Back when my PC wasn’t so elderly and I could be bothered to mess around with video drivers and all that guff, Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper was a game that I clocked up plenty of hours on. You had to build a dungeon to attract monsters, who would then fight for you when the pesky humans came knocking. There was resource management to deal with and also a wicked black sense of humour – whoever knew that vampires enjoyed smearing faecal matter on people’s door handles? Sadly, Dungeon Maker – or Master of the Monster Lair, as it’s known in the US – is nowhere near as amusing.
The plot is different to the usual RPG stock: a spiky haired 12 year old finds a magic talking shovel, which he then uses to build a dungeon to round up the numerous monsters making his world a horrid place to live. Your shovel can only make so many tunnels and rooms in one day before having to be recharged at night by resting. It’s also when you’re back on the surface that you can buy dungeon furniture (beds, chests, food storage rooms, etc) and new weapons and armour with the money earned from killing off the monsters.
Progression is made in the storyline by retrieving items for townsfolk – one early request is to find some nutritious dry slime, which can only be obtained by having a trash pile in your dungeon. Nice!
It all sounds like jolly good fun in theory. The problem is that there’s little to no imagination and everything is as basic as can be. The turn based battle system, for instance, has no outstanding features to speak of, and there isn’t actually anything to do inside the dungeon apart from dig tunnels and battle the monsters that have appeared overnight. You can’t even sit back and watch the critters go about their business unaware – they’re merely represented by strange purple blobs which make a beeline to you for a battle as soon as you get near.
Although being the idea of being a dungeon master is oddly appealing at first, it doesn’t take long for tedium to settle in. Rising Star would have been better off bringing the Rune Factory games over here instead.