Released last week in the EU and this week in the US, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance brings co-op RPG action onto the PS3. Despite a spectacularly cheesy release trailer which, if the comments on our previous article are to be believed, was enough to put people off Gameloft have given us a surprisingly deep and enjoyable adventure.
I’m told it’s easy to compare Dungeon Hunter Alliance to a range of older dungeon-based RPGs, that it’s all been done before. That’s as well as maybe, but being new to the dungeon hunting genre I sat down to get cracking with Dungeon Hunter with no preconceptions, no previous ideas of what to expect and no clue how any of this would work out. After a brief introduction which outlines the story you can get going. It turns out you’re a King, who’s been quite dead for a fair while and has been brought back to life by some fairies in order to fight the evil queen and rid the world of her less than friendly minions. It’s a fairly shallow story, but it does the job reasonably enough.
So with the backstory out of the way, we can launch into the character selection and customising. First step, choose a character class from the three standard types on offer: Fighter, Mage or Rogue, each having their own basic set of skills which can be developed as the game progresses. You give your guy a name, then… the game starts. No customisation at all; no colour settings, no gender options, not even a choice of preset appearances. Not the most promising start, it has to be said.
After a quick romp through your first dungeon (which serves mainly as a tutorial) you’ll emerge into a town where you’ll receive your first few quests, and the main bulk of the game begins. From here on you’ll have a range of tasks to carry out, some of them fairly straightforward but others being far tougher as you get zombies and other nasties swarming all around you. At times like this, and indeed during most combat, you’ll be button-mashing like crazy but an intelligent use of your powerful special attacks (which drains your powers and can only be done a certain number of times before recharging them) and magic spells which also need recharging gives your fighting a slightly more tactical edge. Generally though it’s a pure hack and slash affair, but doesn’t get boring as a result of a great range of weapons and special actions available for you to unleash on the bad guys.
As an RPG Dungeon Hunter does a pretty good job. There are only four main elements to your character – strength, dexterity, endurance and energy but it’s feels more than enough to give you the chance to develop your own style of playing. In amongst all this you’ve got your usual looting, collecting, buying and selling and with many enemies dropping cash or items for you to collect it’s tempting to hunt out every bad guy you can find just to have more to pick up. You can level up all the way to level 75 so you’re never short on ways to improve and get more powerful, and there’s a nice range of bad guys to keep you busy in the meantime. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t the type of game you’ll spend 50 hours playing, but some randomly generated locations and various classes to use will mean you may well end up playing the campaign through a couple of times, which isn’t bad considering you’ll get around 7 or 8 hours out of a single play through.
Playing through on your own won’t give you the best experience though. Dungeon Hunter offers full 4 player local or online co-op, and it’s playing with others that really brings the best out of the game. Using all of the character classes available will give you a far more tactical chance of success, and the online multiplayer works surprisingly well with very little lag and pretty decent comms. Play it with others in the same room though and players can jump in and out of the game as they like, and shouting at others for not saving you from a nearby fire-throwing goblin is far more fun than quietly swearing to yourself during a single player game. More importantly, even with a screen full of players and bad guys there’s little or no slowdown, and as multiple spells light up your surroundings you’ll notice that although this isn’t going to be a game to use to show off the graphical power of the PS3, it’s certainly no embarrassment either.
A nice extra is Move support, which although we didn’t get chance to try out, has been well received by those we spoke to while playing online. There certainly seemed to be no lack of accuracy from those using Move, and some went as far as to say they preferred using their Move to the normal controllers. It’s great to see third party developers supporting Move, and actually doing a good job of it.
I was very impressed by Dungeon Hunter: Alliance. It’s not the ideal game to play alone, and although it’s still enjoyable you won’t get the most out of it until you start involving other people, but apart from that I’d suggest you ignore the people who are complaining about a lack of originality. There’s no voice acting to be had and character customisation is totally missing, but once you’re into the game and getting hooked by the levelling system and quests on offer you’ll find it hard to pull yourself away from the game. I found myself wanting to find more stuff to kill just to earn enough XP to try out the next special power or level up enough to use the more powerful weapon I’d just looted from an oversized troll I got the better of. As long as you don’t expect an in-depth fighting system or a visual masterpiece you’ll find this a very worthy way of spending a tenner.
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