Bullfrog's highly original strategy game Dungeon Keeper is another welcome addition to the Good Old Games library (even though they really should have thrown in the excellent Deeper Dungeons expansion for good measure). It's also a great way to start off GOG's new collaboration with publisher Electronic Arts, which will also bring us other classics like Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (which I think will benefit somewhat from GOG's regular compatibility tweaks) and Crusader: No Remorse (a game I never thought much of when it was new but apparently has its fair share of fans).
Some games provide very worthwile experiences without necessarily providing great mechanics, and Dungeon Keeper is a good example of this. It's not unfair to classify DK1's campaign as a series of thinly disguised puzzle scenarios which pretend to be a lot more strategical than they actually are, and most of the actual gameplay elements are pretty superficial and repetitive (a problem which the frequent addition of new room types help alleviate to some extent).
But while in purely mechanical terms Bullfrog might not exactly have created the ideal strategy game with Dungeon Keeper, there's no denying that the game is crammed with all sorts of cool features and unique concepts which hadn't really been seen in the genre before. The premise of creating a dungeon and inhabiting it with monsters ingeniously turns the conventional D&D-inspired fantasy narrative on its head, while still retaining the pleasure of exploring vast underground networks of caves (natural and/or man-made), much like you would in an RPG or conventional RTS game. The ability to possess the otherwise independent-minded monster inhabitants and experience the world form a first-person perspective might not be of much practical use, but it's a highly entertaining addition which takes full advantage of the game's 3D environments in a way which was simply mind-blowing back in 1997.
However, what makes DK one of my favorite games of all times is a curious combination of that anarchical humor which is so evident in the writing and art design on the one hand and the game's surprisingly thick atmosphere on the other. The spoken introductions to each campaign mission are frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and the cutscenes likewise do an excellent job of underlining the game's gleefully satirical take on tired fantasy conventions. At the same time, the amazingly detailed sound design and Russel Shaw's moody ambient music help create an unexpectedly immersive experience of being in a mysterious forgotten world where you're never quite sure what dark discoveries await your imps as they start digging their way deeper and deeper into the abyss...
Buy Dungeon Keeper here: