You’ll probably never get a proper Warcraft game again. Dungeon Keeper’s name is now mud. If you’re a fan of either series (or, both), and want to play those kind of games again, you’re not getting any help from Blizzard or EA. You might want to look to smaller companies—like Realmforge—instead.

They’ve just released a PC game called Dungeons 2. It’s a sequel to a terrible 2011 game, but that’s about the only time we’re going to need to mention that, because this an improvement in absolutely every respect.

In Dungeons 2, you’ve got two main jobs to do. The first is to build and manage an underground dungeon, in which you can recruit units, harvest resources and conduct research. You’ll also have to lay traps and defend it from attacking heroes, who are after your gold. Just like Dungeon Keeper. The second is to then send the units you build onto the surface of the world and kill stuff. And it’s a lot like WarCraft 3.

Here’s some stuff that’s cool!

  • It looks fantastic! Dungeons 1 was gross, so to see something so strong and gorgeous is a pleasant surprise. Units have great character, the dungeon looks fantastic and there’s an awesome effect in the overworld where conquered territory turns from good (green and happy) to evil (dark and twisted) in real-time as you move in.
  • Building a dungeon is a blast. I wish the entire game was just the dungeon stuff. You don’t carve it yourself; you need to recruit minions to do the work for you, and then order them to excavate and build everything by hand. Having them dig everything out block by block gives you a greater sense of ownership over what you’ve (well, they’ve) made, and I’d have paid for a mode where I could just build and manage a dungeon, no combat involved.
  • But there is a whole other game to play, and for the most part (see below) it also does a pretty good job. There’s something hugely satisfying about building your army underground and then unleashing them on the surface, as opposed to simply amassing them and then sending them to die, and there’s a good range of spells (complete with cooldowns) you can use in addition to your troop’s regular attacks.

Just don’t expect Dungeons 2 to somehow be everything you want from both types of games. The combat isn’t as involved as WarCraft’s, and the dungeon management never quite feels as complete as Dungeon Keeper’s. This game’s an experiment in plucking the best parts from both games and trying something new with them, not recreating both of them in their entirety.

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Some complaints: the entire control scheme changes as you switch planes, which is jarring, and keeping tabs on everything going on both above and below ground can sometimes be a bit much. It also feels a bit unfinished in places, like some of the tutorials.

Most people—myself included—can look past all that, not just because of the strength of the parts that do work well, but because it’s genuinely funny. If a game paying homage to Dungeon Keeper was going to get one thing right, a strong sense of humour had to be it (though constant cultural references and repeated lines do wear the jokes thin after a while).