Pedro would like to apologise in advance for talking about Final Fantasy XIII-2 during a totally unrelated conversation. He really can't help himself.
Xbox One, , , ,
June 26, 2020
Dungeons 3 is a game about the difficulties of being evil. There’s so much to do! On one hand, you’ve got to build your own dungeon, hire minions and care for their needs. On the other hand, you need to venture outside to vanquish the good guys, while making sure your dungeon remains protected. Dungeons 3 tries, and mostly succeeds, to make this balance work. And the Complete Collection brings a plethora of extra DLC campaigns to keep you busy. But with a messy UI, poorly explained systems and more long-winded pop culture gags than story, Dungeons 3 – Complete Collection is a tough game to love.
Originally released in 2017, Dungeons 3 is part dungeon builder, part dungeon crawler. Underground, you need to excavate and build rooms to form your dungeon. The dungeon controls are simple enough, you just click on a tile and one of your non-combat minions (called Snots) will do your bidding. Build a treasury to manage your gold. Use that gold to hire minions (Creatures) for battle. Build rooms for these Creatures to sleep and eat. I liked how Snots will automatically clean-up after your messes and generally perform upkeep of the various rooms on their own. Still, you are able to pick them up and toss them around if you think particular rooms need more or less attention than others.
Above ground, you control your minions as they wreak havoc across the brightly-coloured countryside. Each level has multiple objectives, most of which involve destroying something in the overworld. I didn’t enjoy this as much as the dungeon building aspect, mostly because I didn’t have as much control over it. It’s easy enough to select your units and tell them where to move, but specifically selecting one over the other is impossible when they’re standing next to each other. Therefore, battles in the overworld solely consist of selecting your entire group, telling them to walk up to enemies, and letting the AI handle the rest.
It quickly became clear to me that Dungeons 3 was probably designed for a mouse-and-keyboard control scheme. In the PC version of the game, crafting and creature management happens on a neat panel that slides out from the side of the screen. On console, all options are relegated to multiple large radial menus that take up the entire screen. The construction menu requires tabbing between radials to find what you want, with the order of the tabs not being visible to you. Some menus are operated with the left stick, some are with the right stick.
It’s more confusing that it needs to be, on multiple levels. Creatures can’t stay topside for too long, because they’ve each got a hunger and sleep stat that can only be replenished by returning to the dungeon. But the Army menu that gives an overview of all your units only displays these stats when they’re close to empty. Due to the different control schemes, you can only check these stats when you move your cursor over a unit, only while they’re in the dungeon. It’s hard to know which units to send back out, because everyone moves of their own accord in the dungeon, so you’re stuck scrambling around finding a creature just to check what their stats are. There’s no pause button in the game, so this just resulted in me not caring about this system.
Every level starts with a blank slate, requiring you to build your dungeon and recruit your minions from scratch. While this reset feels tedious at the start of every level, it allowed me to design my dungeons according to the level’s objectives. Once I’d recruited enough units to cycle in and out of the dungeon, and had traps laying in wait for unsuspecting heroes, I was able to have a lot of fun.
Your minions are able to take care of themselves in the dungeon as long as you provide the gold and resources for them to do so – and that’s great. The busywork takes care of itself, giving you time to deal with the objectives outside. It takes a while in each level to reach this synchronicity, but once you reach it, you feel like the powerful stubborn demon lord the game wants you to be.
Set in a medieval fantasy world, the story follows Thalya, a dark elf mage raised by humans who finds that she is genetically predisposed to evil, and proceeds to destroy her home and begin a quest to rule the world. If this sounds like a grim premise for a game, fret not, because Dungeons 3 doesn’t even try to take itself seriously. This is not a bad thing; there’s enough gritty, violent medieval fantasy games out there. It’s refreshing for a title to take a completely comedic approach. Problem is, the comedy often falls flat, and there’s way too much of it.
Thalya frequently argues with her “good” self, who still wants to protect people. The Narrator (voiced by Kevan Brighting, who also narrated The Stanley Parable) gives long monologues about his personal life. Every single character constantly remarks about other pop culture franchises, and to the fact that they are fictional characters in a video game named Dungeons 3. The village Thalya grew up in is named Twistram, a reference to Tristram, the opening town from Diablo 3. This could all be very funny, except Dungeons 3 takes a distinct quantity-over-quality approach to the writing. The punchline of several jokes is “we know that joke wasn’t worth your time, but we made you listen anyway.”
Each level starts with paragraphs upon paragraphs of dialogue that bury mission objectives in a pit of pop culture references and gags about how, despite it taking so much of your time, the story of Dungeons 3 isn’t worth caring about. It’s more irritating than illuminating. The only thing in the game that made me chuckle was the randomised names for your various minions. I spotted a snake person named Mil’kuniss and a Snot named Lianniisen. For the most part, the writing seemed more bland than offensive, except for the repeated references to Thalya having dissociative identity disorder, and how hilarious that is.
Also, one time I booted the game and the narrator literally said “Make Dungeons Great Again”. 2017 truly was a different time.
The “Complete” part of this Complete Collection doesn’t refer to a remaster or update. This seems to just be the same Dungeons 3 with all its DLC added on, which is a less expensive option than buying them all separately. There’s a lot of these additional campaigns. If you enjoy the gameplay and are willing to put up with everything around it, there’s hours of content here. There’s “Once Upon a Time”, which is a parody of fairy tales, including references to the Shrek films (which, if you didn’t know, are parodies of fairy tales). There’s “Lord of the Kings” and “Evil of the Caribbean” (guess what those are references to). There’s one where you have to fight the narrator. The DLC easily doubles your playtime of Dungeons 3, so there’s a lot to do in this confusing, self-deprecating world.
Dungeons 3 – Complete Collection is not a bad game. It’s just got a lot of issues that some may notice more than others. Actually building and managing your dungeon is rewarding once you settle into the rhythm of gameplay. The bulk of the story and humour – which, if you couldn’t tell, is not my cup of tea – tends to stay out of the way during these moments as well, letting this bureaucratic megalomaniac power fantasy do it’s thing.
The fact that developer RealmForge has updated the game years after release suggests a thriving player base. If you are one such player, this Complete Collection might be the perfect way to play Dungeons 3 if you haven’t had a chance to grab all the DLC. Unfortunately, the disorienting menus and unit information makes this tough to play on consoles. There’s a lot of fun to be had in here; whether or not digging for it is worth your time and patience is up for you to decide.