A more recent title in the classic be the bad guy approach, Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Master is a rogue-lite reverse dungeon crawler with some interesting ideas that don’t quite have enough replay value yet.
Genre: Strategy, RPG
Developer: Goblinz Studio
Publisher: Goblinz Studio
Release date: 19 March, 2020
Many of us would agree that playing as the villain has been plenty of fun in the past. Whether we’re lording over a fantasy dungeon in Dungeon Keeper or War for the Overworld, running an evil criminal organization in Evil Genius, or even just acting as the second fiddle to the ultimate evil in Tyranny, we’ve had some amazing games formed from the concept in the past. Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Master follows in the footsteps of these legendary titles as a solid strategy RPG rogue-like but doesn’t quite hit the same highs or manage the same level of ingenuity yet. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it a shot though.
Corporations Are Evil… No, Seriously!
Taking cues from many of the villain games of the past, Legend of Keepers explores this territory with an abundance of humor. You are an employee of a corporation that protects dungeons and their treasure chests from greedy bands of heroes and your efforts will go toward managing this as efficiently as possible. You’ll choose a task each week to further your goal as you acquire monsters, traps, and artifacts, continually improving to keep up with the ever-growing power of the heroic invaders. If they somehow manage to make it past these threats, they’ll have a final showdown with your boss monster; if they best it, you lose. Thanks to the rogue-lite nature of the game, this isn’t the end. You do have to start your career over but you’ll have gained some nice new benefits to bring into your next playthrough.
Tasks are generated seemingly randomly on your schedule and each week you’ll be able to choose one of up to three to pursue. Many of these require an expenditure of resources (blood, tears, or gold), and offer many benefits that improve the dangers that you pack your dungeons full of, sometimes with a risk on your end. A handful of the many tasks that you’ll be offered include a trainer who increases the level of your monsters, an engineer that increases the efficiency of your traps, a plunder opportunity that allows you to send monsters off to collect resources and artifacts, and so on. The gold that you spend here will be acquired regularly from many different accomplishments but the standard acquisition method for blood and tears is a bit more nefarious. If you’re looking for blood, kill heroes in your dungeon. If you’re looking for tears, break them mentally and chase them out.
Tools of the Trade
First and foremost, the most important part of your dungeon arsenal is your roster of monsters or “employees.” They mirror the heroes in that they’re made up of stats (health, motivation, power, and speed) and resistance (fire, ice, armor, nature, and air), though their skills and appearances are much different. You’ll be recruiting monsters like orcs, yetis, skeletons, and the like, while your opposition will arrive as bands of druids, ninjas, templars, and so forth. When they meet in at a predetermined place in the linear dungeon, a turn-based combat similar will break out in JRPG fashion and you’ll select each monster’s skill to use when it’s their turn.
Traps offer a different experience for the heroes. Unlike monsters, traps are an encounter that takes only a few seconds and they simply activate to their full effect when the party enters their room. Some of these traps are directly detrimental to the group such as causing damage with a ballista or demoralizing them with a pile of skulls while others will buff your own defenses making them that much more of a threat than they already are. Trap rooms are excellent for supplementing your monsters but neither these nor your one-off spell rooms will be enough to halt the would-be looters on their own.
Artifacts offer passive buffs that enhance the effectiveness of your dungeon defenses. Like monsters and traps, they’re upgradable, and doing so increases the effect of their specific ability. These come in a wide variety, some animating defeated monsters as skeletons to continue the fight, others having effects like reducing the resistance of all who enter the dungeon.
As is standard with most rogue-lites, Legend of Keepers has a loop that is slightly altered by rewards for your successes once you are defeated. It’s a fun enough way to keep your playing for a few hours, it might even keep you coming back every so often, but found it to be rather underwhelming for where it would want to be in its current state. I enjoyed the experience overall but I never actually ended up being defeated, hours into my career, and would have enjoyed more variety along the way to keep things fresh. I only managed to make it about two hours before I started to get the feeling that I’d seen everything that was on offer. This isn’t a terrible state for an Early Access game, though I hope that this is improved significantly by release.
Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Master is an overall enjoyable game and utilizes many elements that make it stand out enough that I can certainly see myself going back to it in the future to see where it stands. It’s more of an arcade-style experience for me currently though; shorts bursts can be fun but I couldn’t see myself getting hooked and losing a Sunday to it. If you’re looking for a new turn-based rogue-lite with an interesting mix of features, pick it up and you’ll likely enjoy yourself even if it doesn’t blow you away. If you’re seeking out something fresh and exciting from start to finish, I’d give this title a pass for now. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing where Goblinz Studio takes the game on its journey through Early Access.