Impire – Preview
Dungeon Keeper is one of those games that you could call a classic in every sense of the word. Its style made it stand out, and gave us that first taste of really playing the bad guy, and now the team at Cyanide Studio have noticed that this kind of game has been surprisingly missing from the market. Set in the Majesty universe, the player takes the role of Báal-Abaddon who is summoned by the sorcerer Oscar van Fairweather. Sadly, Oscar didn’t pass his recent sorcerer exam and is actually little bit incompetent. Baal-Abaddon has been summoned as a shadow of his former self, a little underpowered, that is to say a little impish. The game follows Baal’s quest to regain his former glory, turning from a tiny imp to a true master of evil, all the while beating the crap out of the heroes of Ardania.
Impire takes what you would expect from a dungeon management game and adds a huge number of features to make things just that little bit more interesting. For instance, for the first time in memory you have the ability to raid outside of your dungeon. As you play through the game you will create your dungeon, building rooms and spawning military type units to deal with pesky heroes. These creatures can be put into squads, which can then be sent out into the world to gather resources, treasure and participate in quests. The player will have limited control over the squads during the raids but they will be able to watch what is going on in real time and, if there is trouble, drop their dungeon lord into the fight to help out.
To create additional squads the player has to gather gold from chests, allowing them to deploy squads to various locations at once. Players click and drag their minions to the squad, and using a mix of creatures can gain various bonuses. In the basic squad I saw, was a combination of berserkers and warlocks, which gave the rage ability and increased damage. The combinations will allow for some unique gameplay, especially in multiplayer, which I’ll get to later.
Each of the unit spawning rooms has a worker assigned to it and a crazy animation when you summon a unit, like the wheel of fortune that spawns the sorcerer; this unique style really makes the game stand out, reminding me a little of games like Evil Genius. All units are controlled via a contextual interface which appears whenever you click on an area, and everything from a unit to a room in a building will have a contextual radial menu, making it much easier to navigate units around. The dungeons themselves have a very unique Impire look, although we were told of plans to allow players to download new dungeon skins or additional items using an in-game store, with the promise that the developers would not be evil with it and keep to just cosmetic items.
The game world is divided between the world map, where raid areas are located, the battlefield where most of the questing or combat will happen, and your own dungeon. There will be objectives and non-player characters out in the world that will give the player sub-quests, and heroes will start popping into your dungeon at random locations, meaning you have to stay on your toes and keep an eye on your dungeon, or it will be the end of you.
As Baal levels up he will evolve and regain his powers, allowing the player to choose one of three paths: the warrior, the commander or a sorcerer type of character. Players will be able to create the best support to their squads based on their play style. On top of all this, the game will use a card system, allowing the player even more customisation based on their gameplay style. Details were a little slim on this feature, but they will help to improve different areas of resource collection, or give units a bonus.
It was Impire’s multiplayer that really surprised me, however, especially the fact that there will be co-op in the single player campaign. In the standard player verses player game there are two factions which fight against each other – the standard demons from the main campaign and the Souless, who are basically a race of the undead. Gameplay between the two factions is very different, with unique units, dungeon rooms and even gameplay mechanics. Where the demon faction use resources like mushrooms and treasure to fuel unit production, the soulless work using souls of heroes to summon their undead hordes. Much of their mechanics resolve around sacrificing units which are low on health to heal or create others, making the strategy needed to play as that faction completely different.
Everything you can do in the single player game, from raiding to questing can happen in the multiplayer games. The demo we were shown was of a capture the flag mode, where the flag is located in the centre of the battlefield and players have to fend off waves of invading heroes in order to capture it. The way it is currently set up, there are no limits to the types of multiplayer maps that could be created, and Cyanide even mentioned a tower defense game type that may be included.
The developers are aiming at a Q1 release for Impire and I for one can’t wait to get proper hands-on time with it – for a game we were told was in pre pre-alpha, it looked genuinely incredible. It’s been a long time since we have had a decent Dungeon Keeper-type game (if ever, Ed.), and I think if Cyanide delivers everything that was mentioned in the Impire presentation we may have found an even better one.
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