Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter series is a bright spot in mobile gaming. The hack-n-slash dungeon crawling Diablo-clones push the limits of what a game on a mobile device can be. It is at the tops of the technological pyramid. But only compared to other mobile games. Dungeon Hunter: Alliance isn’t quite the same as the Dungeon Hunter series on iOS devices, but it is hard to tell the difference.
The game offers you the choice of three classes (Mage, Warrior, or Rogue), and as you progress you receive more and more quests, which almost always involve you going somewhere that is enemy infested and killing anyone that looks at you funny. As you murder your way through the fantasy setting, you begin to collect loot from downed enemies and chests as you progress through the 30 or so levels. There are fleeting hints of a story, but it always takes a backseat to you sallying forth and killing.
The actual gameplay is simple enough, and familiar to anyone that has played any dungeon crawler before. You have a primary attack button, and three special attacks. There is also a potion button (which you will use frequently) that you will need to refill as often as possible to have a chance of staying alive. The touchpad on the back can be used to move your fairy companion, but there isn’t much need for it, and it is a bit awkward to use. You can cycle between a primary and secondary weapon and a first and second set of abilities with the D-pad, then you go forth and smack enemies. Transitioning between the weapon sets can be a pain, but it adds a bit to otherwise slightly generic combat.
To better describe the gameplay, you can use this handy description: stab, stab, stab, stab, stab. Special attack! Special attack! Stab, stab, stab, run for your life while you heal, then repeat the process. And that’s your game.
The combat is painfully unoriginal, and the levels are nothing more than shiny backgrounds. There’s very little strategy involved. The designs do try to look original, and the graphics aren’t terrible, just woefully inadequate compared to the potential of the Vita. The bigger issue on this front is the frame rate. When too many things happen on screen at once—which is often—the display can’t keep up, leading to some frame rate issues.
All of that paints a bleak picture, but the truth is that is can be a fun game in a totally mindless way. It still feels like an iOS game rather than a Vita game, but it can be entertaining to collect a ton of weapons and dropped loot while hacking your way through armies of suckers. No matter what though, it will eventually get tedious.
The multiplayer is a heavy focus, and both online and ad hoc gaming is possible. When you have multiple players, it can actually be fun, but four players can lead to constant frame rate issues, and confusion on where to go. Finding people online can also be a problem—that may change once the game has been out for a bit, assuming people buy it. And that leads to the thing that really kills this game.
The cost of this game is insane. The iOS versions, which are admittedly smaller but don’t look or play all that differently, topped out at $6.99. The most recent version was free. There is even a version of this exact game available for PSN, and it is $12.99. By comparison, this title is $39.99. That is ridiculous.
Even $12.99 feels a bit high for it, but that would still be understandable for as many areas you get, but $39.99 is unbelievable. About $30 too much.
There is a decent game in Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, but it is badly positioned. It should be a downloadable only title that costs around $10–maybe $20, but even that would be pushing it. Instead it prices itself at a cost point where you have to compare it to other Vita games at the same price. And that is a terrible mistake.
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita on a copy provided by Ubisoft)