War for the Overworld (PC) Review

By Nikola Suprak 16.05.2015

Review for War for the Overworld on PC

EA hasn't always been particularly kind to its series, and one that has suffered particularly poorly is Dungeon Keeper. Wildly innovative when it was first released and developed by Peter Molyneux, the game garnered a cult following and spawned a sequel before disappearing off the map in 1999. A mobile version was released in 2013 that was so bad that fans were forced to wish the series would just stay dead instead of coming back and destroying all their happy memories. People had been waiting so long for a proper sequel that a group of fans got together and decided to make one themselves. Subterranean Games launched a Kickstarter campaign a couple years back with some lofty promises, and wound up earning over £200,000 under the guise of making a true spiritual successor to the long dormant series, and it was a promise that desperate followers ate up entirely. Now, several years have passed and its work has produced War for the Overworld, but should everyone be satisfied with the end result?

The Dungeon Keeper games were always unique for throwing players into the role of the villain, and this is a motif that War for the Overworld adheres to. While most titles focus on a hero trying to save the world from various nefarious baddies, this is about the exact opposite. There are some no good, trouble causing heroes out there making life miserable for bad guys the world over, and they need to be eliminated as quickly and violently as possible. Of course, a task of this magnitude cannot be completed by a lone Underlord and if there is to be any hope of removing the dangerous heroes from the land, first a suitable army must be built up. By building a dungeon, recruiting minions, and placing traps, this Underlord might be able to fight off all of the heroes trying to stop all the fun. As the progress is made, more dangerous heroes will show up and proper dungeon management will become crucial to success.

Screenshot for War for the Overworld on PC

Like the title it is trying its hardest to pay homage to, War for the Overworld is a mixture of Real-Time Strategy (RTS) and Management Simulator, where what needs to be managed is a dungeon full of various evil monsters. Every dungeon starts out fairly basic, with just a handful of grunts and a bunch of dirt to dig around through. While this might not sound that impressive, what is amazing is watching this meagre little plot of land develop into a huge, sprawling dungeon capable of crushing even the most stalwart of heroes. Acquiring more gold will allow bigger and better monsters to be recruited, which in turn can be used to defend against more capable heroes. Traps can be installed on the ground to slow down enemy progress and certain spells can be used to cause huge effects across the entire map. It does a great job balancing a lot of different ideas and game types and designing an evil dungeon to whatever specifications are wanted is such a good fundamental concept. Like Dungeon Keeper before it, this almost perfectly combines management simulator with some unexpected genres, and the result is quite enjoyable.

The core concept and main attraction is in the dungeon management side, and this is something that is executed nearly to perfection. Building up a dungeon is just so rewarding and satisfying, and learning all the various tricks along the way makes each subsequent excursion even more entertaining. At first, the dungeons created are likely to be cluttered or poorly optimised, and it will take time to learn the ins and outs of how to manage a proper evil lair. Once it all starts working, though, it does so amazingly well. Gold can be found to build new and better buildings, new buildings attract new and better units, and special buildings can be built to optimise how the various evil minions perform, or give a special boost in battle. There is a really nice learning curve that slowly ramps up the challenge over time, and collecting resources to build the best evil lair possible is just deviously addictive. There is a sandbox mode that just allows open access to an enormous dungeon with as much gold and magic as wanted, and while it might not have the same element of strategy as the normal campaign, this is just a fantastic time-sink to help hone dungeon keeping skills. This was always the most important aspect of the old Dungeon Keeper releases, and it is one that this game executes absolutely flawlessly.

Screenshot for War for the Overworld on PC

The combat itself is the one area where War for the Overworld most notably deviates from Dungeon Keeper. Some minor additions and tweaks were made to make the fighting feel like it has an equal seat at the table with the management aspects. Still, it is certainly weaker than actually managing the dungeon and - like most RTS games - the key for victory comes from the actual preparation. Minions can be sent to somewhere via a rally point, but beyond that combat feels very hands off. It can be difficult getting them to do exactly what is wanted, and too often it feels like the control over these sorts of things is too loose. It is still enjoyable taking time to cultivate a suitable evil army and seeing what they can handle, but a bit more smoothness in terms of getting the units to do a set task would have made the balance almost perfect. It is still very entertaining setting up various traps and using magic spells in a pinch, and despite some minor gripes this is certainly an improvement over the last Dungeon Keeper release.

Now, everything here is certainly fun and enjoyable, and the formula presented works to near perfection, which it should, because this is almost the exact same formula used by Dungeon Keeper 2 more than a decade ago. The fighting may have been spruced up a bit, but almost everything else is exactly the same. It feels less like a spiritual successor at times and more of a spiritual remake, where the restless soul of Dungeon Keeper 2 is possessing War for the Overworld and making it do its bidding. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Dungeon Keeper 2 was fantastic, but those looking for new concepts or ideas are going to wind up disappointed as this has very few to offer up. War for the Overworld also never really set out to be its own thing, and its Kickstarter pledge was pretty much just a promise to bring a new Dungeon Keeper out of deep freeze. To that end, it succeeds wholeheartedly. This is every bit the game that people fell in love with years and years ago, to the point where at times it is hard to tell the difference. A couple more distinguishing features would have been well appreciated, but for what it tries to be, it works really well.

Screenshot for War for the Overworld on PC

While War for the Overworld does so many things right, there are also a couple of issues that are hard to ignore. The biggest problem is it still doesn't feel one hundred percent complete, and the version launched here borders on broken. There are so many glitches that range from mildly annoying to utterly game-breaking. It is a lot of fun to play when it is working, but the simple fact is that not even a Kickstarter product should be released this unfinished. If this was a AAA title, an angry mob would have already formed and the doors to the developer's offices would have been stormed, but since this is an indie title, people tend to give it a bit more leeway, and, to their defence, they have been doing almost constant updates since its release and it is operating significantly better than it used to. There are still some minor hiccups here and there, even a month after release, but the bugs are getting less frequent and less severe as time goes on. Something not likely to be fixed, however, is the cluttered interface, with icons that are too small and hard to differentiate. This seems like a minor complaint, but it makes the task of managing a dungeon far more cumbersome than it needs to be.

Screenshot for War for the Overworld on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

While it has become increasingly risky to embrace a new Kickstarter game recently, as more and more titles seem to fail to live up to promises, this is one that certainly fulfils everything it set out to fulfil. Backers should be ecstatic, and people that have been curiously waiting on the sidelines to see how things turned out are in store for a treat. At its core, War for the Overworld is a spiritual successor to Dungeon Keeper, made by people that love the game, know what they are doing, and want to bring it back to prominence. It is a very enjoyable experience and the love the developer has for the game shines through in spades. Unfortunately, the game itself still doesn't quite feel ready for the spotlight, and a clunky interface and far too many bugs hold it back from being an absolute must play. Still, despite the notable shortcomings, War for the Overworld is a true Dungeon Keeper sequel in everything but name. Fans waiting for a new entry in the series should just abandon any hope for that and instead embrace this as their new overworld overlord.




Subterranean Games





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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