Dungeon-crawlers that have you play as the bad guys trying to beat the adventurers isn't exactly all that novel these days, but it is the tack taken by Legend of Keepers. This game has you playing as a big bad monster who needs to manage their own army of demons, skeletons, and other traditional dungeon monsters to stop waves of clerics, warriors, and their ilk in a game that feels like it's constantly stopping short of taking its ideas to satisfying places.
Legend of Keepers opens with a monster who acts somewhat like an HR representative introducing you to the game's conceit and mechanics. From there, she assigns you to projects that are some variation of protecting a certain dungeon over a period of time, during which you have the opportunity to recruit and train various monsters, procure traps, upgrade your own boss abilities, and--of course fight off adventurers that come by.
Most of this gameplay is purely menu-driven, with time passing by through a "schedule" where each week offers you a selection of buttons that you can choose to be the event of the week. Sometimes, these buttons offer you a choice between seeing a therapist to improve your staff morale or sending a cadre of monsters off on a business trip, and at other predefined points you simply choose between different sets of heroes to fight against, which then transitions to you the game's combat interface.
Combat is where Legend of Keepers puts all of your preparations to the test. In this mode, you get a predefined set of rooms to lay your traps and teams of monsters in hopes that with the ideal progression of horrors and dangers you can thwart any team that dares to challenge you. Typically, this involves placing a couple of traps and arranging two teams of three monsters. Occasionally, you'll have access to a midboss and some other environmental effects, as well.
Once everything is placed, you then get to watch the adventurers as they try to make it through your dungeon and even control your monsters in turn-based combat to leverage their abilities in an effort to either kill or terrify heroes such that they retreat. So long as your head boss doesn't get killed at the very end of your dungeon, you succeed and get to choose some rewards to upgrade your team's capabilities. From there, you have to rest while also upgrading everything to continue keeping up with the next adventurers who will come your way.
Clocking out early
On paper, I like a lot of what Legend of Keepers has to offer. Team-building, roguelike systems, management mechanics, and a little humor are all things I can get behind, especially in combination, but I found too often that this game doesn't really take any of its ideas far enough.
Perhaps this is because the systems in Legend of Keepers don't quite fit together all that elegantly. This is to say it can be hard to actually capitalize on synergies between monsters and traps because of how variable the game's elements can be. To account for that, it feels like the game doesn't really make them consequential, which ends up meaning you can get by doing just about whatever you want. This, in turn, makes the management decisions feel shallow, and there isn't enough variety to them or frequency of unique setpiece interactions with the HR monster at the beginning to really sell the humor that only ends up hanging out in the margins of the game.
The bottom line
Even when the component parts of Legend of Keepers are moving together in lockstep (an uncommon occurrence), it feels like it is missing a core. Or perhaps a better way to put it is the game seems like it knows that its systems don't line up well and therefore tunes the entire experience to allow you to muddle through it easily enough. It can still be entertaining in short bursts, but ultimately Legend of Keepers feels a bit thin.