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 David W. Bradley was tapped to design three games in the series (namely, Wizardry V, VI and VII), and he essentially redesigned VI's game engine and story to give them a sci-fi feel.
Several years after Wizardry VII, Bradley formed a game development company named Heuristic Park, who developed two other games: Wizards and Warriors (no relation to Rare's game series ), and... this.
So, when the guy who breathed new life into the Wizardry series put together his own production company to create a brand new "epic Action RPG experience", one would expect nothing but good things. What happened instead was a game so broken and buggy that it sank the reputations of Bradley and his studio, and was described at the time as "a new low for how incomplete a game can be and still get released."
Version 1.0, the first commercial release of Dungeon Lords, was a disaster. Quest items would disappear from the player's inventory at random. The avatar would sink into the ground and get caught up on corners. Buttons on the character creation screen failed to work. Walking around in the wrong areas could cause the game to become Unwinnable by Mistake.
Gradually, Heuristic park patched Dungeon Lords up to version 1.5, which fixed many of the bugs and expanded the adventure to include multiple side quests and enhanced character creation options. This "Collector's Edition" release was now technically playable, but by this time, Dungeon Lords was already a critical and commercial failure. Worse yet, there was no way for players to patch their game up to the more functional version, so those early adopters essentially had to buy the same game twice.
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 übermenschen 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.
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 was working on a remastered version of the game retitled Dungeon Lords MMXII, sporting updated updated graphics, reworked classes and new contents. The game was released in Europe on September 2012, around the same time as Torchlight II, but didn't see the light of day in North America until a surprise release on Steam in December of 2015.
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 thief makes it out alive, a door can be unlocked with a powerful monster in it.
- Class and Level System
- 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.
- Insane Troll Logic: In the very first version of the game, only the thief class was able to use a map! what?
- Lizard Folk: A playable race.
- Medieval European Fantasy
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same
- Our Elves Are Different
- 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.