The perils of pursuing a career in dungeon management
The cavernous space underneath a trendy East-London pizzeria, one that’s just a stone’s throw away from the heart of London’s tech-city, seems like a fitting location to spawn an army capable of wreaking havoc against the world of Men.
But how would one go about building said army? Thankfully Subterranean Games was on hand to plonk me down in front of the Bedrock Beta build of their Kickstarter-funded, dungeon-delving strategy game, War for the Overworld.
Set in the bowels of the earth, and requiring you to adhere to the maniacal wishes of an ethereal demonic voice, War for the Overworld eases you into the challenges that lie ahead.
For anyone who’s paid attention to the Kickstarter, or has seen gameplay before, the similarities to Dungeon Keeper are unavoidable. However, it’s quite clear that these resemblances are merely homages rather than carbon copies. After all, Bullfrog’s seminal dungeon management-cum-strategy game is unforgettable and, like so many of its games, pioneered a genre.
First things first though, to have a dungeon worthy of a demon I actually need to build something more significant than a tiny hole in the ground. This means it’s time to get to work breaking through rock and mining gold, the feng shui just isn’t right as it is.
To get any dungeon up to scratch for a war you’ll need to build a Barracks. Having one of these allows for fearsome Gnarlings to arrive and form the brunt of an attack force. It’s here you can also train up Gnarlings and other units to make them more formidable against opponents.
Building a Library provides more than just scholarly exploits, populating your lair with Cultists. These robed intelligentsia use their intellectual skills to learn magic to help weaken enemies, making it easier to take them down in the heat of a battle. However, Cultists lack the key skills needed to pose any real threat on their own. So, you have been warned, never use them as anything more than a supporting unit.
Chunders are the third unit you’ll end up using and integrating into your underground nerve centre. You acquire them through the construction of a Foundry, which also allows you to develop traps to secure your dungeon with. Chunders, as their delightful name suggests, vomit explosive matter onto the battlefield, dealing splash damage and potentially hurting your own units in the process.
To create the perfect dungeon environment, you’ll also need to feed your troops, and that’s where the Slaughterpen comes into play. Here you can drop your own troops or enemies into a big ol’ meat grinder and turn their bodies to chum for your workers to feast on. If it’s entertainment they’re after, then building a Tavern will solve your problems.
Amusingly the Tavern brings in income from your workers, who you pay wages too, so you’ll always see a percentage of your costs come back to you if you help get your workers drunk on the job. It’s an interesting dynamic, and is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to War for the Overworlds humour.
During my time with War for the Overworld, I have to say that combat sections were definitely the least enjoyable aspect so far. While you can lay traps for intruders and play a more strategic defence game, actually attacking other lairs is a tad chaotic.
Minions almost refused to return to their stations and continue work post-combat, and those that did decided they wanted to run off down the newly formed tunnel to do it up as my own. During battles wasn’t much easier either, with forces flocking to a rally point placed on the map, even dashing past opponents to do so.
However, it must be said that as you progress further into the game you’ll unlock a far vaster army with varied unit types. You’ll gain access to a whole host of other beasties including, Bafu, Skarg, Necromancer, Ghoul, Succubus, Spirit, Augre, Ember Demon, Crackpot, Witch Doctor, Beastmaster, Shadow, Oculus, Frost Weaver, and Wraith. However, I didn’t play far enough during my time with the game to really experience what each of these minions offers.
Because you’re a demon, you can also weigh into battle via spells. You can do a whole manner of things to disrupt combat and destroy opponents, such as sending shockwaves through the ground, firing bolts of lightning from the sky – despite being underground – and a slew of others ranging from dishing out damage to healing and reviving your ailing allies.
So far, so good. War for the Overworld is certainly shaping up to be an interesting and visually beautiful dungeon management game. It’s evident from its Kickstarter success that it’s something people really want, but it’s great to see that this isn’t a project that just ticks the boxes.