Sometimes, you just want to be the bad guy. Quite a few games cater to these tastes and moods, from being able to select the ‘evil’ characters in a fighting game to full Villain Protagonist games such as Legacy of Kain and Overlord. Even games in the style of The Sims are not immune to this. A while back there was a game called Dungeon Keeper, in which the player builds, populates and militarizes a malicious, mountainous lair in order to terrorize the countryside and bring doom upon the heads of would-be heroes looking to steal hard-earned treasure mined from deep within the earth. That style of game is alive and well, now, in a little SoE Facebook game called Dungeon Overlord.

Courtesy SOE
Not available on iPod, iPad or iAnything until they make nice with Flash.

Yeah, it’s a Facebook game. Eventually, gamers are going to have to face the fact that this sort of venue for gaming is growing, just as consoles did back in the mid-80s. Before the PS3 and X-Box, there was the SNES and the Genesis, like the NES and Atari 2600 before them. With things like FarmVille and Mafia Wars being the first tentative steps forward in using social networking sites as a platform for games, I think it’s a more productive attitude to consider those early titles relics of the past best left in the annals of history, Dungeon Overlord may end up a footnote as well, but as it stands, it’s head and shoulders above any old farm or any number of trips to the East Side for Uncle Vito. It’s the Legend of Zelda to Farmville’s Breakout.

Anyway, Dungeon Overlord’s premise is that of its similarly titled ancestor. You, as the Overlord of the title, begin with a small dungeon at the base of a mountain, a couple resources to mine and a handful of loyal goblin minions to do your bidding. They’ll need places to sleep and eat between shifts in the mine, so you need to build these things, as well as a means to generate food and a place to keep your stuff. Eventually, you’ll be recruiting orcs to carry out raids as well as protect your investment, warlocks to conduct research and so on. Once you’ve built up enough of a force and upgraded several rooms, you can expand to a new dungeon, raise hell on the do-gooders in the land and otherwise amuse yourself in ways Skeletor could only dream of, and without the constant threat of some blond-haired beefcake smashing your face in.

Courtesy SOE
I feel a bit like The Monarch from Venture Brothers. “MINIONS!!”

One of the things that differentiates Dungeon Overlord from other games of its ilk is the simple ways it enhances the established experiences of such things. The creatures, rooms and features are rendered and shaded in a way that gives them weight that the simplistic styles of FarmVille and the like use; and the fact that all theses things have unique animations definitely give Dungeon Overlord the graphical edge on games like Mafia Wars. A series of ‘quests’ at the beginning guide the new player through basic construction tasks and establish goals in a very smooth way without imposing too much structure upon the build process.

While it’s nice to have this freedom, Dungeon Overlord doesn’t seem to operate under the premise that your victims can, in fact, retaliate if they get raided too often. Sure, there are no ultra-male hero protagonists that will demolish everything in sight to pillage your dungeons, but the occasional sortie of footmen and high elves might pay you a visit with swords and bows. You might not know about it until you check in after a few hours. Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to build and set up defenses, and I have yet to see a truly overwhelming force breach my gates. It also bears mentioning that, being a Facebook game, SOE provides a variety of services through the medium of microtransactions.

Courtesy SOE
Hmm. Who would I like to pillage today?

However, at the time of this writing, I’ve yet to drop a single dime on Sony’s in-game cash, and I doubt I’ll be doing so. Provided you upgrade rooms like your mine, vault and workshop adequately, you’ll generate income and materials steadily enough that it should not be necessary for you to spend real money on fake resources and crafting queues. Unless you absolutely, positively cannot live without an ogre hammock in your den. Even then, somebody might have already built one and put it up in the Auction H- sorry, Regional Market for purchase. And if your goblins are mining gold like crazy but you just don’t have enough leather or what have you, buying stuff from other players within the game is a better alternative than breaking out the credit card.

Dungeon Overlord is still in beta. It will occasionally throw up a maintenance screen, refuse to load properly or misinterpret your clicks. I can’t shake the feeling, through, that SOE has the right idea. If you have a Facebook account and are even remotely interested in something like this, I’d say give it a look. It’ll be interesting to see what changes are made once the beta period ends. Whenever that will be.