Legend of Keepers Review: Villains of Might and Musk

You can find a video version of this review here!

Legend of Keepers is available on PC and Nintendo Switch. I reviewed the PC version of the game.

Overview

Every gamer is used to raiding dungeons, slaying dragons, and walking away with a +1 hammer of cheek clapping. But have you ever wondered how the villain feels about you evading his traps, mud stomping his minions, and stealing his loot? It turns out heroes can be a real buzzkill. After playing Legend of Keepers, I definitely understand why James Woods’s Hades had such a temper. Hercules is a jerk.

Legend of Keepers is a turn-based rogue-lite where you set the traps, pick the minions and try to stop teams of adventurers from ruining your carefully laid plans and tea bagging your chosen Keeper. The only thing missing is an Anthpormoprhic Pug Person vigorously humping my legion of doom, and it would be just like my weekly Pathfinder games…

The bards in Legend of Keepers are thankfully not the horny variety.

If you have ever played the Boss Monster board game, the concept is similar, though Legend of Keepers is much deeper. You set up a gauntlet of rooms and try to wear down the heroes before they get to the end. Spells, traps, and a wide variety of monsters are at your disposal. Heroes can be defeated in two ways, put them in the ground or fill their pants with brown. Murder and fear are both viable, and the best dungeon masters know when to use both.

A Real Bezosbub

Legend of Keepers is largely tongue in cheek which keeps the game from feeling too dark despite the grim decor. Inbetween the heroes’ attempts to fondle your jewels, you have to deal with the other half of being a villain. The role of a CEO.

In Legend of Keepers, you will need to train employees and attempt to keep morale high. Not even the sweet release of death is enough to escape the corporate boot. Your monsters are resurrected to work some more. Doing this too much can cause them to suffer from burnout. You have to try to rotate your stock of expendables and occasionally throw them a bone or two.

Hoarding wealth, treating workers poorly, harvesting tears of sadness, you’re practically running Amazon here. Nah, I’m kidding. The Keepers actually have to manage things, so that’s a terrible comparison.

What types of events you encounter and how you handle them helps you build a strategy.

You earn gold by fending off the do-gooders. Murdering them also nets you blood, while frightening them gives you tears. You use these currencies in a variety of random events to buy new traps, monsters, upgrade your existing traps, or maybe even raise team morale with the sacred boon of upper management. A Pizza party! Well, the monster equivalent of drinking blood anyway.

Each run takes place over weeks with you handling several tasks between raids. When a monster is injured or burnt out, it takes weeks to recover, and your management in between raids is just as important as during them. The downtime is where you hone your long-term strategy. Your big boss heals slowly, and the raids will defeat you through attrition if you don’t plan ahead.

Koticking The Right Boxes

One of the most striking things about Legend of Keepers is just how good it looks and sounds. The pixel art isn’t a hindrance, it’s practically an advantage in this case. Screenshots don’t do the game justice.

Despite the fact that there is a variety of heroes, traps, and monsters, they are all animated beautifully and backed up with great sound design. I don’t normally notice sound effects all that much, but the swoosh of flames or the Invoker speaking her invocation before throwing a firefox into my minions face sounds delightful.

You also can speed up the animations for a faster game, which is a great option. Interestingly the sound effects all speed up fluidly as well, and I thought that was pretty nifty.

Everything looks even better in motion

A group of three mostly random heroes enter your dungeon and proceed through the various rooms. Some rooms are dedicated to traps, spells, or monsters. If you’re lucky, it will even have an extra disaster room with cool effects based on the environment. Sometimes they have a rest area for the heroes. Sure, that makes things harder for your employees for no benefit, but if it made logical sense you wouldn’t truly feel like a CEO!

Heroes come in different shapes and sizes, warriors, wizards, bards, and more. As you encounter higher tiers, their appearance changes. Early barbarians are completely naked with one hand covering their Waltons, but become fully armored later on. Bards begin as Jaskier and end as Rob Zombie. The key to winning a raid is adapting your rooms to the specific hero composition.

Every creature has resistances and weaknesses. Heroes tend to have a couple of random skills, but the classes themselves usually have a specific attack. Some attacks target creatures in the front, others in the back. If a hero punches the frontrunner with ice, it’s probably a good idea to put an Ice Elemental on the frontline, for example.

It’s more nuanced than just that. You also want to try and target heroes’ weaknesses, and combo up on effects. If a hero has lower maximum morale than health, it might be worthwhile to try and frighten them instead. Even if you can’t scare them away completely, lowering their morale causes them to take more damage.

Your tactics will need to adapt depending on the type of heroes you’re fighting.

Heroes are vastly superior to your monsters. Most monsters go down in just a couple of hits, even if you have a good match-up. You aren’t trying to win a fight in a single room. You have to wear them down throughout the whole dungeon. Ideally, you take them out before they ever reach your Keeper. If not, leave them in a weak enough state that the Keeper can finish them without taking much damage.

The Heroes are varied to the degree that you can never truly be sure what kind of combinations of classes and skills you will be facing, but they can wear a bit thin given how much of the game is based around fighting them. There are around a dozen types of heroes in the game give or take, not including champions. While there are some differences with higher-level versions, they aren’t that pronounced. The game could use a few more types of murder hobos to spice it up.

The amount of strategy involved in Legend of Keepers is incredibly satisfying, and it’s split nicely between the actual raids and your planning weeks ahead of time. The events you engage with, and the money you spend on new minions and upgrades prior to a raid is just as important as the raids themselves.

While the events are random, you have control over what you engage with and even the strength of adventurers you battle in order to weigh the risk and reward. Defeating a champion might net you a rare reward, so you can debate with yourself on whether or not your current strategy can handle it, or if it’s too risky.

Risk versus reward permeate the whole game.

The events do tend to repeat often, which can be annoying, but they never lose that strategic factor. You might know that accepting human thighs from a shady supplier will bite you in the ass later. But the gold could be worth it, it’s still something you have to weigh in on.

Legend of Keepers has that fun and unpredictable randomness the genre is known for but tempers it with a lot of player choice that makes the randomness much more enjoyable.

Getting Zuckered In

Legend of Keepers is a shockingly meaty game. You have three Keepers to play as, though two of them must be unlocked first. Each of them has its own talent trees, minion types, spells, and playstyles. There is a wide variety of tools at your disposal with a huge variety of potential strategies and combos to come up with for each Keeper.

Each Keeper also has five specific stages focusing on themed scenarios with a starting loadout. However, the real meat is when you unlock the Ascension and Endless modes. Both of them are freeform compared to the rigid nature of the scenarios and allow you to fully customizable your starting minions and trap choices within a set budget.

Modular difficulty is a great feature.

My only real gripe is you have to unlock those modes for each specific Keeper. Unlocking them with one doesn’t unlock them with the other two. I personally prefer the freedom those modes offer over the standard stages. The game itself is pretty tough and each run is lengthy. It can take quite a while to get there with each Keeper, which can be frustrating.

Legend of Keepers does feature a highly modular difficulty system that allows you to tweak individual aspects of the game to your liking. I prefer challenging experiences, and I’m pretty keen on games having difficulty settings. But Legend of Keepers goes above and beyond with its customizable options.

Win or lose, each Keeper gains XP that you can spend on a talent tree, so you do have some meta progression that comes with you. You can also reset the tree and respec between runs which is a really nice feature.

With three Keepers and an impressive roster of minions, traps, and neat mechanics. Legend of Keepers offers a ton of replay value.

Verdict

Legend of Keepers reverse dungeon crawl concept is unique and executed almost flawlessly. It has several layers of intertwining mechanics that make it strategically satisfying to play and on top of it, it’s a great game to look at and listen to while you do it. Plus it offers a ton of content and replay value for a low price.

Each Keeper has a talent tree.

There really isn’t much that I can criticize. I admit, the game nearly lost me early on. The set scenarios are interesting but lack the same replay value and customization I was hoping for. But the endless and ascension modes gave me exactly what I wanted. It’s just a bummer that they have to be unlocked for all three Keepers individually.

Legend of Keepers nails the gamblers high of unpredictable randomness while putting the player’s agency at the forefront to actually use that randomness in a meaningful way, that’s the hallmark of a good rogue-lite game.

You might also enjoy my review of Monster Train.

A copy of Legend of Keepers was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by the publisher for the purpose of review.

Pros

  • Fantastic animation and sound effects
  • Three unique Keepers and a wide variety of spells, traps, and minions
  • Endless and Ascension modes offer high replay value
  • Great blend of randomness and player choice
  • The reverse dungeon crawl concept is unique and interesting
  • Tons of strategy leading up to a raid, the preparation phase, and the actual raid
  • Highly customizable difficulty settings

Cons

  • Endless and Ascension modes are locked behind a small campaign for EACH individual Keeper
  • The game could use a few more hero types
  • Events repeat often