Unless you live in an actual dungeon, there is no way you have not heard of Dungeon Maker: Dark Lord ($4.99) developed by GameCoaster, the same indie company to bring the little gem Dungeon Defense: The Invasion of Heros ($4.99) to the mobile gaming world. In my opinion Dungeon Maker: Dark Lord feels like a stand-alone sequel to its predecessor; it’s the natural evolution of a good game becoming great.
Just in case you are stuck in a dungeon somewhere let me tell you about this mind-blowing new release. Celebrating its official release on the weekend, Dungeon Maker: Dark Lord has quickly become a game people are talking about. This is because of its fresh feel and great mix of genres melding together giving the player a seriously remarkable experience. You don’t need to take my word for it, you can head on over to our forums and see what other players are saying.
At its heart Dungeon Maker: Dark Lord is a roguelike game, it then seamlessly incorporates elements from the card, tower defense and strategy genres to enhance the gameplay experience. Even GameCoasters’ approach to in-app purchases is unique. It’s a full game, offering in-app purchases for impatient people. Everything you unlock with a purchase can be unlocked through playing the game, something the developer is very upfront about when you look at the in-app purchases area of the game, as you can see below.
Dungeon Maker: Dark Lord is designed to be an offline game, so it’s not going to eat your bandwidth and is still available in flight mode. It really is refreshing to find a game I can travel with, one which will not only keep me entertained for a long period of time but will also still be available to me in those times I need to switch my phone into flight mode.
You might ask how I am so sure it will keep being entertaining for extended periods of time, and the answer is pretty simple and actually a little embarrassing. I meant to write this review yesterday, after playing the game for a couple of hours. Nine hours later my husband came home from work to find me sitting on the couch, in the dark, on my phone (by this time plugged into our portable charger), still playing Dungeon Maker: Dark Lord. I played it through dinner (which he had to cook because I was too engrossed), I played it through Masterchef Australia (my favorite show), and I played it in bed way past the time I should have been asleep.
So, what is it that makes Dungeon Maker: Dark Lord so captivating? Well to start with you get to play the bad guys. You are the Dark Lord and it is up to you, your dungeon, and the monsters you hire to vanquish the invading heroes. The villains you choose are all female and stylised, reminding me of Manhwa, which is not surprising since it was designed by a Korean game developer. Essentially the premise is quite similar to Peter Molyneux’s classic Dungeon Keeper, but not like the terrible free to play mobile version released several years back.
With over 100 monsters and heroes, 70 rooms, and 130 relics (with more promised in future updates), the replay possibilities are endless. I’ve played nonstop for an entire day and don’t even feel I have scratched the surface. This is a game you will play for hours at a time, and days on end. Getting to day 100 is all you will think about, putting your phone down after downloading this game is all but impossible.
Dungeon Maker: Dark Lord is not complicated, but its simplicity does not in any way make it easy. It will be tempting to buy some if not all the upgrades as you struggle to get past the second, or third (if you’re good), boss battle. However, there is no need to spend the money (unless you want to support a struggling indie developer of course) to progress through the game. The following tips, tricks and strategies will help you spend many enjoyable hours in the game without spending every penny you have to spare.
To play you choose a card from a mostly randomly dealt layout, the choice to pick your type of card is removed three days out of twenty. The game always begins with three battle cards, meaning your first move is always to enter the dungeon and fight. Every nineteenth day is a row of dungeon cards, letting you rest your Dark Lord and regain hit points before the following day’s huge battle. Then finally, every twentieth day you are presented a boss battle card. The boss battle is the completion of one round of cards, another twenty rows are dealt and another, harder cycle of fights begins.
There are seven different types of cards used, and on any turn only three cards are available to choose from. You can move from side to side on the board by choosing the left or right card in your group of three. This is most useful to reach an upcoming card you want to play. Knowing each of the cards and what they can offer helps to strategically move through the days with optimum hit points left for the boss battles. The seven types of cards are:
The Battle card, just as you would assume takes you straight into the dungeon to fight. The game always begins with three battle cards as your only choice for day one, after this it is randomly (though predominately) dispersed through the card layout. After winning a battle you are gifted with gold and a battle reward gift, which will be a facility (room for your dungeon), a piece of equipment, a monster egg (which gives the choice from three monsters), or even the option to combine two monsters for a new monster or sacrifice one monster to enhance you dark lord.
The Elite Battle card, again you go straight to the dungeon for a battle, but this is a harder fight then you will see in a normal battle. Likewise, you will see greater rewards for succeeding. After winning an elite battle you are gifted with gold, a battle reward gift and a normal relic which gives a boost to your stats. It’s always worth taking the elite battle if you know you can win, the relics can really help make your dungeon or monsters stronger.
The dungeon card, a rest or improve type card. You have three options in the dungeon: rest and recover hit points for you dark lord, upgrade a room in your dungeon making its benefits to your monsters or damage to the heroes greater, or train one of your monsters making them elite and improving their stats. The formula for using dungeons I find most useful is to always rest my Dark Lord if I do not have full health, and then choose to strengthen a room or monster depending on what strategy I’m playing. Also, always use a dungeon, it uses up a day without having to fight and the more days you don’t have to fight the closer to reaching 100 days you become.
The merchant card, by playing this card you have the opportunity to buy monsters, facilities, enhance the Dark Lord, combine monsters, and even create special room or monster upgrades. If you have the gold this is a great way to fill you battle rooms with monsters or enhance multiple facilities, strengthening your dungeon and increasing your power.
The event card, aka the chance card, you never know what you are going to get when you choose event. It could be a positive happening, a negative occurrence or even just a plain old battle. It could give you a new monster or add an altar (shudder) to your dungeon, it might let you remove a room (great way to get rid of altars) or increase your health, you just never know how it will turn out. Nine times out of ten you will get away with not having to fight, so events are another great way to move along a day without taking damage.
The treasure chest, which is as simple as it sounds, choose this card and get free treasure. You are given a choice of three relics to choose from. Its fast and easy and once again (there is a pattern building here) a great choice to get through a day without fighting.
The boss battle, not much to say about this one, you play it every twenty days and it signifies the heroes getting stronger as a new round begins. Of course, there is the rewards for winning, you receive gold, a battle reward and a random rare relic.
The cards are an integral part of the game, second only to your dungeon, which you will grow and strengthen throughout the game. When you begin there is only a three by three grid dungeon, with one battle room and three deployed monsters smack bang in the middle. As the game progresses you expand, building your own dungeon and increasing the number and strength of your indentured monsters. Choosing the right mix of rooms and their placement is important if you want to maximize the number of days you can successfully defend your dungeon and keep the Dark Lord alive.
You can upgrade rooms by playing the dungeon card or you can enhance them by using another facility. This increases the level of your room and the damage or boosts it provides to heroes or monsters. You don’t need to use matching rooms to enhance one already in your dungeon, any room can be used. As far as rooms for your dungeon goes there are four types in play:
Battle room, you employ up to three monsters (unless it is the gigantify room in which case you only get one monster, but he fights with 2x life and 2x attack). Depending on which room it is a battle room will buff monsters, debuff your heroes, or perform a little bit of both.
Trap, here there is no monster deployed, the room itself will deal damage or status effects to the heroes as they enter. Placing your trap rooms at the entrance to the dungeon and keeping them well enhanced is an excellent strategy. The heroes lose health and stats before ever engaging your minions in battle; what evil overlord doesn’t like the idea of fighting an already weakened hero?
Facility, this room offers no effect to the heroes who enter, it does however, give the Dark Lord or their monsters a boon. For instance, the hatchery increases the level of monsters emerging from the monster egg by one. A great idea is to place this type of room at the back of the dungeon, so heroes receive the maximum damage the dungeon can dole out before reaching rooms which do nothing and fighting the Dark Lord herself.
Altar, this is a room you want to avoid whenever you can, and if it’s placement is unavoidable (which is often the case) you want to get rid of it as soon as possible. The altars benefit the heroes with stat increases or other advantages. You often find yourself burdened with them from events, where your choices are limited, and you can not steer clear. Always take the first opportunity to remove them, after all you don’t want to altar (whoomp, there it is) the balance of a battle in the heroes’ favour.
I’ll wind the guide up with a few other noteworthy points to help you make the most of Dungeon Maker: Dark Lord. The Dark Lord has special attacks and skills to unlock, which consume mana crystals when used. The mana crystals regenerate throughout battle. At first glance I thought it was stamina, so that should let you know what kind of regeneration you are looking at.
To perform the basic attack, tap anywhere on the screen, for special attacks you pick up along the way tap the little icon at the bottom of the screen. Your mana crystals fill up quickly enough to let you launch a few special attacks without putting yourself or too many monsters in danger. If you are worried about the health and wellbeing of your monsters, don’t be, they are made to serve the Dark Lord, their lives are expendable. In fact, throughout the course of the game sacrificing monsters for enhancements is one of the ways you will get stronger offensive stats.
Battles go quickly even at normal speed, and you will find yourself tapping the screen like crazy to help defend your dungeon. Choosing the placement of the rooms gives you a feeling of being in a tower defense, and while the placement of the rooms can matter it doesn’t have the make or break a level doggedness you find in true tower defense games.
A very easy mistake to make is getting too wrapped up in creating and training monsters while ignoring the dungeon rooms. This strategy will actually seem like it is working well up until about day fifty, then the wheels totally fall off and the heroes start passing through the rooms and your defenders and hitting the Dark Lord enforce. A much better strategy is to concentrate on your dungeon and the strength of your rooms.
So that’s it, my first guide for TouchArcade, hope it has been an informative and worthwhile read. For even MORE great tips and strategies, be sure to visit our forums where Dungeon Maker players are swapping tactics left and right. I’d love to tell you I’m off to play the game some more but I’m currently under a self-imposed ban, no more dungeon making until I look at this week’s new games and get my reviews done. I’m not gunna lie, it’s a hard ask, I dreamed about this game. I’ve not had this level of infatuation with anything pixelated since the first time I saw Groot on the big screen. This game is under my skin and if you download it and give it a go I guarantee it will get under yours too.