Dungeon Keeper is one of my all-time favourite games, tied with Theme Hospital as Bullfrog’s most fondly remembered management sim. Yet whereas Bullfrog’s isometric cure ’em up is still fairly playable today, returning to Dungeon Keeper in 2023 is hard going. Its visuals are incredibly bleary on a modern machine, while it’s also finicky to control and just not especially stable.
It’s been in desperate need of a remaster for years, but one hasn’t been forthcoming from the game’s owner EA. But as is often the case in these circumstances, the PC gaming community has come to the rescue in the form of KeeperFX.
I say “come to the rescue”, KeeperFX has been in the process of rescuing Dungeon Keeper for a decade and a half. The project originally started in 2008, and experienced something of a bumpy road up until 2016. Since then, though, it has gradually added support for Windows 7, 10, and 11, support for hi-res and 4k screens, modernised controls, and even additional campaigns.
With this latest version, KeeperFX’s developers say “all original Dungeon Keeper code has been rewritten, establishing KeeperFX as a true open-source standalone game.” 1.0 also introduces some new features, such as higher framerates, AI that is better at digging and less likely to “instantly” throw its entire army at you, and “higher quality landview speeches” for the additional campaigns. That refers to the introductions and epilogues to missions which, in the game’s original campaign, were voiced by Richard Ridings, aka Daddy Pig.
Perhaps most intriguing of all, KeeperFX’s 1.0 adds a couple of new units to play with. First up is the Druid, a sort-of colour-flipped version of the Warlock who uses ice spells rather than fire. The other unit is the excitingly named Time Mage, a recolour of the Wizard who can cast teleport and speed spells, and also turn enemy units into chickens (presumably through rapid devolution). You won’t find these units in the original campaign, but you will encounter them in the custom campaigns bundled with the 1.0 version.
If this news has tickled your tyrannical fantasies, you can download KeeperFX here. Note that while this is a standalone game, it still requires you to own Dungeon Keeper “for copyright reasons”. As it happens, Dungeon Keeper is currently on sale on GOG, meaning you can grab it for just over a pound for the next 11 hours.