Turn-based games can be terribly addictive to me. The thrill of preparing myself, managing characters and resources, until the battle starts can surely keep me on the edge of my seat. Of course, it can sometimes be infuriating, but it’s part of the fun. Legend of Keepers as it can lead the player to such states of mind, however, the spell faded away quickly, and I found yourself dealing with almost bureaucratic gameplay. Developed by Goblinz Studio, I was impressed by the game’s presentation, and here’s what I got from the game.
Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Master is available on PC.
STORY – THE MEANER, THE BETTER
We are the head of a team of monsters, which must protect the dungeon treasure from attack by heroes and warriors who want to steal it at all costs. As the team manager, the player is responsible for the training, physical and mental health of the creatures, the purchase of traps and making the necessary upgrades to overcome the attacks of the warriors. The game starts with a clear and easy to follow tutorial, where we learn the basic mechanics and systems of the game. In this training, we know that we are new to the company and that any failure will result in our dismissal.
We have three main avatars, which divide the main environments of the game:
- The Slaveholder, with a deadly whip, controlling creatures such as Ogres, Succubuses and Skeletons, among others.
- The Enchantress, using nature and elementals, often poisoning the enemies.
- And the Engineer, inspired by the legend of the Monkey from ancient China, employing monsters attached with cybernetic limbs and weapons.
With these distinguished ‘bosses’, each section of the game is new and offers a different kind of challenges, getting harder as the player progresses.
So far, I noticed that the Slaveholder and Enchantress areas are more developed because, in the Engineer part, creatures and scenarios of the Slaveholder were repeated. This took me out of the game immersion, as I felt I was doing the same area twice. However, the studio has been releasing constant upgrades, and the latest one addressed the Engineer section, so this is expected to be evolved in the future.
GAMEPLAY – GRIND YOUR WAY UP
We have cycles of 52 weeks, with a progressive difficulty of challenges, until we reach the combat that determines whether you will be promoted or fired. The battles are initially simple: you place your warriors and traps in different rooms, which the warriors will try to defeat until they get the treasure. As in any turn-based game, we have enough time to read the information of each enemy to determine an appropriate strategy. The warriors we face always have higher levels than our subordinates, and they usually destroy the first monsters we use, so it’s better to save the stronger ones for the second room.
We can also affect the morale of enemies, which interferes with the damage they can do to the player- but I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it since the focus is to destroy the enemy as quickly as possible. The distribution of each character in the room determines the player’s strategy, and this changes as the characters evolve, as we can get increasingly powerful monsters in each team. The player can also poison or make enemies bleed, thus losing more energy each turn.
After the battle, we have other weeks in which we choose what to do. For example, we can deal with an Event that can harm or help the company, or send sending monsters on plundering missions or as bodyguards, getting money or other rewards in return. We can also offer training and therapy sessions, helping our creatures to level up.
Each of these 52-week cycles is considerably long, taking about 40 minutes. Over time, the events can get very repetitive, and it feels a bit grindy. The situations we face remain the same, no matter which avatar you are using (only a few ceremonies change, and the events are somewhat more difficult to handle). After a while, although the game is addictive, everything got a little tedious, especially if all the preparation leads to a defeat by a particularly powerful warrior who can use never seen before resuscitation or energy boosting spells, which leads to your dismissal.
After being fired, we can see how much we leveled up. Thus, you have to lose to be able to change the game or see your own evolution. If you win, you will get promoted, with new rooms and creatures at your disposal, but the enemies are, of course, much stronger.
If this system was a little more dynamic, with shorter cycles, the player’s excitement would be maintained for longer. However, we have great preparation for the ‘final battle’, often facing enemies that were practically impossible. It was nice to see the character’s evolution and unlock the other avatars after each defeat, but it felt like too much work for little reward.
Another factor that I’d like to point out is that it’s hard to care about our ‘employees’. Of course, we can imagine inner narratives for each one, but we don’t have a bigger context for them. Like, who (or what) are they? Do they live in the dungeon? Do they really want to fight, or is it just a job (like in the animation Monsters Inc.)? A little more detail in the creation of these characters would make me really care for each one and not treat them as simple pawns. Something like knowing if the character has a family or if it wanted to pursue another profession instead of being only minions would add depth to the game, with more dramatic implications- but this is just an idea.
GRAPHICS – PIXELS FOR LIFE
With a 16-bit vibe, we have a consistent, simple and effective art direction. The animations of the characters resemble those classic beat’em up games, and we have a very satisfactory reaction when the enemy takes damage. The scenarios do a good job of setting the atmosphere of the game, as well as the beautiful pixelated illustrations presented in the management sessions and events that the player has to deal with.
The spells, however, could have a bit more ‘punch’. We often have effects that are barely noticed on the screen, or just fog or particles so small that you can barely see what happens. Other elements don’t seem to be particularly strong. For instance, there is a character who throws a block of ice at the warriors, it would be cool if that block was larger, so we could have a greater sense of impact. There are some other details that could be more visually striking during the battles.
AUDIO – DUNGEON AMBIENT
The audio stands out, with atmospheric music, impactful sound effects and voices that are not necessarily innovative but do their job. There’s only one detail that can be bothering: when we accelerate the battle time, the voices get shrill, and that takes away the immersion a little, especially since it is difficult to understand what the warriors say before each attack. This does not happen with ‘big bosses’, who keep their normal voices even when the tempo gets faster.
Legend of the Keepers was previewed on PC. A key was provided by Future Friends Games.