Review: Dungeon Hunter: Alliance

Platform: PlayStation Vita

Developer: Gameloft

Publisher: Ubisoft

# of Players: 1 – 4

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Official Site

Score: C+

With Dungeon Hunter: Alliance on the Vita, developer Gameloft had a rather interesting challenge in making a version of their popular (but “old” by other device standards) hack and slash RPG that could be seen as a solid (and full priced) showpiece the Sony’s new handheld. While they didn’t quite succeed in every area, the end result presents enough creature chopping challenge for those who like to go solo while also being a ton of fun in multiplayer. Visually, the game is solid, if not spectacular overall, the gameplay is what you’d expect with some interesting use of the Vita’s touch screens that range from handy to not really necessary. Unfortunately, despite the glossed-up visuals, the game misses the chance to do more with the basics, meaning if you’ve played this already on a device, computer or even the PS3, you’re not going to be too surprised at what’s here. Addicted? yes. Shocked at the stellar amount of originality on display? Nope.


In the game, you’re a newly revived corpse (and a handsome, non-rotted one at that) of a young king who finds out his former kingdom is in dire jeopardy thanks to his former flame, now a queen gone bad. Without spoiling too much more of the plot (not that you haven’t heard it all before), you’re accompanied by a lightning spell wielding fairy and need to haul yourself out of the crypt you’ve risen from, fight your way to the surface and tackle tasks above ground as you set out to put and end to the evil force plaguing the land. Yes, it’s the same old RPG story with a few tweaks to the formula and nothing innovative will shake your brain one bit. That said, the game does what it does quite well, as you’ll find quests and side quests doled out at a decent enough pace and in solo play, the game can be pretty tough if you’re unprepared.

And you will be unprepared, at least if you’re not familiar with “grinding” earlier maps for levels, points to beef up skills, gold and gear before moving on. Trying to blow through the game by clearing out a dungeon once then moving on isn’t easy, as enemies in new areas are going to be past your current level and you’ll be swarmed by mobs, shot up by enemy archers or roasted by magic users before you know what hit you. The game uses these mobs in a few cheap ways, dropping enemies in from above, behind you and even having them come rushing at you through bushes or magically appearing when you think the coast is clear. Bosses are all cheap as hell and hard to kill, but as long as you use potions wisely and can whip down their health before they do you in, you’ll come out ahead.

One issue you may have with the game is there are a mere three classes to choose from, and they’re all male. You get a Fighter, Mage and Rogue, each with their strengths and weaknesses. While this does make choosing a champion simple stuff (each hero plays the same way on a basic level), playing as a mage can be especially terrifying for a while until you gain enough levels to survive some of the more enemy-packed battles and boss fights. Playing as a Rogue, you have it slightly easier, thanks to the ability to use bows and crossbows in addition to dual wielding a wide range of weapons. Of course, for you “tank” players, the Fighter has it the “easiest” here, but getting up close and personal with multiple enemies can be white knuckle central in the early stages.

That aforementioned fairy and the others you’ll eventually discover can indeed be helpful thanks to their spells and the ability to find buried treasure in assorted locations, but there’s a catch. You can only use their spells one time before they need to recharge for a minute (only the mage can lower that recharge time), making them mostly good for getting out of some jams or getting you the occasional cool hidden item. Also, while controlling your hero is easy, as is combat, moving that fairy around can be a pain. You can use the Vita’s right analog stick or the rear touch pad to guide her about, but the fairy will become stuck behind immovable objects or not respond to the touch pad motions at all for a few seconds, which can mean your poor avatar is doomed if you needed that spell assistance.  To use your selected fairy’s magic, you need  move her where you need assistance, then tap twice on the front touch screen. It works, but in tight spots, it breaks up the gameplay when you need to do those finger exercises and worse, there can be a slight delay in firing off that spell. This can be especially pesky if you’re not used to tapping on a screen to make happen what a normal button press would take care of in a non-touch screen game.

In fact, some of the other touch screen and Vita-specific functions here can be mildly to extremely annoying. Things such as pinching and spreading your fingers to zoom the viewpoint in or out (it always reverts to the default view when you go into a new area) or tapping the mini-map or character stats to access them (you can call up the map or stat screen at the wrong time if you accidentally bump these areas with a finger) are nice enough gimmicks. On the other hand, shaking the Vita when you’re stunned comes off as distracting and dumb, even getting you poor guy killed because it’s hard to see what’s on screen when you’re shaking your system like Tom Cruise making a drink in Cocktail  That said, when these things work, they work fine and the game manages to be enjoyable for the most part, despite a few other quirks that kick the fun factor in the shins every so often.

Expect some long load times and a bit of choppy movement from time to time, usually when a mob appears as you’re running towards them. Probably the most frustrating element are monsters that reach the end of their travel range suddenly backing away from a fight and running back to their start points or becoming trapped in an immovable object for a few seconds before vanishing. These monsters then come back at you at full health, even if you had their HP whittled down to almost nothing, which is a total pain if it’s a tougher beast that’s giving you trouble. For some reason, teleportation doesn’t become available for a while, so the game forces you to trudge long distances back and forth to the main town to turn in quests. You can get around this by saving and quitting to sort of set up a :”shortcut” that places you at the start of the last area you were in, but it’s still a hike. Sure, you’ll gain money and gear by hoofing it to a vendor in a dungeon or outdoors, but fighting the same respawning enemies over and over once they start coughing up few (and once your levels are high enough, zero) experience points and awful loot drops can get dull unless you’re so dialed in you don’t care.

Multiplayer works well, but I’ve only played the game with one other live player using the Ad Hoc connection, so I can’t comment on performance with more than that. The kookiest thing about multiplayer is the game supports up to FOUR players, but there are only THREE characters to choose from, meaning if you have four friends and fire up a new co-op game, someone will be playing a double of someone else. Granted, you’ll probably all be outfitted differently, so this won’t matter much, if at all. At the end of the day, the game does have a certain mindless appeal to it, the loot and new gear collecting becomes addictive, and overall, this is one of those core games that will suck in many hours of your time. It would have been a much better game had Gameloft sunk more time into crafting a better or more expanded story, ironed out the bugs and perhaps even released a game that combined elements from all the current Dungeon Hunter games out there.

As to whether you’re getting forty bucks worth of game here, well, that depends. If you loved Action/RPGs on the PSP like the two Untold Legends games, Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony, or maybe have a copy of Silverfall in your collection, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance will be right up your alley (and you can add a point or two to the score in that case). Otherwise, you may want to hold out for RUIN, Sony’s upcoming PS Vita and PS3 cross-play RPG that looks a bit more polished and is definitely tailor-made foe both system’s strengths. DH:A will keep you quite busy, but you may find yourself wanting something with a bit more meat on its bones…


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