I recently got the chance to play a pair of upcoming EA mobile games – Dungeon Keeper and Heroes of Dragon Age. If both those names sound familiar, you’re not mistaken. Heroes of Dragon Age is based on the story and lore of Bioware’s epic RPG series, while Dungeon Keeper is a remake of the classic Peter Molyneux game that first saw the light of day back in the summer of 1997.
The former is a squad-based strategy game in which you pit a five-person team of heroes and monsters against a similarly composed enemy group. Winning is all about mixing and matching the heroes to take advantage of their skills and buffs, and strategically placing them within the team's formation to maximize their positional strengths. A battle then ensues, which plays out in its entirety without further interaction from the player. This format enables asynchronous multiplayer, since you don’t actually have to be present to witness your team’s heroic victories or crushing defeats: once you've set up your team, they do all the fighting for you.
There are 100 or so heroes and monsters to collect, which you can earn, and indeed level up, by completing quests and battles. If you don’t fancy grinding your way through the game, you can simply buy “packs” of random heroes and hope lady luck favors you, which well she might, since spendage ensures you have a fairly high chance to pull a rare hero. If you end up with a duplicate character, all is not lost – you can combine two characters to create a new one with improved buffs.
Heroes of Dragon Age has a heavy PvP element, where victory against another human player earns trophies, and defeat results in a trophy being lost. Fortunately, losing a trophy has no real bearing on your teams and characters: it’s more of a ranking system that helps match players of similar levels.
There’s plenty of tactical subtlety in the way that you can set up your five-man team, and since battles are fairly quick, there’s plenty of scope to finesse your team and experiment with different compositions. Ultimately, the game revolves around a rock-paper-scissors system, in which heroes have strengths and weaknesses, meaning you’ll need to continually tweak your team structure depending on the kind of opponents you're facing.
Heroes of Dragon Age is a fairly simple game in concept, but it has plenty of depth, and from what I've played so far, it looks promising. The same of which can be said about Dungeon Keeper. I’m fairly familiar with that game, since I played it the first time around, and while it’s had a modern makeover, there are enough cues from the original – particularly the voiceovers – to make it immediately recognizable.
For the uninitiated, Dungeon Keeper was, in many respects, a very early reverse tower game, with the player taking the role of the eponymous Keeper who just loves to kill the annoying heroes who continually invade his or her dungeon looking for treasure. The player starts with a basic dungeon, but can use resources to expand and augment it with a variety of rooms, furnishings and, of course, deadly hazards. Ultimately, the objective is to make it as difficult as possible for people to wander in and steal your loot, so the more fiendish and evil your dungeon's layout, the better.
This modern version of Molyneux’ classic has an even stronger reverse tower game feel, and its dungeon building is much more straightforward and intuitive than the 1997 original. There’s a strong PvP aspect, with players able to raid one another’s dungeons for loot, but if you don’t want to run the gauntlet of a human-constructed monstrosity, you can sit back and see what the AI opponent can throw at you.
It’ll probably come as no surprise that the game has been infused with microtransactions, but they’re not too intrusive. It costs resources that you steadily earn through successful play to mine and build out your dungeon. When you don’t have any, your minions continue to work, but it takes them time to complete their task. For the impatient, money buys more resources and instant gratification. Those with patience can simply come back to the game later to enjoy the same results.
Scheduled for release later on this year, Dungeon Keeper looks like a solid update of a cult classic, and one that I’m most certainly looking forward to playing.
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