Developer: Goblinz Studio
Release Date: April 29, 2021
Full disclosure: I messed around with Legend of Keepers for a little bit last month when I noticed it was available on Utomik, and much to my disappointment, I didn’t immediately love it. I almost decided not to revisit it for this project, but there have been many games that I didn’t much care for the first time I tried them and then, upon giving them a second look, really clicked with them.
I think the initial disconnect for me was between the game’s store description and the actual experience I had while playing it. I usually associate dungeon management gameplay with building things; that building component is pretty much completely absent from Legend of Keepers. Instead, the layout of each dungeon is pre-determined, usually containing two trap rooms, two monster rooms, a spell room, and a boss room. The tutorial level contains only one of each.
Each battle week starts with a preparation phase. During this time, you can inspect the heroes who will be showing up to plunder your dungeon. You choose which traps to place in trap rooms, and which monsters to place in monster rooms. Spell rooms and boss rooms are unaffected by preparation; you can choose which spell to use when heroes arrive, and the boss is always the “playable character” of the scenario, which in the first level is Maug.
However, most of your in game “weeks” will be spent doing other things. Usually, you have a choice between two or more options, most of which are potentially beneficial, provided you have the resources to take advantage of them. Resources are primarily gained when you defeat a party of adventurers – you get blood for killing them, tears for scaring them off, and gold regardless of how you deal with them. I admit that I might be Doing It Wrong, but I feel like you cannot possibly gain enough resources to take advantage of all of the opportunities presented to you.
That was just one of my frustrations, however. Your creatures and traps only level up through opportunities, not through use, which felt a little weird to me. Pouring resources into training can be frustrating, because monsters take morale hits when they die (and they will die). If you don’t take them out of rotation before their morale hits zero, they’ll suffer burnout and be unusable for 10 weeks, which means you can just keep throwing your highest level monsters out there without consequence, and you won’t be able to level up too many monsters with the amount of gold you’re bringing in unless you’re particularly lucky.
I understand that a critical component of roguelite games is failing repeatedly to gain persistent advantages, but unless you’re really unlucky (or playing really poorly), a failed run will probably take upward of an hour. I just wasn’t enjoying the game play loop enough to dedicate that kind of time. I think I perhaps would have enjoyed this more if it weren’t a genre mashup – the tactical strategy component would have felt more satisfying if I felt like I were being set up to succeed rather than to fail.
Of course, I didn’t find the difficulty sliders & settings until I was almost through my entire run, so perhaps dialing some of that down would have positively impacted my enjoyment. For the most part, I don’t like my games too hard, so having these options is fantastic; I just wish they’d been a little more upfront with them as you cannot adjust any of these things mid-run.
I lasted 38 weeks, which means I lost on the final battle. Which is pretty much what I was expecting.
For players looking for a tactical roguelite experience with a side of management, I can see this game being a great pickup. There seems to be oodles of content, including two paid DLCs (with a third announced for this summer), and multiple free updates since release. However, if you’re overly put off by randomness that can either doom or save a run, you might want to give this a pass – it does you no good to understand what you need to do if you can’t acquire the tools to do it, and I can see that definitely being a problem more often than not due to the sheer variety of creatures and traps in the game.
I played this game through Utomik – the version available there includes the first DLC Return of the Goddess. If this one showed up in a Humble Choice (or another bundle), I would most likely add it to my library – after my second play session I felt like I was on the verge of getting it, and I’d love to play around more with the customization options. It felt like a really well constructed game, I’m just not entirely sure this genre mashup is what I’m looking for.
SteamDB estimates that Legend of Keepers has sold somewhere between 65,200 and a 179,400 copies on Steam. It’s currently on a half-price sale, which may account for it’s fairly high concurrent player count. Reviews are Very Positive overall, and it was easily in the top 5% of Top Sellers in 2021. Still, the negative reviews it has gotten hurt its overall rank, which is 1517 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.