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Impire Review: Evil for Fun and Profit
In most games you play the hero, valiantly battling the monsters in whatever setting they dare to show their ugly faces. But sometimes saving the village or the world or the princess over and over again gets old and boring. If only there was a game that turned the usual good smashing evil on its head . . . and that’s where Impire comes in.
You play as Baal-Abaddon, a mighty demon pulled out of Hell and demoted to a lowly imp by an evil wizard, Oscar Van Fairweather. Baal is forced to do tasks for him in the hopes of returning to his former glory so that he can take proper revenge on the wizard that so humiliated him. Other wizards will try to horn in on control of Baal, so he has to defeat them as well because one mortal controlling him is bad enough.
Impire plays out in a dungeon, with various rooms for food, storing treasure, training minions, imprisoning meddling adventurers and other fun stuff. Rooms can be added to the given layout to improve your lair or add features to it like traps. Rooms come pre-fabricated, which cuts down on some of the fun of making your own dungeon, because they’ve already decided the size of the rooms for you.
Now there will be the inevitable comparison to Dungeon Keeper, the granddaddy of the entire play-as-the-bad-guy genre. Impire has lots of the same ideas but also adds some new twists, especially having the dungeon controller be in the lair with the rest of the creatures. I do miss the ability to slap my minions around, either to improve their morale or just for fun. There’s no torture chamber in Impire either, so the best I can do to my minions is send them to train in the gym or eat some food in the kitchen to keep their health and aggressiveness up. Your creatures are not very smart; they won’t attack enemies on their own and require you to make sure they eat. I’m not sure if Baal is an evil overlord here or just a jumped-up nanny.
Impire adds a few features I really like, namely a teleport minion function so you can send your band of monsters directly to where heroes have broken into your dungeon or to places where you encounter stronger resistance than expected while exploring. It saves you from needing to leave enough minions in your lair to watch over the place and also ensures you can do some solo exploring if you want to.
Producing new monsters is done by spending resources, some of which can be gathered in the dungeon, and others which need to be found in the outside world, which is where raiding comes in. This isn’t like something out of World of Warcraft though, as it’s much much simpler. You can send your squad to certain locations on the above-world map, all of which are clearly marked as to which resource you get from defeating the enemies you find there. Mushrooms and building materials give you more creatures and the ability to create new rooms, while treasures expand the number of squads you can have at one time. Raiding also increases the level of the minions that survive it, which is useful for fighting tougher monsters in the environs you explore.
Gameplay can get a bit repetitive. You have to send your monsters out quite a few times to fight the same set of heroes to gain a level, and it’s all done automatically, so while you can watch the fight you can’t really do much to help your minions out. I found myself missing the possess creature function in Dungeon Keeper quite a bit, because I wanted to get in on the action myself and not just watch my creatures fight.
The heroes never give up trying to defeat your dungeon, which can be a headache if you’re busy trying to kill some big bad monster and need to send troops back from that fight to deal with the intruders.
I wasn’t a big fan of the cut scenes as I felt they went on a bit too long. I wanted Oscar to just get to the point and send me on my mission instead of attempting to talk me to death. Still, Baal’s predicament and his attempts to escape it were entertaining at points.
Impire both wants to be Dungeon Keeper and tries to avoid being too much like it, creating a game that’s fun in the short term but gets stale once you’ve learned all its tricks.