Developer: Electric Succubi
Publisher: Electric Succubi
KeeperRL is an up-and-coming PC game that allows you to take on the role of an evil wizard building an army to conquer the surrounding lands. A roguelike and rpg hybrid, you create your own evil lair, recruit evil minions, and take your army to destroy any village that stands in your way. The player—known as the Keeper—decides what their lair looks like, which minions dig rooms vs chop wood vs build things, and supplies weapons to the fighter minions. You want to collect enough loot and build a strong enough lair that the “nice” adventurers don’t stand a chance when they come looking to vanquish your evil. There is a day and night cycle, perma-death, and nearly endless destructibility.
When you first start the game, it prompts you to try the tutorial. This is essential, simply because KeeperRL is so similar to other games that you feel like you could wing it, but there’s so much new stuff that you won’t do well without this. The tutorial takes you through all of the basics of the game, but I found it to be very difficult at times. Not in terms of game difficulty, but in a simple control and UI sense. The tutorial that you are following appears as a giant box that takes up most of the screen and is NOT click-through. This meant that, for most of the trees that I wanted to cut down or minions to select, I had to move my camera in the perfect spot to do so. The tutorial actually broke for me part way through when it asked me to use some of my wood resource to build something. The section right before this was how to build floors, and I admit I got a little too eager and covered much more of my lair than necessary. When I tried to get my minions to gather some of the wood that I had already collected, they seemed to completely ignore my command. I only got out of this by deciding to “Isengard” the entire forest around my dungeon and ensure that I would never run out of wood again.
After this hiccup, the rest of the tutorial went pretty smoothly. You start the game with four main imps and, being the sentimental person I am, was thrilled to see you can rename them. Speaking of, the recruit system was pretty straightforward and easy to learn. Certain minions are attracted by different things, like orcs wanting training dummies to be readily available if you want them to stay. Imps are the early exception, as they can just be bought with gold should you need more worker bees. You can also queue up actions for your minions, so I had my orcs training while my imps cut more trees. It is important to note that these actions will continue until you select to end them, as I discovered when I clicked on the map and watched my small imp army swarm on an unsuspecting bush.
There is a lot going on at all times, even just an hour or two into the game, but this isn’t terrible to manage. The spacebar pauses the game anytime you need a breather to think or plan, which is a necessity for fast-paced games like this. There is also a scrolling feed at the top of your screen, so you can always see when someone levels up or an item is crafted without going into extra menus.
Once you have enough minions recruited, you can arm them with weapons and assign them to little adventuring groups. You select one to be the leader and set off on a quest of murdering and looting, not unlike most D&D parties. This for me was the coolest and most unique aspect of the game, as the entire gameplay changes once you adventure out. You choose the party leader and take control over that unit, stopping the continuous gameplay and turning the whole world into a turn-based RPG. You walk, explore, kill, and loot tile-by-tile. Find villages, destroy their warriors, take loot back to your dungeon and research new upgrades to improve your army. This aspect has a lot of appeal, since you can just spend time crafting and developing your base if you want to, or you can quickly build warriors and go raiding—not recommended early on, as my first TPK (total player kill) revealed.
While there is a lot to like about this game, I had issues with many of the simplest parts of it. The sound effects started off really nice and satisfying when my initial imps were cutting wood, but very quickly became overwhelming when this sound was combined with orcs sparring with dummies and goblins crafting weapons. I ended up turning the sound completely off because of this, and I can only imagine what having more rooms would sound like as I got further into the game.
The UI is a mess, but a necessary mess. There are a lot of objects to craft and orders to command and structures to build, and it is all sitting on the left side of your screen at all times. It is nice to look down and see my wood count or look to the side and see if I can craft more beds, but just a sub-menu or two would really polish it all up.
Ultimately, this game has an absolute ton of potential. The ability to craft and do resource management in addition to the wandering and warring RPG elements just makes a great combination. You can play as both a dungeon boss and an (evil) adventuring party, so there is something here for everyone. If you are a fan of Boss Monster and Minecraft, then you should be well-prepared for this game. Managing an evil lair might just be your new favorite pastime.