I’ve lost count of the amount of dungeons I’ve trawled through over the years; slaughtering any beast or creature who dares to stand in my path as I seek out some ancient treasure. But I do often wonder, what if the shoe was on the other foot and I had to defend my dungeon from pesky intruders? Well that’s essentially the premise of Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager, a roguelite dungeon management game developed by the aptly named Goblinz Studio.
There’s more to this dungeon management malarkey than you might think, and that’s a good thing for Legend of Keepers. However, much like any other job, there’s potential for monotony and as such, I don’t foresee a long-term career to be had here.
In Legend of Keepers, you’re recruited by the Dungeons Company to assume the role of Dungeon Manager. Basically, they want you to help protect their dungeons and prevent would-be adventurers from stealing their precious treasures. Aside from a few little interactions with the well-voiced cyclops who hired you, don’t expect much of a narrative. You have your goal and you have to take control of a Master through a selection of missions in order to achieve it.
There are three Masters in total to play as: the Enchantress, the Engineer, and the Slaveholder. Each Master has nine missions to work through and pose their own scenarios, including different starter troops, traps, and artefacts offering passive effects. Only the Slaveholder centaur character, Maug, is available at the start, while the others are unlocked over time. That’s one decision out of your hands, so it’s time to decide how best to manage your troops, traps and ensure you hire the best monsters for the task at hand.
To complete a mission, you must survive a series of encounters and events spread out across a number of weeks. The gameplay in these missions is essentially split into three phases: pre-dungeon management, dungeon preparation, and actual turn-based combat inside the dungeon are all part of the process.
Beginning with the pre-dungeon activities, you’ll have a weekly schedule presenting options to choose from. On week one it may ask you to pick between visiting the trainer to spend gold on upgrading the monsters or giving the Master a workout to improve certain stats. The following week it could throw a random event your way alongside the opportunity to check out the wares of a merchant. Initially it feels like a good amount of tasks are filling up the calendar, but after a few attempts at missions, you notice a lot of similar occurrences.
Looking after your minions is interesting because you have to keep them motivated, which is a neat idea. Every time they are slain by the good guys, the motivation levels for defeated troops will decrease and if it depletes entirely then said monster is out of action with burnout, meaning they cannot be picked until recovered. Therefore, it’s crucial that you allow those teetering on the edge to rest in the garrison, encouraging the use of the entire team when the going gets tough. Unless you have a beast of a line-up that never falters, of course.
Every so often, contracts will pop up to draft in your team to protect a dungeon from various thrill-seeking adventurers. Usually more than one choice is presented, with some contracts proving more difficult due to the number of heroes involved in the three-person plundering group. It’s the old risk versus reward as stopping a tougher team can offer greater values of gold and rare monsters, while taking on a bunch of rookies could see you obtain far less. Upon accepting a contract, it transports the Master and the troops to the dungeon, where the real planning begins.
The dungeon is always split into separate rooms and while the layouts may vary, there are rooms to place monsters, traps, cast a spell and a couple of other kinds. The Master always resides in the final room, acting as the last line of defence for any plucky adventures who make it that far. This preparation phase really encourages a tactical approach in regards to where you deploy the monsters and traps, including the order in which they line up. To do it successfully though, you need to check out the abilities and stats of the incoming heroes, ensuring you exploit elemental weaknesses. Once satisfied, let the battle commence.
Finally, the turn-based 2D action comes into play and it’s… fine. As is the case in most games, reducing enemy health to zero is the way to defeat the heroes, but you can also terrify them and empty their morale meter, causing them to run away. The animated attacks are decent, with the status effects adding an extra layer to factor in like poison, burning, bleeding and more. Despite a good variety in monsters such as orcs, skeletons, ghouls and demons, each individual monster only possesses a few moves at best – some have just the one. Unfortunately, with you often having a small team of monsters, it becomes samey and you end up doing it on auto-pilot.
As for the roguelite features, don’t expect too much to remain after each successful or failed mission attempt. You’ll earn XP for the Master for every playthrough, which will level that particular Master up and provide points to spend on bonuses; things like a higher chance of the Master becoming enraged or cheaper costs for using the trainer. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t seem quite enough carried over to enhance your chances for the next venture into a mission.
Moving on to visuals, the pixel art is used really well to create a cavalcade of interesting looking characters on both sides of the good/evil axis. Sadly, the UI is the opposite in a sense that it’s unpleasant on the eye, while not being the easiest to navigate either. It’s occasionally a pain to highlight what you’re trying to interact with and due to its minimalistic approach, you sometimes – albeit rarely – don’t even know what interaction you’re choosing.
Considering the point of a roguelite experience is to play through multiple times, the minimal carryovers, the repetition of events and the fairly average turn-based action is a slight hindrance on Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager. Nevertheless, turning the dungeon crawling on its head and introducing a management aspect is a great concept. On top of that, there’s tons of content to work through with three lots of missions as well as Ascension and Endless mode. There’s a decent variety of monsters too, ensuring missions for each Master do feel a bit fresher.
If you fancy being evil, you could do a lot worse than apply for a role in Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager. It’s pretty good for a short while, but just might become repetitive.
Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager is out on the Xbox Store