The headline is, you either spend real money in Dungeon Keeper, or you give it a task to do and in the mean while you can sleep through the night. Yes, the game is virtually unplayable if you want to stick to the ‘free to play’ ideology, and that has brought EA in line of pretty nasty criticism.
When Dungeon Keeper Mobile was released by EA in October last year, it was promoted as a free to play mobile version of the popular strategy game. Ironically, the people who downloaded it have figured out that it relies so heavily on in-game micro transactions that there is no way around them if you wish to progress.
Dungeon Keeper Mobile plays around an underground lair where the player uses minions to construct the dungeon, which in turn has to be defended against enemies. Without the minions (known as imps) working properly, the game would be useless and yet; the imps are so slow on their own that it takes them up to 24 hours to dig certain places.
Of course, that changes if you throw in some of the cash from your wallet and buy certain ‘gems’ that speed up the process. The irony is, if the players are going to rely so heavily on those purchases, the publisher might as well add a price tag on the game itself.
Even Peter Molyneux the designer of the original 1997 game believes this is ridiculous:
I felt myself turning round saying, ‘What? This is ridiculous. I just want to make a dungeon. I don’t want to schedule it on my alarm clock for six days to come back for a block to be chipped.
EA, on the other hand, has tried to counter the criticism by maintaining that the game was built around a typical mobile gaming pattern where people keep checking in for a couple of minutes throughout the day.
EA’s spokesperson even goes on to say, “we believe we’ve designed an experience wherein players don’t have to spend money if they don’t want to.” I wonder where they got that idea from.
The publisher has tried to argue against the criticism saying that the game has received a handsome number of five stars on Google Play and App Store, but the fact is Metacritic has rated it 0.3 out of 10.
There is a huge number of fans that wanted to play the game because it was expected to be an updated version of the previous games. When the returning fans see how it plays out (either slow or pretty darn expensive), we don’t think many of them would go with an all five stars rating.
Moreover, new players who are not really fond of the pay to play ideology would have downloaded the game because it is tagged under the ‘free to play’ category. Their disappointment is justified too.
In the end, the major point of concern here is what kind of an example is EA trying to set for other smaller game developers? No matter how they window dress it, Dungeon Keeper is being perceived as exploitative by almost everyone.