Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Review: Impire

2:00 PM on 02.27.2013 // Fraser Brown

A bit less painful than sitting on a red-hot poker

There is a vast, tumultuous ocean between good ideas and their actual application, and lost in the middle of that ocean is Impire. In fact, it may very well be stuck inside the belly of a whale.

I had high hopes for the dungeon-crafting premise, the cheeky imps, and the absurd humor. In hindsight this may have been thanks to my desire to see the evolutionary dead end that was Dungeon Keeper revitalized by Cyanide's attempt to rekindle this subterranean not-quite-sub-genre of management games. 

It started off strong, too, with jokes a plenty, a penchant for violence and torture, and a veritable army of hideous monstrosities just waiting to be conjured. But somewhere down the line, it lost its way and became something that, honestly, I couldn't wait to put down.

Impire (PC)
Developer: Cyanide Studio
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Released: February 14, 2013
MSRP: $19.99

The demonic powerhouse known as Baal-Abaddon has been unleashed on the fantasy realm of Ardania by incompetent demonologist and sniveling idiot, Oscar Van Fairweather. He has enough chips on his shoulder that nobody could really call it a shoulder anymore, and all he wants to do is spread evil throughout the land, eventually becoming its ruler. He's not very good at the whole evil thing, unfortunately. 

The story-driven campaign is one of the many things that sets it apart from Dungeon Keeper, a title Cyanide was clearly inspired by but did its best to avoid mimicking. Lamentably, like most of the facets taken from titles wholly different from Bullfrog's classic, it fits in about as well as a child-eating demon at a children's birthday party. 

It's not that the plot itself is out of place -- though it's not exactly scintillating -- rather, it's the brand of comedy that accompanies it. Early in the game, it's amusing in a slightly puerile sort of way. I thoroughly enjoy tacky innuendo and toilet humor, and a game about a bald idiot with daddy issues trying to control the forces of hell shouldn't take itself seriously, but then it just gets really carried away.

References are thrown around with zero context, from Star Wars to A Song of Ice and Fire, and none of it makes any sense. I confess that I just don't get reference comedy. I can't stand Family Guy, and I simply don't see why a character mentioning something from a movie or some other form of media is funny. Comedy is tough, and is fairly subjective, so I'm willing to accept that someone out there might find Impire hysterical. I'm just not that person.

Thankfully the awkward attempts at comedy are restricted to the poorly animated in-game cutscenes, and the rest of the experience is all about running an increasingly large dungeon filled with minions, attacking heroes, and pitiful prisoners. 

Here is every mission in Impire: You start with a partially filled-out dungeon with a few corridors, enemy-patrolled areas that can be dug to, a couple of worker imps and a mushroom chamber, and a few other essential rooms. Unless you take a particular path just before the game's final chapter, every dungeon you make will essentially look the same.

The dungeon has one purpose, and no other. It exists to allow you to build up a small army of creatures which you can move to a second area situated next to the dungeon to perform a series of extremely boring quests that amount to killing a hell of a lot of enemies and occasionally collecting some items. 

To build this army, resources must be gathered by sending minions on surface raids, which was a nice touch sadly diluted by the fact that a raid just means they travel to a tiny area and fight some enemies while the player has no control beyond casting the occasional spell. These resources can in turn be spent on building new rooms to recruit new minions, upgrade said minions, or accrue more resources. There are few meaningful interactions to be found, and no real attempt appears to have been made to disguise the fact that you are clearly just performing fairly mundane actions in a rather linear fashion.

Finally there's the acquisition of DEC points, Impire's slightly unexpected attempt to shoehorn RPG elements into the mix. By performing tasks on a huge list (digging through x number of blocks, killing x number of heroes, wasting x hours of your life) dungeon builders get awarded points which can then be used to unlock new rooms, upgrades, and runes to customize minions.

It suffers from the same problems as the rest of the game, sadly, in that it feels like you're just going through the motions, doing the same old things again and again. It is tedious. Exactly the word Baal himself uses when you order him to move somewhere. Cyanide should have listened to their little demon. 

The entire dungeon-building experience boils down to ticking the boxes that allow you to bugger off and do the main quest. And every single mission is exactly the same apart from sometimes getting access to a new room. Damn, I've probably bored you all half to death just detailing the mission structure. Maybe I should try to spice it up. I did attempt to do that during the game by giving the rooms new names, along with my actual minions. The minion-spawning room became, at least in my head, The Womb of Doom, and I started to name all of my creatures after famous dictators. 

I genuinely wish I could muster up one iota of enthusiasm for it, but Impire has sapped me of my positivity entirely. It's frustratingly repetitive. There was no joy in finishing a mission, as I knew that I would begin again, simply going through the motions, trying to reach the end. I ended up going on prolonged cigarette breaks. At one point I actually left my PC and went to watch a football game with my flatmate. I haven't watched a football game since I was a teenager, and even then it was because I was trapped. 

Each room is prefabricated, and the only element of customization is the ability to rotate and place them, and even that is restricted by the small size of the dungeon areas. At first I thought that this might make room placement something of a puzzle, a challenge requiring a spot of lateral thinking. Nope. It's just boring.

Once constructed, the rooms are actually a high point of Impire, however. The ones that require an imp to man them especially, and watching those little ghastly beasts working away was a brief respite from the monotony of the game. If every dungeon didn't look almost identical, then I think I would have been extremely charmed by the title's aesthetic. 

My biggest gripe with the dungeon portion of Impire is how it wasted my time. It's a bloody long game, and each mission can take up to an hour to complete, but most of that hour is spent doing exactly the same thing as the previous mission. And yet with all that repetition, there are more features that exist to prolong the experience.

From commanding your minions to eat (they are too stupid to do that themselves), to making them move anywhere -- setting patrols is pointless since they just go where they want, and where they want to go is usually up and down a small portion of a corridor; there's a ton of faffing. I like a bit of micromanagement, but there's a fine line between giving players lots of control and making them perform menial tasks, and Impire crosses that line with gusto. 

Treasure pits and stockrooms are the worst offenders by far when it comes to needlessly extending mission length, however. Each of these rooms are tiny and hold a rather small amount of resources, yet these resources are absolutely integral to progressing through a level. So the first half hour or more of each mission is spent filling up those rooms, then spending those resources to buy more of those rooms, since they can't be upgrades or expanded, filling them up again, and repeating the procedure until you can finally hold enough resources to build the force required to storm the neighbouring area. These are tasks, not entertaining activities.

So the dungeon-building portion is a bust -- what about the combat? The minions themselves are great, at least in terms of how they look. There are metal-loving goblin shamans, manic grinning imps of various classes, minotaurs, skeletons, wraiths, a beholder-type creature called an occulus -- they are quite delightful. 

Troops can be extensively upgraded, too. Armor and weapons come in three tiers, and little familiars can eventually be attached to groups of units, giving them some bonuses. When it comes to these minor bits of customization, there aren't really any paths, but it still felt like I was developing them rather than just churning them out.

These creatures are meant to be placed into squads of four, and these squads move and attack as one. Depending on the make-up of the squad, they may have synergy abilities. These synergies are all passive in so much as the player has no control over their use, and frankly, I barely noticed them.

When it comes to sending them into combat, it all falls apart. Impire may ostensibly be a strategy game, but fighting instantly devolves into an indistinguishable mass of spell effects and creatures hitting each other. It's impossible to make out what is going on amid all the chaos, and the numbers and status effects that appear above them come out fast and thick, giving players no time to react or understand the conflict. It amounts to hitting something until it stops moving. 

While much of the combat happens in the secondary dungeon where the mission's main quest takes place, there's still a fair amount of combat within Oscar and Baal's own dungeon. Heroic invasions happen with increasing frequency as the dungeon levels up, and bloody hell are they infuriating. Heroes will either enter via destructible ladders or the main entrance. If the ladders are destroyed the heroes will still come through the entrance anyway, making it something of a pointless victory. 

A variety of traps can be laid throughout the dungeon, though they serve no real purpose, just like the rooms that "attract" heroes, drawing them away from the precious treasure pit. If heroes are stomping around your dungeon, you're doing something wrong. Minions and Baal himself can be teleported to any part of the dungeon, so there's simply no reason why any heroes will have the freedom that allows them to wander into traps, especially since they can't even be placed by the main entrance.

These invasions present little threat, and generally exist as nuisances more than anything else. There's nothing more annoying that attempting to complete a quest when every few minutes a couple of invaders appear in the dungeon and require the squads to be teleported back in. Again, it feels like it's merely prolonging an experience that is already far too padded out.

Impire may have annoyed me more than I knew. It was probably the technical issues that pushed me over the edge. Everything was going smoothly before the first patch, and I suffered none of the crashes or glitches reported by others. Then it all went to hell when Cyanide apparently decided to break the game when it was working -- at least for me -- perfectly.

All of a sudden I was getting crashes every single mission, and to make matters worse, my saves were being corrupted. Most of the game is filled with "been there, done that" moments, but for me I literally had been there, playing that very mission, and I had to do it all over again. These aren't levels I wanted to do once, let alone twice. At this point, I should add, for the sake of transparency, that I failed to finish Impire's final mission. It crashed the first time I attempted it, then the second time it crashed and corrupted my save file. I packed it in at that point. 

There's a fairly original, ambitious title to be found deep within Impire. But it's really, really deep. Far deeper than the dungeons ever go. All the potential was wasted on missions that amount to simple copy-and-paste tactics punctuated by jokes that are an acquired taste, to say the least. It's stitched together with big ideas and interesting concepts, but it never even comes close to being the sum of its parts.



Impire - Reviewed by Fraser Brown
Insulting - I feel mocked by this game. It's engaging for just long enough to pull the rug out from under me and scream in my ear, "surprise! I suck!"

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Fraser Brown, Former Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure FraserIBrown Tips
Fraser Brown is that bearded, bespectacled Scotsman that covers PC gaming who is not Alasdair Duncan. Got a splinter stuck in his hand nineteen years ago and just left it in there. True story. ... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:

  Feb 11

Impire is Dungeon Keeper with a side of Dawn of War

And many other things that may surprise you

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

I Haz Kickstarter!

Cblogs of 11/27/15 - Life is Strange, and Sad

Top 5 Reasons Star Wars Battlefront KICKS ASS!

Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Little Slice of Childhood

Top 5 Reasons Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 IS AWESOME!

Cblogs of 11/26/15 + Combat Heropon-isms

Video games go mainstream

I’m Not a SJW, I’m an Anthropologist: Making the Case for Diversity in Games

Insidia REVIEW - A whole dark, gloomy, and kinda creepy world to explore

DS REVIEWS: Trace Memory

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: With all the controversy surrounding review scores, what do you personally consider a "bad" score versus a "good" score? Is there a game in particular that was panned by critics that you nevertheless enjoyed? Or vice versa?
TheVeganGamer avatarTheVeganGamer
Finally got around to playing Diablo 3 with some friends, holy smokes! That game is rad!
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Public service announcement: Marry an orphan. It makes the holidays so much easier when you don't have to deal with pain in the ass in-laws.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
So... how long is it until we get the inevitable Colonial Marines or Ride to Hell: Retribution PS4/Xbox One re-releases?
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Screw Bloodborne. I finally managed to overcome not tearing up while listening to the entirety of Never More. Git gud! [youtube][/youtube]
NYCpunk avatarNYCpunk
you know what's not okay? scalpers with 10 copies of fire emblem fates SE on ebay for $200+. and no one is saying anything.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Fallout 4 wouldn't be Fallout with ridiculous glitches and shenanigans. Here are a few I've run into - [youtube][/youtube]
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I've never earnestly went drinking before so it's cool to know I'm the slow, sleepy, impaired type.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Got to admit I didn't expect to find a mewtwo amiibo at my bookstore of all places...
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
My cousin found out I slept with his girlfriend and is pissed. Understandable. I am totally sick of the angry phone calls though. It reminds me so much of playing Call of Duty online. The screaming 11 year olds suck on there too.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Huh. Apparently even Japan has a Black Friday sale going on on PSN right now.
Lawman avatarLawman
Yes, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I know that somebody has 2,625 more medallions than me. No, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I don't really care.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
This fucking Bloodborne DLC, jesus. I'm on new game+, about level 90, and shit just tears my dick off. I don't know if I want to start another guy just to avoid NG+ and level him up, etc. sigh....
Shinta avatarShinta
Wii U, top selling black friday item on Take that you anti-Wii U people.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I am pretty hyped for when I get a laptop because I'll be able to have a good enough connection to stream XbOne/soon PS4 games to it along with natively rendered Steam games. Hype!
Avoclefo avatarAvoclefo
Got a PS4 that came with SW Battlefront this week, and planning on picking up the FFX/X-2 remake. Hype is through the roof, especially for FFX. If I were to get one other game, what should it be?
Niero Desu avatarNiero Desu
Did a google maps search around my parents house for bars and there isn't one in like 25 miles, so I picked up an Intel compute stick and South Park: Stick of Truth on Steam. That's more or less the drunken screaming I'm in the mood for at about the cost.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Do you ever have that moment of clarity when talking to someone and suddenly realising: You're just a skull, and they're just a skull, with fucking eyeballs and a sac of skin being the only comparative difference between you visually? ..just me then?
Nathan D avatarNathan D
After quitting for two days out of frustration, I beat Ludwig on my first try of the night. I'm on cloud fucking nine right now.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
When I did my retail shift today, we were moving more Smash/Splat Wii U bundles and the Gears/Rare Replay/Ori XB1 bundles than Uncharted and Battlefront PS4s. I think Nintendo and MS have better value on their side this holiday. Sony got lazy.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -