Dungeon Keeper Mobile – Playing Not Paying-to-win

Albeit a little late to the party, I recently discovered that Dungeon Keeper is now on Android/iOS mobile devices. Having played the original game in my youth I was very excited to see it available for my Android tablet.

At first the gameplay was excellent, rapidly digging and building new rooms, summoning minions and raiding fellow Keeper’s dungeons in quick succession. Then the green gems ran out and the game ground to a screeching halt!

The rooms and traps take time to build. This time starts at a few seconds or minutes for the earlier rooms and levels, but rapidly grows to hours and even days as the game progresses. This building (and summoning of minions) can be “rushed” by spending green gems. Something that the game teaches and encourages through the tutorials, but they aren’t rapidly replenished through gameplay. Instead they are to be bought using real-world currency at what seems to be an exchange rate that is drastically lacking in value for money. Therefore, the long build times, as you become invested in the game, are designed to deliberately frustrate the player to the point of either giving up, or giving in to buying green gems.

After taking some time to think things through I determined some key points. First and foremost, this is not a remake of the original Dungeon Keeper game. That is an important point. The gameplay you may well remember from your younger days does not apply here. Although the themes are very much the same. I believe it is possible to play this game for free, and to gain enjoyment from it, in spite of the long time delays, but it requires and teaches three important skills: patience, time management, and effective delegation.

I therefore started the game again (using a different google account as you can’t restart the game on the same account!?) and applied the following rules to my gameplay:

  1. Do NOT buy green gems.
  2. Do NOT spend green gems on ANYTHING apart from IMPS.

Imps are the best way to increase productivity in building and upgrading, but after the first two are bought they become very expensive and added to this they can only be bought with green gems.

Imp Purchase Screen

There ain’t no such thing as a free imp (TANSTAAFL). You need to buy gems to get the “free” imp and once you go down that route, you’re paying to win.

So starting the game with 550 green gems, you can rapidly increase this to 700+ through the first stages of dungeon building and upgrading, plus 10 per day from raiding other dungeons. Revenge matches (that you can win) gain green gems for each star too. Just remember to fight the urge to spend them “rushing” jobs.

Dungeon Overview

Effective delegation means you’e not playing this in one sitting; you’re in it for the long game. During a continuous playtime, you can have your imps working on shorter jobs (5mins to 20mins) whilst you raid some other dungeons. When you know you’ll be away from the game for a while, then set them to work on the longer duration upgrades and room building.

When you’ve finished a raid do NOT hit the resupply button. Return to the dungeon and summon more minions there. As you upgrade your dungeon heart you can summon more in parallel. Also, try and make use of skeletons and trolls more than the other units. They are cheaper in gold and also take less time to be summoned between raids. In those earlier stages you can raid a dungeon with 4 skeletons and 2 trolls (trolls are better at tackling the workshop and resident defending troll).

Sometimes you just need gold. Make sure you always have some in the bank from your own mine before raiding. Then skip through the possible dungeons until you find one that you can easily reach the treasury with a few skeletons. Take the gold then end the raid early. Return to your dungeon, summon a few more skeletons, and repeat. It’s a lot easier and quicker building up your gold (and stone) supply this way than waiting for your own mine to produce it.

Update: 2015-01-02 18:15

Well I made it to 800 gems so went about getting that third imp.

Buying an Imp

I was dreading to think how many green gems the fourth imp will cost, and how long that will take to build up through gameplay. A bargain at only 1200 gems or (at 500 gems for £2.99 that’s about £7.18 for the fourth imp for those who are paying-to-win).

The fourth imp price

Still a relatively simple dungeon layout at this point.

Dungeon Overview - The Third Imp

How long to raise 1200 gems through gameplay alone? Time will tell.