“If the developers can fix their problems, then War for the Overworld will be a fantastic game to play.”
Recently, dungeon sim games have been making a huge comeback. Perhaps even more significantly, some of these games have actually been pretty good. Aspiring to rekindle the success and popularity of games such as Bullfrog’s classic Dungeon Keeper series, many different developers have attempted to create these games’ spiritual successor. None have tried quite as directly however as Subterranean Games, who in late 2012 launched what would be a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a fan-made sequel to Dungeon Keeper 2. They even went ahead and created this game under the banner of the once-proposed sub-title to the third instalment in the former series; War for the Overworld. The game was finally released in April this year, shortly after what will surely be its main competitor on the market at present – Realmforge Studios’ Dungeons II. In my review of Dugeons II, I called it the perfect follow up to Dungeon Keeper 2, which now of course creates one key question; will War for the Overworld see me eating my words much sooner than I might have expected..?
On the face of it, you could very easily believe that War for the Overworld is a Dungeon Keeper game. Graphically, bearing in mind the fact that things are a lot more polished now than they once were, it looks almost identical to what could technically be called its predecessors. The evil-looking hand which acts as your cursor looks exactly as it always did, as do many of the textures in the dungeons (once again noting their newly polished state). For anyone who starts off not quite believing that this could really follow up Dungeon Keeper 2 then, there are some positive signs that might just kindle their faith a little longer. Fans of these classic games will no doubt be feeling nostalgic from this offset, and will equally be impressed by the high-definition upgrades such as improved textures and a tidier HUD. Appearance wise then this game gets a thumbs up, but while this might be the first thing players will notice, it isn’t what will ultimately sell them the experience.
That brings us on to gameplay then, which of course is the real selling point that people will be looking at. The style an processes of play will also be largely familiar to Dungeon Keeper fans, which is obviously a good thing, but there are also a wealth of new features which have been added by the developers to update the experience. These include features such as progression trees, new rooms, spells, and minions, and a new system involving potions. There have also been some tweaks to the old school rules surrounding how the dungeon works and your abilities within it. War for the Overworld is much like any sequel in a video game series then, throwing in lots of new and exciting stuff which it hopes will excite fans rather than dismay them. For the most part, that is fortunately the likely reaction to these changes.
The progression system is perhaps the biggest learning curve for Dungeon Keeper fans when playing War for the Overworld. It used to be that your dungeon and its inhabitants would naturally progress what you could do in the game. Now however you need Cultists, a new type of minion, to research sins (experience) for you in order to unlock new rooms, minions, powers, traps and potions to progress with. While this changes the style of play quite significantly, it changes it in a positive way. This is mainly because it creates a lot more variation than previous games have offered. You have to make decisions about which direction you want to take your dungeon in, and depending upon your decisions your games will turn out quite differently to each other, creating much greater replayability. And it isn’t too hard to get to grips with either, neither does it take too long to make your way down the trees. Not everyone will be a fan of this, but generally speaking it is likely to be a popular new feature.
Potions are the other big change in War for the Overworld, compared to the games which inspired it. These provide bonuses to your dungeon keeping, such as faster workers or stronger soldiers. They have an obvious benefit then, and offer a different bonus to what the game’s spells can provide. While they don’t play as big a part as the new progression system in the game then, they are still pretty useful to have around. Equally, the game’s new rooms and minions are closely comparable to the old crew, and have the same entertainment value and quality to them as Dungeon Keeper’s ever had. The traps are pretty quirky and cool still too, but there is one issue with all of these things, and that is mana. Mana in War for the Overworld is capped, and therefore you can only have so many minions, traps and rooms in your dungeon at any time. If you want a massively expansive dungeon then, you may be disappointed. And if like most Dungeon Keeper fans you used to love packing your dungeon full of fiendish traps, the limit will be something of an annoyance to you.
Speaking of limitations, at present the game is a little limited in terms of play options. There are only so many maps, and whilst the story offers plenty of playtime to enjoy, beyond that in skirmishes and online there is only so much you can do as a result. Online play is very, very quiet right now, so finding others to play with is something of a challenge, most likely due to this limited content. If you are not a big story gamer then, you might find that you struggle to fully appreciate the game in its present state. If you do however love a good story, War for the Overworld’s is enjoyable and entertaining, albeit playing out like a really long tutorial. What’s more, the developers even managed to get the chap who did the voiceovers for Dunegon Keeper 1+2 to come back for this game too, and if you don’t know what that means then go and check him out online – he is amazing!
Now so far there have been quite a lot of positive points in this review, and one or two limitations spoken of too, but War for the Overworld does have some pretty disappointing negatives too. In fact, I delayed this review to see if some things would get fixed, and sure enough the developers are working on the game’s problems, but not nearly fast enough for a fully released game. You see, War for the Overworld really should not be out of Early Access on Steam. That is not a point for debate, it’s just true. There a numerous placeholders still present in the game almost two months after its release, which just doesn’t make any sense. For example if you hover over minions or objects, the descriptions are unfinished, the names are not all even finished, and it just makes the whole game feel half finished as a result. There are also several bugs in the game which should be simple fixes. It feels as though the developers saw Dungeons II released and saw how well it was doing, panicked a little, and pushed their game out too early. I am not saying that this is the case, but what is for sure is that this game needed some more attention before it was handed over as “completed” for games to play.
If you can ignore a bit of poor form and a few limitations, War for the Overworld is a fantastically enjoyable game to play. If you are a fan of Dungeon Keeper, you will love it! To come back to my original question about whether this game was a greater follow up to the Dungeon Keeper games than Dungeons II however, I am not sure. This game looks and plays like Dungeon Keeper, but feels more like a clone with some upgrades than an actual rebirth of a genre, which is how Dungeons II felt to me. Both games are enjoyable, but for games which route from the same genre and in fact the very same series, they are surprisingly different. If it is the pure Dungeon Keeper experience which you are after, War for the Overworld is probably your better bet though, just based on the appearance, gameplay and content which it offers. The game has quite a way to go before it can really be said to be finished however, and that is largely what is holding it back right now. If the developers can fix their problems, then War for the Overworld will be a fantastic game to play.
- – Looks and plays just like the Dungeon Keeper series which inspired it.
- – Additional features vary and arguably enrich the gameplay experience.
- – The new progression system in particular expands gameplay options.
- – Entertaining and enjoyable story which acts as its own tutorial for the game.
- – The return of the Dungeon Keeper series’ voiceover man is most welcome!
- – Mana is locked and limits gameplay as a result.
- – Limited maps and online players confine gameplay outside of the story.
- – Numerous features are incomplete or buggy, making the game feel as though it is not ready to be out of Steam Early Access and certainly not complete.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.