What, really? Another Facebook game? Why even bother, one may ask. Don't be fooled though, amidst the slew of casual and social experiences found in Facebook's massive library of games, there are a few jewels worth checking out and Night Owl Games' Dungeon Overlord is one of them.
It's a free-to-play dungeon management game featuring quite a lot on the mechanical level in the same vein as role-playing and strategy games. There is, of course, the whole micro-transactions options, but that's up to the individual players as most of the features can be accessed through enough playtime.
So what is Dungeon Overlord about? You start off the whole adventure within your own dungeon, complete with your own minion goblin. You'll be seeing things through a top-down, grid-based system. A good chunk of the gameplay early-game involves building and expanding your dungeon, and by completing assigned quests. Soon enough, the game opens up and allows for more minions to be summoned, be they the ever hardworking goblins, mystical warlocks or the cunning thieves. There are a number of various minions and each serve a unique purpose in the grand scheme of things. These minions can be upgraded through training, which usually accompany a resource cost.
Unfortunately, the game doesn't allow players to freely build their dungeon as there is a limit on the amount of tiles one can spend. Run out of those and you'll have to find a way to level up to earn more, or buy them through Dungeon Marks, an in-game currency that you slowly earn over time, it can also be bought with real money.
That aside, Dungeon Overlord features an extensive crafting system with which players can use to craft a myriad of items for their dungeons. Backing it up is a resource collection process not unlike that seen in real-time strategy games. Players can mine for gold, crystal and iron, the building blocks of Dungeon Overlord's player-driven economy. In addition to that, you'll find currency of rarer value such as leather, and primordial elements.
Speaking of a player-driven economy, you'll find a fully-supported merchant system built into the game. It brings to mind the auction houses of MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft and Dofus where it is largely driven by the player-base. It functions just as one might as expect, you can place items up for bid, sell them in bulk, or search and buy items that you may need. In a surprising level of immersion, your minions will travel to the respective seller's realm and return with the goods within so many hours that depend on how far the distance is between the two dungeons.
This leads to the most impressive aspect of Dungeon Overlord: the overworld. Once you leave your dungeon and discover an entire realm to conquer, it's quite difficult to resist the urge to simply raid another player's dungeon and steal everything he has. That said, the exact same can happen to you, so strategy and planning comes into play here. It's important that you set up proper defences in your dungeon to keep invaders out. In addition, you can also raid towns and villages and increase your influence over the world, little by little. You'll be rewarded with plenty of loot and experience points.
The downside is that there really isn't any kind of proper matchmaking involved, so like an MMORPG, players of a significantly higher level can easily take out your dungeon. It's infuriating at the best of times, especially when you've just spent hours building it up and expanding your forces.
For your knowledge, Dungeon Overlord can be pretty demanding on the bandwidth side of things, especially if you have a slow internet connection thanks to its 3D assets. Jumping through your dungeon and into the overworld may take more than just a few seconds. It's certainly no Farmville or Cooking Mama. The game looks good, but suffers performance issues because of it.
So be sure to check it out, especially if you're into crafting and conquering. The player-driven environment is a lovely experience and, although many other Facebook games feature a similar mechanic, it's nice to see an in-depth role-playing version transition nicely over into the social gaming scene. Sadly, the experience suffers thanks to the unbalanced raiding system and performance issues.