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Dungeon Keeper Mobile: The Devil is in the Retail Model

Donna Brown1255 views
Dungeon Keeper
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Dungeon Keeper Mobile Review: Let Us Trample Your Memories and Charge You

First, my very brief review of Dungeon Keeper. I’m sure you’ll pardon the brevity when I say that I’m such a seething mass of disappointment and frustration over this game that anything longer would only echo the same sentiments over and over. So I won’t belabour the point:

This isn’t just a case of this being free-to-play if you have patience. Actions take so long to be completed and so little can be achieved without buying gems (hugely overpriced gems at that). It makes it about as exciting as checking your thermostat twice a day to see what minor tweaks you should make. Appalling ‘resurrection’ of a classic. I’d have been happy to pay £20-30 for a full version but I’m not paying hundreds of pounds on a dumbed down version with endless IAPs, which is clearly the idea.

And now, over to greater minds…

Dungeon Keeper Mobile: The Devil is in the Retail Model

Electronic Arts have had a strange response to customer criticism. From putting it down to the minority voice to saying that those who remember the game are always going to be defensive, they just don’t seem to get it. Or maybe they do and they just don’t care.

Here’s Jeff Skalski in an interview with TabTimes:

One thing we really want to express—and it’s something that hasn’t really been touched on in a lot of the discussion about the game that we’ve seen—is that in Dungeon Keeper, all content is accessible to paying and non-paying players. We didn’t design this as a “pay to play” or “pay to win” game. It is designed as a free-to-play title where players can commit time or money towards their play experience, and every piece of content in the game is accessible without having to spend a dime.

Skalski goes on to say:

We’re also seeing a lot of game downloads and in-game engagement so that tells us there is a large group of people who are playing and enjoying the game. Obviously, this is counter to some of the angry reactions we’ve seen around the internet, so we’re still trying to look at all of these data points.

I’ve dealt with a lot of PR peeps not to mention people who worked in gaming companies at one time or another and I can hand on heart say I’ve never known any company who has such abject disdain for their customers as EA does. As Paul Tassi puts it (in the concisely titled Forbes article No EA, Everyone Is Not Playing Dungeon Keeper Wrong):

The gist of the entire interview is not that Dungeon Keeper has done something wrong, it’s simply adapted to the new rules of mobile scene while fans haven’t. The problem isn’t with the title itself, it’s with you, the dumb masses who don’t get that this is how game design works now. I’m not expecting Skalski to break down in tears and repent, but the tone of this interview is really disingenuous and condescending.

One other point that caught my attention is likewise not missed by Paul Tassi:

We know that you can never please everyone, but we want this to be a game that most of our intended audience enjoys.

I can’t help but feel that the intended audience referred to is made up of Clash of the Clans players. In which case, should they ever have tied this to the DK name, a move that was always going to encourage high expectations from fans? But of course, that wouldn’t have created anywhere near as much pre-launch buzz. Hmm, perhaps you can have your cake and eat it as long as the dairy is cash cow sourced… Paul Tassi’s interpretation sums it up perfectly:

If the “intended audience” was actual Dungeon Keeper fans, they would have had to know altering the game to be this reliant on time and effort-saving “gems” would be universally viewed as terrible by those who loved the original.

Hear hear, Mr Tassi. Hear hear.

There have been a lot of great reviews and articles kicking about so I urge you to read them. Like, for example, this interesting take on reviews on Android picked up by PocketGamer:

After tapping on the “1-4 Stars” button on the Android rating screen, you are invited to email EA with some advice on what it could do to get your 5 stars.

If you tap on the “5 Stars” button, meanwhile, you’re taken to the game’s Google Play Store product page to rate it.

Funny, isn’t it, that Metacritic sports a staggeringly low user score of 0.3 and yet EA still maintains that this is an issue of unreasonable fan expectations.

I’m not opposed to a freemium model, particularly not in new games where free entices an audience. But offer content, substance or expansion please. I firmly believe artists and creators should be paid for their work and talent, but let me pay for that and not for silly gimmicks. And most of all, don’t hijack a classic’s name simply to crap all over it…

More Dungeon Keeper reviews:


That’s what stings the most: not that Dungeon Keeper has gone free-to-play, but that it’s done so in such soulless fashion.

Metro GameCentral:

Dungeon Keeper is not a video game, not any more. Instead it’s just a virtual beggar, constantly demanding your spare change and offering nothing in return.

Boing Boing’s round-up:

What seems to be happening now, though, is that sleazeware is displacing the “real” games industry in earnest; in this case, we have a fully-implemented (and improved!) clone of the original being used to suck buyers into a cold-as-ice ripoff.

The Escapist:

“Playing,” in Dungeon Keeper consists of opening it up when you remember once a day, poking a few things on the screen, then closing it down and finding something else to do for anywhere between four and twenty-four hours.

Buy the original Dungeon Keeper

With an average rating of 4.5/5 stars on and a user average of 8.9 on Metacritic, you can’t go wrong. Part with $5.99 for Dungeon Keeper Gold and give Dungeon Keeper Mobile a wide berth!

Being the Dungeon Keeper and all, this is your home, too. And it’s your business to take these loathsome creatures of darkness and hone them into screaming, frothing, clawing forces of destruction. You lure them in with food and the promise of dank and fetid places to sleep. You keep them in line with the back of your hand and the threat of dire consequences. You pit their scaly hides against the best that the Forces of Good can muster, and they die for you as they rip steaming entrails out of the hapless heroes.

It’s a degenerate and nasty job… And you love it. Yes, home its where you heart is. In a box. Packed in salt. That’s right–Dungeon Keeper, Bullfrog’s classic dungeon management strategy, gives you no extra credit for having any morals. After all, the underworld isn’t black and white!

And oh oh oh, all is right with the world again: Theme Hospital is there too!

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Donna Brown
Avid reader/audiobook listener, fan of podcasts, prone to the odd Netflix binge. Mum to six crazy and incredible rescue cats. Occasional writer of short stories and poetry.

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