Impire is not perfect, but it’s a charming romp through maliciousness just the same.
Often when I’m writing a review, I take note of what others have had to say about a game as well. I was surprised to find my opinion of Impire differed greatly from many of the reviews I was reading. The deciding factor? Dungeon Keeper.
In my case, I never played any of the Dungeon Keeper games, a series often compared with Impire. I think it’s for that reason that I was able to enjoy Impire based solely on its own merits, rather than constantly measuring it up against a franchise of the past. Make no mistake, Impire is not a perfect game (no game is), but it’s a charming romp through maliciousness just the same.
Impire starts you off as a sarcastic little imp (see what they did there?) summoned by an ‘evil’ warlock whose ideas of menacing are often suspect. The summoning was less than stellar, stripping you of your powers and forcing you to regain them over the campaign, gradually becoming much more powerful until your façade is suitable demonic. The story is linear, but amusing, as your ‘master’ continues his plans of domination through generally petty vendettas and delusions of grandeur straight out of an episode of Pinky & The Brain.
Nearly all of the game takes place inside of a dungeon, the world very dark and almost claustrophobically tight-quartered as you build your empire underground, branching off from a series of passages. The game, for what it is, is actually very attractive. The hand-painted textures and ambient lighting work well together, creating an atmosphere that borders nicely on the line between realism and stylization.
Where Impire stutters is in its gameplay. It’s at first is very entertaining, but the primary negative here is its redundancy; you’re essentially doing the same thing with very little variation from beginning to end. As you progress in the game, you gain access to runes and other mechanics, such as traps, that help define your style, but overall there’s not a lot to keep the gameplay fresh over extended play sessions.
This problem is exacerbated by the lack of freedom in the creation of your ‘Imp’ire. Rooms have no customization beyond placement, and even that is limited by hallways, some you build and others pre-made, but neither removable. As you build your dungeon, heroes begin to invade from time to time, but this quickly goes from delightful combat interludes to predictable annoyances. The world beyond your dungeon exists, but in limited capacities as nodules on a world map you can send your minions to for a brief amount of time. The sense of exploration is diminished here, though you can still watch your minions fight and even cast some spells to help them out as they do their thing.
Despite the above, I still enjoyed my time with the game, mainly due to the game’s comedic overtones and characters. Granted not every joke is a winner, but watching your master put his finger to his lips and laugh, Dr. Evil style, is just so ridiculous I can’t help but laugh. The micro-management can get a bit tedious at some points, requiring runs for food and destruction of ladders/randomly spawning heroes, but the ability to upgrade yourself, your minions and apply runes to various effect kept battles entertaining enough to keep me going.
My frustration with Impire comes not from what it is, but what I have a feeling it could be had it more time in the oven, so to speak. Some extra gameplay mechanics could have made this a classic, but as it stands it’s still a fun way to spend a couple of days. Considering the low price-point of $19.99, you can’t really go wrong.