Feature: War for the Overworld takes heavy nods from Dungeon Keeper – to the point they’ve even nabbed the subtitle from the never-made Dungeon Keeper 3. We spoke to Josh Bishop about how Subterranean Games are aiming to improve the much-loved Bullfrog classics.
Subterranean Games are brave folk. They’re delving into a dark and scary dungeon, one that hasn’t been entered in over a decade. Bullfrog, the previous incumbents, were heroes of the land, and when they finally fell, the world was plunged into darkness. Revisiting the same dungeon may not be wise, as comparisons to the previous greats will naturally arise – and when you’re being compared to something with the stature of Bullfrog, it’s hard to come out on top.
Subterranean Games are retreading Bullfrog’s steps, and they aren’t exactly being shy about the fact War for the Overworld is taking heavy nods from Dungeon Keeper – they’ve even nabbed Dungeon Keeper 3′s proposed subtitle. But where Dungeon Keeper 3 faded into the nether, Subterranean’s journey into the dungeon is alive and kicking, and they aren’t even worried about EA potentially taking issue with the project.
“I have in the past said we should change the name, but other people were not so sure about it, and it was like, they never registered it, they never used it in any official material, it was just only mentioned – the only thing they ever registered was the words Dungeon Keeper,” says Josh Bishop, one of the developers behind the game. “It was over 10 years ago and they never sold anything with it, so we’re hoping it’s going to be fine, especially as that’s our only title, as opposed to it being a subtitle.”
The reason that Bishop isn’t too worried is that he thinks War for the Overworld isn’t as similar to Dungeon Keeper as a first glance would suggest – it looks very similar, and the core mechanics of a god game will be there, but by making a spiritual successor, they’re hoping to iron out the issues that the originals had.
“Well that’s the thing – everything on our game, we’re not using any of their original characters or names or anything like that,” explains Bishop. “Pretty much every unit is original to us – because they were kind of flat in the previous games, so we’re making everything much more interesting. Some of the rooms share mechanics – around half – but we’ve kind of expanded on them, and we have a lot of original rooms as well. But traps-wise and defences, it’s all kind of originally us.”
Dungeons at war
The focus all seems to be on making multiplayer a more competitive experience, with a wider range of tactics available. Bishop bemoans the lack of flexible strategy in Dungeon Keeper 2, saying how the only way to win was by shelling yourself in, building up a huge army, and then steamrolling the enemy – every game followed this same pattern. With War for the Overworld, there’s going to be numerous strategies available to the player.
“What we’re doing is we’re introducing ways for the player to choose how they want to progress their dungeon and progress their overall style throughout the match – so more offensive or more economical late game strategies can be employed by the player so they can play how they like.
“So it’s not just one strategy is the only way to go, because you have to progress, and you have to choose how you want to play.”
They’re also adding Shrines – an idea which came from a user on the game’s forums, where Subterranean Games are building a strong community by being very transparent about what’s happening with the game – which will encourage players to crawl out of their bunkers and explore the map.
“So we have this thing called Shrines, which is similar to tech structures in Command and Conquer,” says Bishop. “The basic idea behind those is that it encourages the player to go out into the map and explore the map, and control areas of the map, because these shrines will be out on the map, and they’ll give these localised benefits and global benefits that make it worth going out and controlling parts of the map. ”
Subterranean Games clearly know their stuff – and War for the Overworld sounds like a Dungeon Keeper game made by Dungeon Keeper fans. They’re launching a Kickstarter within the next couple of weeks – with Bishop indicating they’ll be aiming for a modest and achievable goal – and it’s certainly a project that will be able to drum up some nostalgia-based excitement. Sticking so closely to the original games may end up biting them in the arse, though, as anything less than perfection and they’ll have an angry mob of dungeon overlords to answer to.