PSN Review: Dungeon Hunter: Alliance



When Gameloft ported their Call of Duty-inspired shooter Modern Combat: Domination’s from iPhone to PSN, one of the big problems perching on their shoulders was the immediate and insurmountable jump in competition on its new console home. Gameloft’s brand of lawsuit-dodging homages to big-name games are a fantastic fit for the iPhone because they’re usually providing an affordable, but surprisingly well-designed clone of major franchises on a platform that doesn’t really offer anything like them. First-person shooters (especially good ones) are a rarity on phone platforms, but not so much on the PS3 where they’re a dime a dozen.

Their latest PSN offering, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance – a thinly-veiled clone of Diablo and Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance – not only limbos under that obstacle, but strangely finds its greatest strength there; on a console where the only real dungeon-crawler game is Sacred 2, Gameloft’s lack of competition can only help matters. The fact that it’s a solid, well made little action-RPG is just the icing on the cake.
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
You’re a newly-resurrected king whose attempt to use dark magic to bring back your deceased queen resulted in the expected demonic fallout. Now you’re back in the land of the living to free the kingdom from evil and dismember lots of goblins and bandits in the process.

True to form for a hack-’n'-loot dungeon-crawler, the game sees you jump into the class of either a warrior, mage or rogue and make your way through lengthy dungeons, slashing your way through hordes of nasty foes and raiding their corpses for potions and profit. You’ll take on a simple ‘kill me this/fetch me that’ quest or two for the townsfolk, and the more enemies you cut a swath through, the more experience points you bag, which you use to boost your abilities and invest in a versatile toolset of special attacks.
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
Unfortunately, the ‘just the basics’ approach to cloning a familiar property doesn’t work especially well with a genre as inherently repetitive as hack-’n'-slash dungeon crawler. While it’s certainly a lot of fun in small doses, what amounts to endlessly hammering the ‘X’ button to kill hordes as you make your way through an hour-long maze of tunnels or back roads soon becomes a tiresome grind begging for a splash of originality. The tiny range of quests only really give the illusion of choice and scope, as nine times out of ten it’ll be impossible not to complete them while on the narrow path of the main story. There’s some enemy and environment variety spread throughout the game – a traditional dungeon, a sewer level, even a piratey tropical woodland section – but when you’re actually in one of those dungeons, it’s usually an hour or two of ploughing through the same backdrop and endless duplicates of only two different types of enemy.

When other modern-day Diablo-inspired romps like DeathSpank are making the effort to inject ideas and personality into the genre, Dungeon Hunter’s limited breadth of gameplay and lack of story feels especially evident (though maybe welcome for those just wanting a simple, no-nonsense throwback).
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
But while it never steps outside its simple, limited comfort zone, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance does everything it attempts well, delivering the core experience you’d expect from a loot-’em-up RPG. The graphics won’t raise any bars, but it’s a slick and attractive game, with a surprising amount of colourful flair for a dungeon-crawler. There’s a diverse array of skills, attacks and passive abilities to pool your XP into and an absolutely massive variety of unique swords, axes, bows, staffs and armour to keep the looting addicts entertained. The RPG equip-your-gear system is as smooth, intuitive and as versatile as you’d want, with the ability to set up two different weapon and armour setups and jump between them on the fly, which adds a little tactical variety, especially when taking on larger opponents.

Then there’s the excellent drop-in/drop-out co-op mode, which allows up to four players to team up and tackle dungeons together either locally or online. It’s less tactical and more a hap-hazard hack-and-slash free-for-all, but it’s an incredibly fun option that makes the game’s problems a little easier to forgive than when slogging through it solo.
.
.

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
There is a lot of fun to be had with Dungeon Hunter: Alliance; it’s a technically well-made game that does tap into the simple addictive quality inherent in the dungeon-crawling loot-’em-up genre. But like any addiction, there’s the comedown period, and Dungeon Hunter’s comes with its quickly repetitive and tiresome routine of hacking through the same enemies per dungeon. And while Modern Combat: Domination offered a familiar experience, it did so at a bargain price; at a significantly higher cost, the limited, repetitive nature of Dungeon Hunter becomes a might more problematic. Even so, there’s a tonne of fun to be had in the great co-op mode, and RPG fans who’re starving for some Diablo-style action on the PS3 will likely find the problems easier to overlook in favour of all that looting to be done.

Rating:





Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is available to buy on the PlayStation Network Store now, priced £9.99/$12.99.