Published on November 23rd, 2023 | by Marc Rigg
Dungeons 4 Review
Summary: An iterative entry in the long running series that doesn’t bring much new to the table over the previous game, but is still an enjoyable romp, nonetheless.
Dungeons 4 is the latest entry in the long-running Dungeons franchise developed by Realmforge Studios, a dedicated team that has been almost single handedly keeping the dungeon management genre alive since 2011.
Thayla, protagonist from the previous game reprises her role in this latest instalment, in a story that follows many of the same beats as the previous entry. Domination of all that is good is very much the order of the day here, and Dungeons 4 makes being the villain a lot of fun. It’s very light-hearted and laid back, all of the characters have personalities of their own and banter with each other regularly, often commenting on what ridiculous thing is happening at the time, and while some of them lean a little too much on stereotypes, it works well enough and is mostly an enjoyable experience. The voice acting is decent for the most part but returning narrator Kevan Brighting puts in an outstanding performance, his warm voice and dry sense of humour fit the tone of the game perfectly and genuinely steals the show.
Like the previous games in the series, gameplay is split between two fronts, the dungeon and the overground. The former is where the majority of time is spent, it’s where you’ll be mining for gold, raising minions, and setting traps for any heroes foolish enough to wander into your lair. The latter plays like a simplified Diablo clone, clicking around the map to move around and engage enemies. It isn’t overly complicated, but it doesn’t really need to be, it serves as a vehicle for the story and as a way to break up time spent in the dungeon. It’s also the primary way you’ll be acquiring ‘evilness’ a currency earned by… well, being evil. It’s used to research new minions, and structures in the dungeon as well as increase the level of anything already researched, making you more powerful in the process.
Each of the 20 story missions take place on suspiciously similar maps. They’re definitely not all the same in terms of layout, but you’d be forgiven for thinking they are as there’s little to differentiate them all other than the specific placement of resources and objectives, visually they’re all almost identical. It’s a sizeable campaign, with many of the missions taking upwards of an hour to beat when played casually.
Objectives range from defeating a specific enemy to generating a certain amount of evilness or defending your dungeon from attackers for a period of time. There’s also a wide array of optional side objectives to deal with, these often occurring multiple times throughout a given mission and serve as a good way to build up evilness and level up minions relatively quickly.
I found that by the end of the game the missions had started to get a little repetitive, there’s enough variety in terms of actual objectives to complete, but the road to completing them is largely the same every time, though to be fair to the game, that could just be on me. You see there are three research paths to be taken that deal with the minions and their associated structures, and while it’s very possible to complete them all in any given level, it’s often easier and quicker to just pick one you’re comfortable with and use that exclusively, you’re rarely forced into a situation where one is necessary over another.
The visuals are bright and colourful, Dungeons 4 continues to use the same cartoon-like art style as its predecessors, and it fits nicely with the games lighter tone. While it’s not especially pretty in the grand scheme of things, these aren’t the highest fidelity textures and models in the world, it’s all very cohesive and is a perfect example of good art direction over raw image quality. My one gripe with the presentation is the music, what’s there is perfectly fine and does a good job of maintaining the tone, however, there just isn’t enough of it. The same handful of tracks are repeated throughout the entire campaign and started to grate a little by the end.
I do have a couple of more general nitpicks with the game, if you play with subtitles on they tend to appear more or less in the centre of the screen, obstructing what’s going on and given chatty the characters can get, it can often get in the way of the action. The camera doesn’t zoom out anywhere near enough and as such the scene always felt claustrophobic to me, it’s an odd choice when you consider that the previous game had options to address it.
None of these are deal breakers though, and despite it not bringing a whole lot of new stuff to the table, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dungeons 4. A solid campaign with full cross-platform co-op, a skirmish mode as well as a surprisingly robust missions editor means there’s tons of content here to get stuck into and if you’re a fan of the previous games or curious about the genre, then it’s an easy recommendation.