Horned Reaper is back: EA unleashes Dungeon Keeper on iOS as free-to-play download

Dungeon Keeper 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 001)

In keeping with its promise of rebooting the 1997 cult classic Dungeon Keeper on iOS, super-publisher Electronic Arts on Thursday brought the game out of soft-launch. Created in partnership with Mythic Entertainment, Dungeon Keeper for the iPhone and iPad is now available worldwide as a free-to-play download from the App Store. The original game was the final project of the famous game designer, Peter Molyneux, before he left Bullfrog to form Lionhead Studios in 1997.

Dungeon Keeper challenges you to build up the baddest dungeon on the block and protect it from a bunch of invading heroes who are after your treasure. On top of that, Horned Reaper – the game’s protagonist and star of the Dungeon Keeper games (created by Mark Healey) – is an uncontrollable, powerful demon who must be kept busy at all times. Otherwise, he’ll become angry and start attacking your creatures…

Rather than mess with the original concept, EA and Mythic have recreated the original 1997 experience on the iPhone and iPad. Those who’ve played the 1997 release will feel right at home in the iOS port.

As the game basically comes down to protecting your dungeon from hero characters, you’re going to need to breed various creatures, lay a bunch of traps and build out some rock-solid defenses.

The visuals, however, have been refreshed with 3D shading and updated artwork.

Dungeon Keeper 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 002)

Dungeon Keeper 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 003)

Dungeon Keeper 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 004)

Dungeon Keeper 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 005)

Dungeon Keeper is free in the App Store.

A few highlights from iTunes release notes:

  • A nefarious army at your service
    From Trolls to Bile Demons, Mistresses, and Warlocks – deploy your army of baddies and unleash special attacks to destroy the competition.
  • Time to get down
  • Maximize your defenses to thwart invaders with expertly laid traps and dungeon design. Build rooms like the torture chamber or dark library to give attackers some painful and shocking surprises.
  • It’s good to be bad
    Attack enemy dungeons and plunder their resources. Deploy your forces and face spike traps, cannons, poisonous spores and more. Too many enemies? Turn them into chickens! Master the Hand of Evil™ to unleash devastating spell attacks.
  • Hurts so good
    Some minions need more…motivation than others. Slap your Imps to get them working faster.
  • Join forces – there’s power in numbers
    Form guilds with players from around the world. Your new alliances let you share minions, increase resource generation, and earn exclusive guild achievements.

And now for the bad news.

Being a fremium release, Dungeon Keeper constantly nudges you to buy virtual gold via in-app purchases. Although you can, for the most part, play the game without spending a dime on these purchasable gems, there’s no escaping in-game timers and delayed upgrades which slow down the gameplay considerably, unless you pony up.

Bearable initially, it soon gets pretty bad: the game goes from a few seconds or minutes to break a stone block to a couple hours, which is just unacceptable.

It feels like EA is really pushing in-app purchases to the point of being downright annoying and – I’m sure some would say – unplayable. EA’s done nothing but disservice to the otherwise excellent franchise by shamelessly shoving in-app purchases down people’s throat.

Having spent countless hours playing this game on my Amiga 500 all I can say is: thanks, EA, for ruining my childhood!

Have you played the original Dungeon Keeper game?

Will you be giving the iOS port a try?