
Securing the all-important portal

So one final push to secure and hold the portal for long enough to have a goblin step through. When he’s through, put him in my workshop and churn out sentry turrets to automatically target the enemy imps trying to reclaim the now hotly-contested portal. With the portal now fully secured, it was only a matter of time until the balance of power shifted and my now elite vampires could finish off the enemy forces and then destroy their dungeon heart. 1 hour 25 minutes after starting that run (and closer to 3 hours on this level), it was complete.

So what did I learn? The clues given to me are damn important. Dungeon Keeper 2’s strength is that everything is meticulously thought out – level and scenario design is deliberate and varied. What works on one level might not work on the next, so don’t expect to play the same way each time.

It’s an incredibly refreshing feeling. Modern games have made me lazy – do the same thing again but better and you’ll be fine. Big armies will always win out. Not the case here.

I’m sorry Bullfrog, I promise to listen next time.

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