Video Game: Dungeon Lords

Don't be fooled: in game he looks more like Dumbledore.

The story of Dungeon Lords is nothing less than a tragedy.

Before Dungeon Lords, there was a quaint little trilogy of dungeon crawlers titled Wizardry. A programmer named Dave was tapped to design three games in the series. He helped design and code the fifth, sixth, and seventh games, which is notable because Wizardry 6 completely redesigned the game engine and story to give it a sci fi feel.

Several years after Wizardry 7, Dave formed a game development company named Heuristic Park. They developed a game for Windows called Wizards & Warriors (but not that Wizards And Warriors), followed up by this game.

So when the guy who reinvigorated the Wizardry series builds up his own production company to release what is billed as an epic action RPG experience, what kind of game is the result?

The game that killed David W. Bradley's career.

Version 1.0 of Dungeon Lords was so buggy, so incomplete, that it was described as "a new low for how incomplete a game can be and still get released". Quest items disappeared from your inventory at random. Your avatar would sink into the ground and get hung up on corners. Buttons on the character creation screen failed to work. Walking around could cause the game to become Unwinnable, and through no fault of the player.

Gradually Heuristic Park worked up to version 1.5 - Collector's Edition, which fixed many of the bugs and expanded the adventure to include multiple side quests and enhanced character creation options. The game was now playable. By then, Dungeon Lords had been critically panned, was a commercial failure, and on top of that there was no patch to 1.5 from 1.0, forcing players who bought the game at release to buy the same game but not broken.

Rather than list what went wrong with it, it's easier to describe the good things in this game. The character progression system is point and level based, meaning a wizard can buy wizard skills cheaper than armour skills but still get both—in practice, this means that characters become do it all mensches with ridiculous powersets by mid game. Combat is action based, with shield blocking and tactical movement being as important as stat growth. And the dungeons are immersive and interesting. Dungeon Lords is an inviting Dungeon Crawling experience.

For a time, a Dungeon Lords 2 was in development, still trying to pioneer Bradley's vision. Development was put on hold indefinitely in late 2009, and that was the last anything was ever said of the matter.

Then in April 2012 came the surprise announcement that David W. Bradley is working on a remastered version of the game retitled Dungeon Lords MMXII. It will sport updated graphics, reworked classes and new contents. The game was released in Europe on September 2012, around the same time as Torchlight II. No word on the US release.

This is also not to be confused with the European board game Dungeon Lords, which takes more after Dungeon Keeper.

Dungeon Lords has examples of the following tropes:

  • Artificial Stupidity: Enemies are prone to getting hung up on terrain features and can't climb up the same small heights you can. This means you can often just use ranged attacks to kill them - it's tedious but safe.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • The gypsy who tells you "you are a rare person indeed, in that you can shape your own destiny." Wrong! This game's plot is pure railroading, the only choices you really get are what skills to specialize in.
    • The information on the Intelligence stat states that it reduces the experience cost for learning skills and spells. The problem? Spells aren't learned like skills — they're treasure, usually picked up off the ground.
  • Bonus Boss: In the Tomb of Souls, if one has a key from the Naga Temple from making sure a theif makes it out alive, a door can be unlocked with a powerful monster in it.
  • Class and Level System
  • Demonic Spiders: Literally. The starting area's enemies are mostly not too tough being rats, goblins, snakes (though they can poison you), bats and bandits, all of which are relatively easy for a neophyte character to handle. The giant scorpions are a bit tougher (and again have poison attacks) but handleable with care. However in one corner of the valley the game occasionally likes to spawn giant freaking spiders. These are fast, hit hard, have poison attacks and are much tougher, taking lots of damage to put down. They will make mincemeat out of anyone not very skilled and/or lucky at this point. Genre Savvy players will lead them to the huts in the middle of the map as the spiders are too large to climb up the ramps letting you shoot them to death in safety.
  • Early Game Hell: Generally averted, however the spiders (see above) can lead to this and you are given one antivenom potion in a starting area where three different types of enemies can poison you, which of course damages you over time. As poison persists until cured (you can't wait out the damage) if you get poisoned more than once you'll have to either reload or spam healing spells/potions at a higher rate while you traverse the first dungeon proper until you can get to the city and buy more antivenom potions.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Loads of them, even in the "patched" version.
    • One dungeon needs a plot coupon to enter; if you exit before completing the dungeon, you'll be permanently locked out of the dungeon, unable to go back in to retrieve the plot coupon inside.
    • The legendary equipment needed to advance through the story is still breakable. However, the menu that opens for other equipment to let you repair it doesn't appear on this stuff, because that's also where the "drop" command goes; apparently they couldn't disable one without the other.
    • Some quest items will eventually disappear after the boss drops them, but you can get sidetracked with random encounters showing up during the boss fight.
  • Lizard Folk: A playable race.
  • Medieval European Fantasy
  • Name's the Same: There's also a boardgame called Dungeon Lords, which is nothing at all to do with this game, having more in common with Dungeon Keeper. It's also very good.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same
  • Our Elves Are Better
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Our vampires are So! HARD! TO KILL!
  • Respawning Enemies: To the point of idiocy. You can literally walk through a room and have enemies spawn in as soon as you walk out and enemies can literally appear out of thin air in front of you in some areas.
  • Save the Princess: Inverted. The princess is betrothed to a dark wizard, but has fled the capital to avoid the arranged marriage. The hero must get her to come back in order to keep the wizard from marching to war with the kingdom.
  • The Unfought: Molvar, the evil wizard mentioned a few times in the plot, is never actually fought. After chasing him down in the last dungeon, he just gets one-shotted by a demon who you then fight.
  • Thriving Ghost Town: Everywhere, most especially the capital.
  • Vancian Magic: Arcane magic functions this way.
  • Wutai: Sorta. Walking around any of the medieval European cities, you can stumble across an eastern martial arts dojo, which is the only reference to an eastern culture in this game.