Little over a year has passed since Dungeons 2 first made its way onto consoles and already developer Realmforge Studios has followed up with a sequel. The third instalment marks the series' first multi-platform release, bringing its signature tongue-in-cheek humour and Dungeon Keeper-inspired gameplay to a much broader audience. The title sees you return yet again to the role of the Ultimate Evil, rising up armies of monstrous creatures to conquer the forces of good while building up dungeons brimming with intricate traps.
Dungeons 3 picks up things right after the events of its predecessor and sees the heinous dungeon lord, the Ultimate Evil, growing tired and depressed after running out of land to conquer. It's not long however until he learns of a previously undiscovered continent and sends a fleet of his best troops to lead an invasion. The mission results in failure and the Ultimate Evil instead enlists the help of Thalya, a dark elf priestess, to lead his forces in the next step of building his evil empire. Thalya remains as the focal point of the story and throughout the campaign you'll command her to spread the influence of the Ultimate Evil, destroying the all who oppose you and cloaking the world in darkness.
Again, just like its predecessor, Dungeons 3 has an excellent sense of pacing during its campaign, steadily introducing players to more traps, room types and factions. Gameplay features a blend of dungeon building and real-time strategy - two styles which take place simultaneously and must be switched between accordingly. The game demands that you have eyes on both the overworld and your dungeon as you may find yourself rushed by pesky intruders when leading a full scale assault. There's also a strong emphasis on resource management, with gold and evilness being the currency required to hire more troops and earn extra unlocks.
Within the third instalment, dungeons are now randomly generated, altering your surroundings each time that you play. Mapping out the perfect layout for your dungeon is key as it can lead to faster extraction of gold and optimum trap placement. Your foes will also exploit any design flaws you may thoughtlessly make, like positioning a guards' rest area right by the mouth of your dungeon. You also need to take the needs of your minions into consideration, ensuring that they're properly rested and have access to food, or they will wave picket signs in protest and refuse to participate in work or battle.
The majority of the core objectives take place on the surface and demand you to be strategic with regards to what troops to use and where to attack first. Having a well-balanced team of minions that can heal, fire projectiles and fight in close-quarters is a must, as well as ensuring that they gain XP and level up to become tougher. A new addition to the series is optional areas that can be invaded to earn more evilness, which is a required when researching upgrades. Not only do these areas provide more to do outside the rigid structure of campaign objectives, but they make for an entertaining game of cat and mouse, as your foes will fight to regain their territory and quash your resources.
The UI has seen a significant overhaul and while most changes are for the better, there are still a few niggling issues peppered throughout. Instead of manually selecting all the minions you want to send into battle, you can now simply select them in one go from the menu. Recruiting creatures has also been made much more straightforward, as you can now employ troops from anywhere within your dungeon instead of being restricted to the throne room. A problem that the new UI does present, however, is that when opened it blocks the entirety of the screen, which can be prove troublesome when you're looking to cast spells during combat, for example.
While most strategy/simulator titles seem optimised for a mouse and keyboard setup, Dungeons 3 still handled well on the Xbox One (which was the platform we played it on). Gestures such as pointing and dragging areas to be built felt fluid, as did navigating through the newer and sleeker UI. Pressing up and down on the D-pad allows you to switch between your dungeon and the overworld and by moving the along stick and pressing A you can easily place traps and navigate your troops.
Dungeons 3 sees Kevin Brighting reprise his role as narrator and while he does seem a lot less obnoxious and sarcastic this time around, much of the humour does fall flat. During the action, he'll usually chime in with some fourth-wall-breaking joke or pop culture reference, but these occur so frequently that they lose their impact quickly. The constant bickering between him and Thalya was also humorous at first, but quickly lost steam throughout the campaign. We also experienced an issue with the narration during combat, where it became drowned out by the clashes of swords and crashes of cannon fire. Granted there are subtitles available at the top of the screen, but it's hardly what we wanted to focus on during an impending battle.
There's a total of 20 missions, which took us roughly an hour to complete, resulting in around 15-20 hours total playtime. We were pleased to realise that the whole experience can be played in coop and that skirmish and multiplayer modes have made a welcomed return. Skirmish mode puts you fully in control and allows you tailor the experience by tweaking parameters such as difficulty, map and faction. Multiplayer mode enables you to take on other evil dungeons and it's a ton of fun to be able to storm somebody else's dungeon and fight through their web of traps.
While it's undoubtedly the strongest entry into the franchise so far, Dungeons 3 does little to distance itself from previous entries. Whether this is a deal-breaker is likely down to your relationship with the series, but while the first title worked to lay the groundwork and the second introduced an overworld, Dungeons 3 fails to innovate in the same way. That being said, Dungeons 3 is the franchise at its most polished and with a nice selection of modes and a roughly 20-hour long campaign, it's certainly a solid package for any fans of dungeon sims.
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