Kalypso Media and Realmforge Studios bring you Dungeons 3, a game that’s described as the biggest and best entry in the acclaimed Dungeons series yet – despite being the series’ first time on console. Worry not if you’re (like me) new to the series, because it’s not all too confusing to keep up with thanks to the isolated story. The premise certainly doesn’t waste any time getting you to the meat of the matter, being that the Dungeon Lord has now united the forces of evil and established the roots of his dark and devastating empire, so what’s next? Expansion! The Dungeon Lord has enlisted the aid of dark elf priestess ‘Thalya’ from the confinements of the surface world, now serving as his chief lieutenant with the forces of evil to back her up on her quest to rid the world of do-gooders once and for all.
The gameplay for Dungeons 3 is split into two aspects. One part you control your dungeon and build up your vast array of traps, rooms, structures and troops, and one part has you taking to the overworld and fighting the heroes dead on. There’s a short and informative tutorial included for those of you that are newcomers to the franchise, complete with a quirky and somewhat hilarious narrator. I just wish the tutorial explained the controls a bit better, because I felt like a fish out of water for the initial phases of play. You can indeed switch his voice off if you wish to, but you’ll be missing out on some stellar dialogue as a result. Outside of this you can also dive into a Skirmish Mode and a Multiplayer Mode, both of which come with a decent portion of customisation options to keep the game feeling fresh. It goes without saying however that the campaign is where much of the action is at.
The aim of the game is simple in concept but not so much in execution, which is just how I like ’em. You’re tasked with raising the most destructive army the world has ever seen, an army that ranges from zombies, orcs, succubae and many other creepy yet deadly forms of evil. Once you’ve crafted your forces you’re able to guide your army to the overworld and destroy anything that isn’t bad or nasty looking, kiss goodbye to anything heroic or cute. Marking a first for the series, Dungeons 3 houses randomly generated levels, ensuring that each playthrough feels distinct and unique across each session. One aspect of play that will stay with you throughout is the excellent dialogue from the narrator and indeed Thalya the elf, who seems to be struggling with her morality and conscience throughout. It makes for some very interesting conversations that helps to add more personality to the mix.
As aforementioned the gameplay is split into two aspects. When tending to the Dungeon side of the game, you’ll be taking on the responsibilities of extending your grounds via sim-like management. You have the ability to build a large portion of rooms whilst juggling all of the pros and cons that comes with it. Using your forces of darkness you can get them to mine resources for you and collect gold. On top of this you’ll be able to upgrade rooms and (as you progress through the game) learn a heap of new additions via your research tab – ranging from new rooms and traps to varying new creatures. Traps are important because heroes are able to come into your dungeon and make attempts to hinder your progress and put a stopper to all things evil via destroying your Dungeonheart, if that happens it’s game over. There’s no denying that this management side of the game is well rounded, deep, vast and interesting enough to keep firm hold of your attention.
The Overworld on the other hand controls and operates wildly different, being that it’s very much like Diablo or WoW in regards to movement, controls and combat. Here you wont be building or managing whatsoever, but instead you’ll be directly controlling your forces to devastate the remaining forces of good. It’s here where my first issue become apparent, which is to say that the combat feels very sluggish, especially when the screen is littered with enemies and allies. It’s not a massive pain in the neck but it does prove to be annoying when it’s more dominant. When you’re on the Overworld, you’ll be taking on a wide selection of missions and challenges as you make your way through, all of which vary in structure and design.
Dishing out spells and summons will become second nature as you confront all sorts of opponents, including a nice band of boss battles that make themselves known every now and again. Visually Dungeons 3 is a great looking game. The art style and the design goes hand in hand with the gorgeous pallet of colours, ultimately ensuring (along side random generation) that each location is refreshing and unique. It helps of course that the music is also on par with the theme, quality and design. Having never played Dungeons or Dungeons 2, I was a little sceptical about understanding the third installation and primarily confused when it was announced for console, but those doubts have been cast aside due to how well fed you are by the premise of the game and the instant understanding of the world(s) within. Realmforge have done well on this front.
Dungeons 3 is a solid game on the surface, but it does come with a band of issues that pulls it short of greatness. Excessive loading screens, sluggish combat when the screen is full of allies and enemies and a lack of explanation as far as the controls are concerned are chief amongst the problems. On the flip-side there’s a lot that Dungeons 3 gets right, such as the interesting story, gorgeous visuals, the clever and well structured mechanics, the vast amount of content, randomly generated levels and the comedy value found in the dialogue. Dungeons 3 sits on the blades edge because of this, and that’s not to say that this is a bad game, it’s just not one that will blow your socks off.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.