I loathe bards, apparently. This was suddenly brought to my attention when I started playing Legend of Keepers today, a dungeon crawler (in the vein of Darkest Dungeon) where instead of fighting the monsters, you are the monsters and you fight the heroes. You’re a boss monster, in fact, and it’s your job to protect your treasure against parties of bold adventurers: sorcerers, fighters, archers, rogues, monks.
And bards. Which it turns out I have some long, unrecognized, deep-seated hatred for. I really had no idea until I killed my first bard in Legend of Keepers, and took great pleasure in first poisoning, then burning, then slashing that lute-strumming tune-warbling flaxen-haired jerk to death.
Wow. I really do hate bards.
If brutally killing a guy just because he has a guitar sounds a bit mean, don’t worry. There’s sort of a light-hearted workplace comedy vibe to Legend of Keepers. Lore has it there’s a mega-corporation running dungeons all throughout the realm, and I’m a new employee, an evil centaur with a whip, a giant axe, and a few powerful spells at my disposal. I can hire minions like skeletons, ogres, ice-chucking yetis, poison-spewing zombie scientists, and more, and set them up in my dungeon to defend against what some consider heroes but are now framed as invasive, murdering thieves. Which, let’s face it, is what adventurers usually are.
I can also purchase traps to set up in some dungeon chambers, including my favorite, a ridiculously huge sawblade that slashes through the heroes for physical and bleeding damage the second they walk in the room. And of course, I myself wait in the boss fight room at the end of the dungeon in case any heroes make it that far. Turn-based combat ensues as the heroes arrive to steal—yes, steal: it does not belong to them—my treasure.
It’s a pretty familiar combat system if you’ve played games like Slay the Spire, where there are various attack and damage types, and you try to whittle down your enemies before they do the same to your monsters. The animation is excellent, and I love watching as my skeletal archer pulls back its bowstring and unleashes a flurry of poison arrows down on the heroes, or my zombie scientist slugs whatever potion he was working on and spits it across the room into some elf sorcerer’s face. The heroes are animated wonderfully too, like the bard, who I hate, who strums his lute and sings his little song and a swarm of rats appears and gnaws great chunks of health off my faithful minions.
Even more satisfying than killing heroes is scaring them so much they flee—in addition to health bars, the adventurers have morale meters, and if you have minions who specialize in demoralizing attacks, you can eventually just chase the heroes away. This delightfully grants you hero tears, which (along with blood and gold) you can spend on various upgrades. Cry some more, bard.
After a party of heroes has been defeated, you busy yourself by performing activities until the next invasion by another randomized set of adventurers. You can let your monsters recuperate—falling in a fight to a hero will damage their morale, too—and put fresh crew members in their place. Spend gold to skill them up with a training session, and even boost their morale with therapy sessions. Look, they’re monsters, but they have feelings, too.
You can also choose to experience a random event. One time I got to lease my traps to other dungeon masters for extra gold. Another event let me send a party out raiding to earn more treasure. I had some vampire accountants visit so I could pay my taxes (they accept blood instead of gold). And you get to make choices about how to deal with these events, like when my goblin janitor’s pet stick insect died and I could resurrect it (to gain some tears of joy), sell the corpse to the chef (for gold), or throw a funeral (costs gold but gains lots of tears). I chose to bring the dead bug back to life. I’m an evil boss, but a thoughtful one.
So far, Legend of Keepers isn’t as slick or satisfying as a game like Darkest Dungeon, and I’m not sure how long it’ll feel fresh—a few of my minions are kind of boring, and I tend to keep them in my reserves and stick with the more fun ones for most raids. I’m already a little tired with my own centaur boss and his somewhat underwhelming attack types, too.
But raids finish quickly so there’s not much time to get bored before I’m back to tinkering with my crew and seeing what new events might crop up. I think I enjoy the time between hero raids more than I do the raids themselves. It gives the game a bit more personality and lets you feel like you’re legitimately running an evil monster dungeon business, as silly as it might sound.
And I do love most of my minions, especially since I found a relic that gives me a nice buff if I have an all-skeletal team in a room together. I just unlocked a skeleton lord, too, which means my faithful bones brigade is going to get even stronger. Can’t wait to sicc them on the next bard who dares try to steal my treasure.