The weekly scheduling of recruiting and training monsters, enhancing trapping technologies, and building up the boss makes Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager a vocation worth seeking out. But look over the work conditions before signing on the dotted line.
Platform: Switch, also on PC
Developer: Goblinz Studio
Publisher: Goblinz Publishing
Release date: April 29rd, 2021
Price: $19.99 via digital download
Availability: Nintendo eShop and other digital storefronts
Dungeon Keeper, War for the Overworld, the Dungeon series, and even the recent release of Evil Genius 2: World Domination demonstrated the enjoyment of being the bad guy. Turning the mortal tables permitted players to create their own labyrinthine lairs where meddlesome heroes would habitually meet a violent death. Legend of Keepers follows the same basic premise, but simplifies the process of constructing your villainous dens, permitting players to focus on the fighting.
While the title’s visuals render the glimmering treasure chests, monsters, and spellcasting that embody high fantasy, the script offers a refreshing reprieve from stereotype. Here, dungeon management is viewed through the lens of organizational bureaucracy. You’ll receive on-boarding from a veteran office-cyclops, while a weekly schedule echoes the pace of corporate hustle. While the concept could have easily felt forced, Legend of Keepers wisely keeps the messaging succinct. Although there’s not expressed mission statement for the company, the decree “leave no hero alive” seems up the business philosophy pretty well.
Bosses Fight for You, Not Against You
Whereas most dungeon management simulations require players to excavation the layout of their own hideout, Career of a Dungeon Manager’s protections are a linear sequence of two-dimensional rooms. Layouts are predefined, but in each type of chamber, you’ll have freedom to place monsters, traps, and spells. Should the intrusive heroes make it past these obstacles, the party will face the company’s literal and figurative boss. Naturally, they’ll do their best at protecting the bottom line.
During the weeks you face off again treasure-hungry marauders, you have a constrained amount of freedom in placing your monstrous staff and tortuous office equipment. While some might find that a bit limiting, it truly helps to streamline the process, allowing for more time spent in combat and with weekly occurrences. It also helps with accessibility. While similar titles tend to have a robust learning curve, you’ll be moderately effective middle-manager in minutes.
Frights or Bloodshed, The Choice is Yours
Fortunately, there is a decent amount of complexity in the game. Combat has a few noteworthy tensions. First, you’ll have to choose between robust attacks against an individual enemy or a less powerful strike that assaults the whole party. While you can opt to deplete hero health you can also opt to scare them off. Much of the decision rests on the abilities set of your monster staff. There is also a number of special damage types, and if you hit them with poison or a razor-sharp attack, hero resources will diminish each turn. Of course, there’s also variety in your different creature types, with options for resilient tanks and hard-hitting but frail archers.
After successfully giving the wanders a thorough walloping, you’ll get to spend a several in-game weeks augmenting your defenses. Beyond amusing ‘Choose You Own Adventure” like decisions, there’s the opportunity to purchase and cultivate your creatures, traps, spells, and even strength your boss character. There are even short quests for your dungeon staff to take on. While brief, simple, and text-based, these encounters add a bit variety without distracting from your main undertaking.
The Everyday Conundrums of Middle Management
But like a true simulation, you’ll have to make some thorny decisions. When your monsters are killed in battle, resurrections affect their motivation. You’ll have to provide some rest for re-energize staff otherwise, they’ll have to sit out for the next showdown. As such, you’ll have to keep rotating staff, which can be painful when you have a favorite monster defense worker. Resource management is always an issue and as the diminishing returns of upgrades meets the escalating fortitude of new heroes, you’ll be caught in a precarious pinch. On the upside, some of the earned bonuses carry over to subsequent playthroughs, extending a pleasing incentive package.
Career of a Dungeon Manager’s visual style uses detailed pixel art, balancing eye-pleasing rendering elements like spell effects with moderate amounts of animation. But if you plan on playing the title in handheld mode, you had better make sure that your vision is 20/20. On a Switch Lite, the text is exceedingly small and elements like the morale meter are about two pixels tall. After half an hour, eye strain caused me to throw in the towel and switch to docked mode. Ideally, the game would have made text and UI features just a bit bigger. Musically, the game’s soundtrack is innocuous, offering the kind of war-drum symphonies common to high fantasy.
Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager offers an adept blend of accessibility and variety. While you’ll absorb the basics in minutes, you’ll still be uncovering new monsters, traps, and nuances across multiple playthroughs. But that said, the Switch iteration comes with a warning: don’t purchase the game if you’re looking for portable play. Managing dungeons just can’t be accomplished on the Switch’s touchscreen.
Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager was
played on Switch with review code provided by the publisher.