Gameloft, a juggernaut in the mobile gaming industry, isn’t content with just claiming their share of the gaming industry on cellular devices. The company is making a steady push to establish their selves as a player in gaming, period, be it mobile or console. After an impressive PSN debut with Modern Combat: Domination, the French developer is back with another one of their original IP’s in the form of Dungeon Hunter: alliance for the PlayStation Network.
Dungeon Hunter was originally released on the iOS platform back in late 2009; the title took iPhone and iPod Touch users by surprise, providing an incredible action-RPG experience comparable to the famed Diablo series, only in portable form. To put it in terms that I know I use far too much, the game was a lot better than it had any right to be. Sure, the adventure was the definition of linear and “by the book," but it was solid and most importantly: a lot of fun. Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is an updated version of that original game which includes a slightly revamped storyline and the addition of both offline and online cooperative multiplayer. In addition to the new features, all of the game’s visuals have been improved to meet the standards of modern generation titles; running in 720P the game looks leaps and bounds better than its mobile, source material.
The game tells the tale of the mythical world of Gothicus. Following the death of their King, the kingdom has fallen into a period of darkness under the oppressive fist of a mourning queen who has taken to destroying the empire built by her deceased husband. Many years have passed since the King fell and the people of Gothicus have nearly given up all hope. Thanks to the power of a fairy by the name of Celeste, the King (your created character) is awakened within his tomb and brought back to the world that he once ruled. While it is far from the most original story, it more than serves its purpose to set the backdrop for the adventure that lies ahead for gamers.
Players will be put in charge of creating their character who assumes the role of the awakened King. After deciding on a name, you are given a choice between one of three classes which will determine the fighting style and weapon choices for your character. You will choose between a warrior, mage and a rogue. Each class plays exactly as you would expect them to based on the precedents set by the genre. The warrior is your typical offensive powerhouse, the mage relies more on magical abilities and spells, and the rogue is all about speed and precise striking. Once your character has been created, you will awake from your eternal slumber and enter into a the bowels of the Royal Tomb. After fighting your way to the surface, while being briefed on the current-world situation awaiting you above, you will begin an adventure driven by quests and missions provided by townsfolk and former followers. The main story of the game is driven by a linear string of missions, all driving the main tale portrayed by the game, but the adventure will also offer players with many optional excursions that will allow them to extend their experience if they wish.
If you have played one game in the genre, you should know exactly what to expect. Dungeon Hunter does little to break the mold set for the loot-dropping, action-RPG genre and that may be one of the smartest decisions that Gameloft made in the development of the title. The title follows the mold to a “T”. You have a wide variety of missions, experience leveling and attribute points, and an in-game economic system driven by the discovery and barter of rare goods and items. If there is anything else that you can think of that should be in a game like this, it is here. Health potions? Check. Numerous visits to the same environments? Check. While it does the expected, it does it well; well enough in fact that Dungeon Hunter could serve as a poster child for “how” to make a game in this genre, at least from a basic standpoint.
You won’t come back to the game for its intriguing storyline or incredible graphics; what brings you back to this world time and time again is the addictive and polished gameplay that the game provides both online and off. The adventure is constantly moving and the combat is frantic and always evolving. As you would expect, leveling your character leads to new abilities and moves for your character(s), depending on the class that you have chosen to use. While the game does offer support for Sony’s PlayStation Move peripheral, I found the standard Dualshock controls to work like a charm. Many games struggle in making the translation from mouse and keyboard, or in this case touchscreen, to controller but Gameloft nailed it with a simple and natural feeling conversion to the controller. Players will be able to assign commands to the various corresponding buttons on the controller and can customize it to meet their exact desires. The result is a simple and responsive control scheme that really suits the never-ending battle provided by the game’s adventure.
Another area that Dungeon Hunter excels in is providing the player with a wide variety of environments to experience. Whether or not you are battling through dark and dreary tombs, war-torn castles, or abandoned villages and roads, the game always seems to offer a nice change of pace for your setting(s). Granted, you will do a lot of repeat business in the various areas, as is standard with most mission based games, but the ability to stack missions and complete them in different order(s) offers an invaluable relief to this issue. The environment is always changing and with comes an expanded cast of enemies and bosses that will change almost as regularly as the scenery.
Not everything in the world of Dungeon Hunter is rainbows and unicorns though; there are a couple of places that the game struggles with which really dampen the overall experience. As good as the game looks and plays, the sound design really feels as basic as it did on the mobile version. You will hear your fair share of battle sounds and music, but neither live up to the majestic standard expected by the accompanying adventure. This is meant to be a riveting and epic adventure and feels like it at times from a visual and experience standpoint; on the audio side of things... not so much. The game would have definitely benefited from voice over tracks for dialogue. There is some small usage of speech samples throughout the game, but a majority of script is written and it doesn’t display well one SD televisions. I know, I know... this is the digital age but I tested the game on both SD and HD televisions and the text was barely legible in standard definition.
The other issue that Dungeon Hunter suffers from, just as Modern Combat did before it, it horrendous load times. This issue appears to be Gameloft’s kryptonite as these makes two different games where the issue has held them back from meeting their true potential. Especially in terms of a digital title that is stored on my machine’s hard drive, the lengthy load times prevalent in both of Gameloft’s titles is among the worst that I have experienced in both disk based and downloaded games. If Gameloft can manage to resolve whatever issue is holding them back in this area, it could take Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, and their future offerings, to the next level.
Despite a couple of drawbacks, Dungeon Hunter exceeds in everything that it sets out to accomplish. Just as with Modern Combat, many gamers will walk into the experience not expecting much and find plenty more than they ever imagined that the package could have contained. The game provides an enjoyable adventure, playable even in short spurts, that keeps you coming back for more time and time again. The game really shines when you team up with friends online and partake in a cooperative adventure. Do yourself a favor and don’t overlook this game.
Dungeon Hunter has reminded me why I love the action RPG genre. The lackluster story is overshadowed by great gameplay mechanics and a top-notch multiplayer experience. Fans of the genre will find plenty to keep them occupied while they continue to wait for Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3.