With Diablo III on the horizon, every developer making a dungeon crawler wanted to get their game to market before Blizzard’s behemoth. As such, 2011 turned out to be a great year for fans of dungeon crawlers and 2012 is poised to be even better. So with the Playstation Vita finally out, it seems fitting that one of its launch titles is a dungeon crawler, after all what could be better for a virtual adventurer than taking it on the go?
Developer Gameloft brings Vita owners Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, a re-jiggered release of their Playstation Network title, which in turn was an updated version of the series on the iOS platform. Gameloft, and their publisher Ubisoft, would have Vita owners believe that there is more to Dungeon Hunter: Alliance on the new portable Playstation though. The retail price for the game is $40 USD, a far cry from the pricing established on the PSN and iOS platforms. However, while reservations about pricing are certainly worth noting, they do not diminish the quality of a game.
Like all games, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance lives and dies by its gameplay and unfortunately that is a mixed bag. Players can choose one of three archetypical classes, warrior, rogue or mage and all have their strengths and weaknesses, ultimately making them fairly balanced. Once in the actual game, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance plays as one would expect a Diablo-clone to play. It features a simplistic primary combat mechanic, a variety of customizable secondary class specific powers, and one very powerful special attack. Like most games in the genre the primary attack will get a fast and furious workout but knowing when to utilize secondary powers and the special attack are the keys to survival.
Unsurprisingly, this formula works quite well and Gameloft has done a good job of adjusting the controls to fit the Vita. All actions are mapped to the device fairly intuitively, even the shoehorned in touch screen aspects. Direct character control is done via the left analog stick, primary and secondary attacks are mapped to the face buttons, health and mana potions to the shoulders and the special attack is activated by a tap on the touch screen.
Oddly enough, despite the touch screen working as expected, the game’s controls actually falter with the special attack. Instead of the special attack emanating from the main character, it is tied to the hero’s fairy companion and activated by her line of sight. Control over the fairy is done concurrently with the main character via the right analog stick and can be somewhat troublesome, especially in combat scenarios where the focus is on not getting overwhelmed by the horde of enemies.
While combat is the primary gameplay activity, it is loot accumulation that drives players forward in games like these and Dungeon Hunter: Alliance provides plenty for players to gather. The loot drops are random, with items being tied to player level progression making players want to continue playing so that they can test out their new weapon and/or armor set. But while the game gets the concept of loot chasing right, it all felt somewhat generic and boring.
And therein lies the fundamental problem with Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, it is generic and boring, failing to excite on any level. The narrative feels like an afterthought and could not be more unoriginal if it tried. Visually the game, while graphically impressive, leaves a lot to be desired artistically. And the level design is generally just a straight forward run with little exploration needed to advance to the next boss battle. The one thing that does spice the action up though is the ability to play with other people, delivering a solid multiplayer adventuring experience. It may not acquit the rest of the game from mediocrity but it does provide a unique, currently one-of-a-kind experience on the Vita.
Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is not a bad game. It is quite competent at delivering a solid dungeon crawling experience, even if it is overly generic, and when played in bite-sized chunks or with a group of friends can be good mindless fun. However, the game is not anything that stands out in the crowd of Vita launch titles, which includes Lumines: Electronic Symphony and Uncharted. And at the retail price that is being asked for it, the game is just too hard to recommend.
- Simple, responsive controls
- Lots of loot
- Solid functioning multiplayer
- Generic in nearly every aspect of its design
- Fairy control is troublesome especially during battles
3 / 5