It’s not easy being mean.
Brightrock Games shamelessly wears their inspiration on their sleeves. The original Dungeon Keeper has inspired many developers to create their own dungeon management games, and War for the Overworld polishes the spiky torture wheel once again.
I didn’t play War for the Overworld on release so I’m tackling this one from a beginners perspective to see if it’s worth picking up. Overworld’s Steam Page has a list of new features and changes for those that bought the game in 2015 and want to see if it’s worth returning to. Since its original release in 2015, it hasn’t been left to rot. The brand new Under Games expansion has released simultaneously with the 2.0 update. This is supposedly Overworld’s final update and I’m diving in fresh.
Overworld boils down to a few things in every mode you choose: build your dungeon, command your minions and manage your resources. Each player has a core that must be defended, which you do by building rooms for minions, defences and traps for enemies. Once you’ve built your perfect hovel of evil you can go on the offensive, taking the enemy core or relevant objective.
Instead of controlling units individually you rally warbands, cast spells and order workers from the position of ‘Underlord’. All of this is narrated with devilish cheer by Richard Ridings, Dungeon Keeper’s original voice of evil.
Your dungeon will run like a well-oiled machine with units feeding themselves at a tavern and training if they can; although, you can interact with units to help them along. The almost infinite amount of management is deliberate. Overworld wants you to sit back a little compared to other strategy games, picking and choosing where you will enforce your maniacal will.
The newly updated main campaign does a fantastic job of introducing each new mechanic to you. I recommend playing through this campaign first before tackling the other modes. It’s slower paced and well balanced for new players. Additional challenges await those willing to hunt for achievements, designed to force aggressive and risky tactics.
The new Under Games campaign throws much tougher challenges at you. Most of these involve competing against a variety of unique dungeon lords. Each lord has a distinct pro and con like giving you mastery over beasts, but with incredibly expensive defences. The only other noticeably different features in the new campaign are a difficulty selection and the addition of new capturable locations.
There is an incredible amount of content on display here, with potentially hundreds of hours of dungeon building. Each mode is well fleshed out and adds enough of a new spin to the formula to shake things up. The My Pet Dungeon mode gives you control of enemy spawning and plays like a sandbox mode with missions.
It’s not enough to just have content, and thankfully Brightrock has clearly taken the time since release to polish Overworld. I didn’t encounter any bugs in over a dozen hours of gameplay, which is surprising considering the sheer complexity of onscreen systems in play.
Visual fidelity is perhaps the weakest element of Overworld. Units will often obscure enemies and each other. Once units mass together you feel no sense of control, gambling heavily on every outcome. The first person possession spell lets you control a unit in first-person and gives them a significant damage boost. Unfortunately, the engine capabilities meant I never felt as useful controlling one unit when I could cast more useful spells to help the group.
Some of the UI elements can also be difficult to decipher. The tech tree is small and logo based, and I constantly wished for a list of my built rooms. Despite the overall muddiness of the visuals, the animation and sounds do add significant character to your minions.
War for the Overworld was a flawed gem with potential a few years ago. While still lacking in some ways, Brightrock has added so much content and polished the gameplay to the point that they’ve more or less reached the depths of that potential. It’s not the prettiest, easiest or most interesting game out there and it focuses on refinement over innovation, but the Ultimate Edition is hard not to recommend thanks to its sheer amount of content.