Impire was the second dungeon management sim presented to us by Paradox at GamesCom 2012. Despite our initial concerns on the merits of releasing two similarly themed so close together, the short time we spent with the game gave us a much better understanding of how the various unique gameplay ideas present in this title make it a very different from the previous title we had seen (A Game Of Dwarves).
Impire is being developed by Cyanide Studio, a company which is no stranger to dark fantasy having been responsible for such titles as Blood Bowl, Confrontation and the upcoming fantasy RPG, Of Orcs and Men.
Set in the fantasy world of Ardania, the same setting as the Majesty series, the player takes the role of Ba'al-Abaddon, a creature of pure evil summoned to the realm of Ardania by a dark sorcerer. Unfortunately for poor old Ba'al, the summoner in question is a bit "crap" (the words of the developer, not ours) and he finds himself trapped in the rather unimpressive body of a tiny imp. Bad tempered at the best of times, Ba'al is suitably unimpressed at his plight and sets out to make the rest of the world suffer for the fate that has befallen him.
Ba'al will not spend the entirety of the as small and impotent as he is at the start of proceedings, as during the course of the campaign he will earn experience points which can be used to further develop his powers and abilities. Increases in his abilities will also have an according effect on his physical form; so increasing his flight speed will make him grow larger wings, or increasing his damage output will make him taller and more muscular. By the end of the single player campaign we expect Ba'al to have evolved into a form somewhat more appropriate to his demonic nature; i.e. big and scary!
Ba'al can be evolved into a specialist in such areas as fighting, commanding units or magic, but will not be able to master all fields of expertise so at some point hard decisions will have to be made as to how the player develops the character. Fortunately, Ba'al is impossible to kill and will respawn if defeated but each subsequent defeat in battle will increase his respawn time proportionally.
Gameplay wise, Impire appears to rumble along at quite a fast pace. On each level you start with a partially built dungeon and a couple of henchmen and immediately set about repairing the broken down rooms before focusing on building any more.
Once ready to place some new rooms, you will find they are not excavated in the slow, often laborious, manner found in a like Dungeon Keeper. Rather, you choose the placement of the rooms, which are all of a fixed size, and your imps plant bombs to clear the area in seconds, allowing the room to be placed immediately.
The majority of the creatures you will have under your command are imps, although they do come in several varieties. Most of these units will be grown from the nursery room, which forms an integral part of your dungeon. Other units, such as sorcerers, are available but will require additional rooms to be built in order to add them to your pool of minions.
When managing minions the player will place individuals together into squads and assign the squad a task, such as guarding a certain area. The squad will gain bonuses for each different imp or creature type present, so while it may be tempting to place all your best warrior imps into one unit you will be losing out on the potential bonuses provided by creating a squad of mixed units.
In order to undertake missions to gain materials for building or to make progress towards a quest objective, squads will be sent out on overworld 'raids' and will leave the dungeon to perform their tasks. Balance at this stage must be achieved by making sure your raiding groups are large and well equipped enough to succeed whilst also ensure sufficient forces are held back to protect your dungeon from attack.
It was hinted at that the player could follow their squads on a raid and micromanage the progress themselves to assure success, but we were not shown this aspect of the game during our demonstration.
Meanwhile, back at the dungeon there is a good chance the player will find themselves under attack in their heartland. When exploring, the imps are likely to run into various other underworld monsters who are not the types to want to share their home with other dungeon dwellers. In our demonstration we witnessed two wraith-like creatures guarding a passageway make an attempt on Ba'al's life when he wandered too close to the area they were guarding.
As well as threats from within, certain 'hero' characters may attempt to invade the dungeon for treasure and glory, such as the rather cool steampunky Dwarf who attacked Ba'al and his minions with his blunderbuss-style weapon during the demo.
In an interesting twist on a dungeon management game, Impire will not only feature competitive multiplayer, but also a cooperative mode in the main campaign. In cooperative mode each player will have their own dungeon complex, entirely independent and out of reach of the other player. However, whilst their dungeons are separated their overworld activities are not and players can coordinate on raids and reinforce each other in overworld battles.
In terms of multiplayer, again each player will have an entirely separate dungeon but will have to choose from one of two factions; namely the traditional 'Imps' faction or the 'Demonic/Undead' faction. The deciding factor in multiplayer battles will be the taking place in the overworld, where factions will seek to decimate each other's forces and gain control of key strategic areas of the overmap.
Impire is a fast paced and tactical dungeon management sim that appears to be separated into two distinctly separate components; the dungeon world where forces are built and the surface world where battles are fought. We would have liked to have seen more of the potential micromanagement of the surface world and perhaps the multiplayer but sadly this was not possible in our demonstration. Impire is due for release in Q1 of 2013 and time will tell if these two features are implemented well enough to work together in a strong dungeon simulation title.