First Impressions — Legend Of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Master
Over the last few years, the deceptively simple genre of turn-based dungeon crawlers has exploded, and so it’s become increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. Legend Of Keepers’ take on the genre flips your point of view; instead of trying to plunder the riches of a long-forgotten tomb, teeming with skeletons and demons, you’re charged with protecting the treasures from increasingly deft adventurers.
This narrative is told with a tongue-in-cheek approach. You’re introduced to the game’s mechanics by a one-eyed monstrous HR representative, who provides you with your first day induction of managing a dungeon. It’s reminiscent of Dungeon Master, and this off-beat humour juxtaposes the slaughter in your dungeons wonderfully.
Each assault on your dungeon is undertaken by three adventurers and before the combat begins you need to set up your defences in preparation. The defences you can use depend on the room.
There are combat rooms where you deploy your roster of monsters with different abilities and damage types, trap rooms where you place traps from your arsenal and watch them either apply elemental damage or a buff/debuff, and various other room types for you to utilise.
One important mechanic that you need to stay on top of is rotating out your monsters based on their stamina. After each battle, your monsters’ stamina is reduced and, should it fall to zero, they will be injured and out of participating in battles for a series of weeks. By removing them from your active roster, you afford them an opportunity for a little R&R and their stamina recovers.
If the enemy manages to best your traps and monsters, they’ll reach your dungeon’s final room, which holds your dungeon master. Your choice of master is made at the start of the game (though to begin with you’re only given one, the Slavemaster). This serves as an ultimate monster, which can take and dole out way more damage than anything else in your repertoire. If your master dies, it’s game over.
Like most dungeon crawlers, Legend Of Keepers is a roguelite. After failing, you’re given talent points based on your performance, which you can use to apply to a talent tree for your chosen dungeon master, making them more powerful for your next run. These abilities usually either boost your damage output, your health, or your ability to decimate the enemies’ morale.
As well as killing the adventurers, you’re given the option to utilise traps and monsters that completely demoralise them. If an adventurer’s moral drops to zero, they will flee from your dungeon. This feels like a fairly simplistic take on Darkest Dungeon, and I only wish the morality system was a little more fleshed out, with various chaotic outcomes.
I also struggled to make much of an effective moral-damaging setup, and so almost exclusively focused on health-damaging monsters and traps instead. While this might be indicative of my skills as a dungeon master, I certainly felt I received more tools for health damage.
As well as defending your dungeons against adventurers, you’re given the option to select other interactions each week, and you’ll usually find you’re forced to progress through around half a dozen weeks - or options - before you begin another fight.
These interactions include merchants, opportunities to level up your monsters, and traps and events. Events work a bit like a Chance card in Monopoly. You’re given an oft tongue-in-cheek bit of flavour text that continues to sell the joke that you’re working for a company, and either a helpful buff or object, or a negative effect such as injuring one of your monsters.
There was some frustration to be found in these weekly events, such as only being able to upgrade monsters in your active roster when visiting a trainer, despite also being able to adjust the roster before deciding to click into the training event.
After a few attempts of making it to the end, I felt like I’d seen most of what Legend Of Keepers had to offer. While there’s some variation in the monsters and their abilities – and it should be said that the monsters’ pixelated sprites look wonderful – the core gameplay of damaging health or mana didn’t have too many twists or turns. I feel the meta needs to be expanded should this game wish to sit amongst its more successful cousins, such as Slay The Spire.
Still, with solid foundations and early access, I’m hopeful the full release of Legend Of Keepers will offer me more twists and turns to keep me on my toes.
Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Master is currently available in Early Access.
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