Impire is the latest attempt to capture the legacy of Dungeon Keeper, but it can’t quite match the charm of the original, and its attempts to innovate are unfortunately undercut by repetition and tedium. It’s not that it’s a bad game, but if Impire were a student it’d be the much younger brother of a star pupil, who disappoints onlookers by coasting through on barely-passing grades.
It does its best to be charming, with the introductions for each mission delivering the occasional smile or brief guffaw. But the pop culture references and heavy metal song titles inserted into lines with a perfectly straight face wear thin pretty quickly. Likewise, Impire looks pretty alright if you don’t zoom in too far, but it’s not going to impress anybody with its middle-of-the-road generic fantasy aesthetic.
But that’s okay, not every game has to be a spectacular audiovisual experience that makes you laugh, cry and hurl. And, well… if, as Sid Meier says, a game is a series of interesting decisions, then where Impire falls down is that it’s almost completely lacking in decisions that are of any interest whatsoever. Every mission plays out exactly the same way: you build your dungeon, then send out your troops to fight through a hostile dungeon to whatever this mission’s objective is. There are few meaningful choices to be made at any stage.
Dungeon construction ought to be the meat-and-potatoes of a Dungeon Keeper-successor, but Impire makes it all a rather summary affair. You plonk down the basic rooms in whatever space the pre-drilled dungeon corridors have left for you. Placement doesn’t matter because you can just teleport your troops around. And heroes can enter from ladders at any point, if you don’t teleport over and trash them fast enough, so traps are hardly worthwhile.
Resource scarcity is just a matter of waiting for mushrooms to accumulate, or sending your troops out on raids and waiting for them to return. You build a room, wait, build the next room, wait, build the next room, and so on until you’re done. And that’s where the dungeon construction part of every mission ends.
This is Impire’s major innovation: not only do you have to build your own dungeon, but you also have to fight through a hostile dungeon to your objective. Sadly, the combat is a simple matter of box-selecting all your units and pointing them down a corridor towards enemies, with little to no actual combat management required.
And, unfortunately, these dungeons are largely static: monsters don’t respawn, so you can chip away at them at your own pace, but you’ll need to, because you’ll constantly be distracted. See, while you’re fighting through the dungeon, you’ll also need to teleport back to fight off heroes, and to feed your minions. All of which becomes extremely tedious, extremely quickly, and stretches out each mission for far too long.
And that’s not even mentioning the tricky interface, or the multiple show-stopping bugs many players have apparently encountered — though I only ran into one myself. Impire could have been an interesting twist on the dungeon-management formula, combining building with combat in the manner of an RTS. But it’s hamstrung by too stark a divide between the two parts of its gameplay, the lack of depth to either, and its hedging by making players constantly switch between them.
- Cute pop culture references and mildly amusing dialogue
- Takes a stab at innovating on the dungeon-management formula
- Offers something to sustain fans of a much-neglected genre
- Repetitive missions
- Lack of meaningful choices
- Tedious micro-management