In an interview about The Making of Karateka, an exquisite interactive documentary and game-about-a-game, Chris Kohler of Digital Eclipse notes that, based mostly on the corporate’s information, folks do not truly play the video games inside “classics” collections. Possibly they spend 5 minutes inside a couple of video games they bear in mind, however that is about it. Presenting traditional video games, precisely as they have been once they arrived, might be traditionally essential however typically falls wanting actual engagement.
That is why it is a thrill to see (as first noticed by PC Gamer) a triumphant 1.0 launch from KeeperFX, an open supply “remake and fan enlargement” of Dungeon Keeper, the 1997 Bullfrog technique recreation that had gamers tackle the opposite facet of a dungeon crawl. The challenge had already, over 15 years, carried the sport fairly far, giving it fashionable Home windows assist, hi-res assist, and a great deal of bugfixes and quality-of-life enhancements. Now, says the staff, all the unique code from the unique executable has been rewritten, liberating them as much as change no matter they need sooner or later. There might be greater than 2,048 “issues” on the map, maps can have greater than 85 sq. tiles, and scripting and mods can go a lot additional.
However take be aware: “Possession of the unique recreation continues to be and can at all times be required for copyright causes.” You may, like I did earlier at the moment, rectify that with a $6 GOG buy, not less than whereas it is on sale at the moment. After downloading KeeperFX, you unpack it, run its launcher, level it to the place you’ve got put in the unique Dungeon Keeper, and launch it. And you then get able to click on.
I distinctly bear in mind attempting to play Dungeon Keeper a couple of years in the past after studying one retrospective or one other about the way it was, like many titles from Bullfrog and recreation designer Peter Molyneux, massively influential on so many video games. I gave Dungeon Keeper greater than 5 minutes, however clicking time and again on sprites that regarded like graphical errors (whereas listening to audio samples from the Sound Blaster heyday) grew previous earlier than an hour was out. Computer systems had modified, I had modified, and I now not felt like beating my head in opposition to a closely pixelated wall.
Loading up KeeperFX felt as an alternative like I used to be taking part in an homage to Dungeon Keeper in the very best sense. I guessed about half the sport’s shortcuts, might simply configure the remainder, and wasn’t stunned by how any button or keyboard click on responded. The artwork type was the identical, however on a 4K monitor, the sport wasn’t painful to have a look at, and it ran at a tempo that did not really feel like a retro race automobile. The first marketing campaign and its tutorials are nonetheless a bit opaque, however the recreation feels smoothed out. The discharge notes for 1.0 and prior variations counsel a whole lot of little tweaks to each enemy and drone conduct and maybe some extra honest conduct by the pc opponents. Nothing is spelled out, however not like my first foray, studying as I’m going would not really feel fairly so cumbersome.
I solely meant to play one map of KeeperFX for the needs of this submit, however I ended up taking part in … a couple of greater than that. Every degree within the major marketing campaign introduces a brand new mechanic, some new voiceovers, and a non-patronizing improve in issue. That is along with the little jolts of nostalgia for that late-90s Bullfrog mixture of darkish humor, deep methods, and deeply rewarding technique challenges.
Present IP holder Digital Arts hasn’t executed a lot with Dungeon Keeper, apart from rework it right into a micro-transaction sinkhole so dangerous that regulators demanded it cease calling itself “free to play.” Molyneux mentioned again in 2008 that, whereas he’d love an opportunity to take one other crack at Syndicate, Populous, or maybe Dungeon Keeper, he would not maintain his breath ready for EA to name. “I’ve acquired no qualms of any individual else doing it,” Molyneux instructed VideoGamer.com. “I’d simply like to see it up to date, the idea saved alive.”
KeeperFX, and tasks prefer it, are maintaining foundational previous video games alive past merely shoving their code awkwardly ahead into our period. It deserves reward, possibly a couple of dollars, and as few roadblocks as attainable to doing so.
Itemizing picture by KeeperFX