When Heuristic Park and DreamCatcher Interactive teamed up to release Dungeon Lords in May of last year, no doubt they had high expectations. But the game got killed in the press -- and for good reason. Even in an industry where games are frequently rushed out the door to meet some arbitrary deadline, Dungeon Lords hit a new low. The auto-map feature hadn’t been implemented yet, a large number of spells and skills were missing, towns were empty of furniture and NPCs, and there were a ton of game-stopping bugs. I don’t even want to hazard a guess about how many people who purchased the game were actually able to complete it in its original form.
But that was then, and this is now. After its release, Heuristic Park continued to work on the game, and they’ve now released three patches. The first patch stamped out some bugs, the second patch added in the auto-map feature (and stamped out some more bugs), and the third patch added in the missing spells and skills (and stamped out yet even more bugs). During this time, Heuristic Park also created some new quests and NPCs to flesh out the empty towns, but rather than make those available in a patch as well, they and DreamCatcher decided to re-release Dungeon Lords in a special edition.
Was this a good idea? In my oh-so-humble opinion, the answer is no. First of all, if you’re a publisher and you’ve generated a tremendous amount of ill-will from people who have purchased your games, it seems like it would be a good idea to try and make those people happy rather than try and convince them to purchase even more games. Secondly, the Dungeon Lords Collector’s Edition isn’t exactly Fable: The Lost Chapters. It doesn’t offer a lot of new content, and most of that content isn’t exactly bonus material. I think it would be easy to argue that most of the new content (like the furniture and chests added to the towns) should have been included in the original release, and trying to make people pay extra money for such additions is galling. Does anybody else remember when players weren’t exactly thrilled with the Heart of Winter expansion pack for Icewind Dale, and Black Isle Studios released the Trials of the Luremaster extension for free? I’d argue that that’s the right way to handle such matters, but Black Isle Studios got shut down, and, for all I know, DreamCatcher is going to make some extra money from the Collector’s Edition, and so it’s the right decision for them.
And anyway, I don’t really want to review how DreamCatcher has handled the release of Dungeon Lords -- although the word “abysmally” suddenly comes to mind for some odd reason -- I want to review the Dungeon Lords Collector’s Edition and discuss things like what’s new in the game and whether it’s any fun to play and if it’s worth the money. If you’re interested in those things as well, then keep reading.
The story behind the Collector’s Edition is identical to the one behind Dungeon Lords. There’s an evil wizard who is trying to take over the world, and you have to collect Five Relics of Power in order to stop him. The story sounds like it could have been purchased at RPG Clichés R Us, but there are some subtle nuances to it (such as a missing daughter and her captured lover), and it ends up working better than what you’d usually see in an action role-playing game. Plus, the story gives you an excuse to explore five monster-filled dungeons, and so it works out well enough.