PS Vita
2.5 stars
Amazon
27.8
In Stock. Buy Now»
Overall Grade
2.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
2.5 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
1.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
1.5 Stars
Replay Factor
3.5 Stars

Dungeon Hunter: Alliance

Street Date:
February 14th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Chad Goodmurphy
Review Date:1
March 1st, 2012
Game Release Year:
2012
Platform:
PS Vita
Publisher:
Ubisoft
Developer:
Gameloft
ESRB Rating:
T (Teen)

Introduction

Hacking and slashing its loot-filled way onto the iPhone three years ago, Dungeon Hunter brought mobile action to fans of the RPG sub-genre. It has since spawned one sequel, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, which is now available as a PlayStation Vita launch title. This adventure contains a storyline where players control a king who has been brought back to life twenty-five years after his murder, to find that his people are being treated terribly by his former queen. Of course, being that this is a fantastical adventure, there’s more to it than that. That formerly fair lady has turned evil due to a dark arts spell, which was used to resurrect her after an untimely demise. As a result, it was her hand that befell our hero.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The whole idea behind the role-playing genre and its varied styles, is the opportunity for players to be transported to a rich, fantastical world. It’s in these environments where we can interact with beleaguered citizens and leaders, in an attempt to save them from some sort of plight. That is very much the case here, as Dungeon Hunter: Alliance takes a rather simplistic storyline and runs with it over the course of a relatively lengthy campaign.

Much has changed in the world of Gothicus since its people last set eyes upon their former leader. What was seemingly a thriving area has been turned into a place where fear and turmoil rule. The queen and her seedy advisors are up to no good, taking advantage of what happens to be a kind and hardworking population. All the while, various sorts of evil beings have made the land their home. Such is the context and overarching reason for the hacking, slashing and spell casting found within this game.


At its core, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is a formulaic dungeon crawler. Like other Gameloft games, it culls elements from other genre releases and combines them into something rather standard. The end result is a mildly entertaining and serviceable, yet frustrating experience.

Before the king’s resurrection process begins, players must choose from one of his three formulaic class archetypes: the warrior, the mage or the rogue. There really isn’t much that can be said about this choice-based menu, because each of the designs happen to be pre-made. Whether you prefer to use powerful weaponry, stealth or magic is the only decision that is made available. Well, other than the chance to name said hero.

After escaping from their damp and aging crypt, players are tasked with aiding Gothicus and its villagers with life-changing quests. These are played out in randomly generated environments of different types, such as snowy cliff sides, forests and dungeons. This content is split across 11 different acts, with quite a few side quests sprinkled throughout them.

The main quest line deals with restoring peace, order, happiness and safety to the struggling land. One example of this is a task where a water supply’s poisoning must be put to an end, leading to a rather lengthy plunge into a labyrinthine environment. Not surprisingly, the place is full of various types of decrepit monsters, much like most of the game world is.

Side quests, on the other hand, happened to take a much more basic form. One asked for a lady’s husband to be safely returned, while another required stolen goods to be found. These secondary goals provided a minor change of pace. However, quite a few of them were close to the main quest’s required path.

In order to start either type of task, players must talk to someone in need, whether they’re in the core village of Thamos or somewhere else. An exclamation mark is placed above quest givers’ heads, indicating that they would like to speak to you. Much in the same way, these non-playable characters will reward you for completing their mission when approached after the fact. It’s a basic design, but one that works with this type of game.


During (and in-between) either of those above-mentioned quest types, every few steps taken will result in a swarm of attackers looking to pillage your digital avatar for his assumed wealth. This means that dealing with rabid wolves, shambling corpses, soulless soldiers, blobs, grunts and evil magicians becomes the core facet of this experience. As a result, combat ends up taking the primary role over exploration, which was disappointing.

Two different weapon sets can be equipped at one time. Players can quickly swap between them during combat through the press of a directional-pad button. That means a close-combat sword can quickly change into a ranged crossbow for a more effective attack against far away baddies. It’s a great option to have, along with the ability to map three special abilities to specific face buttons. Those become quite helpful, consuming blue energy points when activated. It’s also important to note that standard attacks are based solely on the X button, with hit detection that is occasionally questionable.

Players’ travels will turn up story-related notes. These brief messages explain past events, chronicling the unique fairies that have played a large role in the created world’s history. You see; it ends up being an elemental fairy that brings the king back to life at the start of the game, asking for help to save the land and its captured kind. Finding more of these little ones can provide special attacks and treasure hunting benefits. They can be moved using the right thumbstick, and their attacks are initiated with the use of a somewhat responsive double-tap touchscreen control mechanic.

Although it’s a rather average and uninspired role-playing game, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance does have one feature that sets it apart from some of its competitors. That happens to be four-player co-operative play, where players can team up with each other through online or Ad-Hoc means. Each user is assigned a specific colour, which highlights their avatar and its available loot, removing any possibility of arguments erupting over who should receive what.

From the start, it became obvious that this game was made for multiplayer. If you’re engaged in a solo adventure, then it will become a frustrating challenge due to a rather unforgiving difficulty level. It’s not that the individual enemies are incredibly tough to take out; the problem lies in how many will swarm the player at once. When fifteen or more baddies are huddled around you, attacking when they can land hits, it can become tough to survive. Because of this design, the experience can devolve into pressing attack buttons repeatedly while watching your health bar for signs of when to heal. A death at any time means a trip back to the start of the environment, although most of the previously defeated bad guys will be gone.


The most glaring and frustrating aspect of this experience is not how basic it is. Instead, it’s the artificial difficulty, which is a result of that aforementioned combat structure. Having to constantly fight large groups of enemies who are leveled up to where you are or above ends up being more of a chore than an enjoyable design. It’s so easy to lose life that the focus is put on when to press the L shoulder button to heal, instead of which attacks to use. Also, considering that those potions are limited and expensive, another layer of frustration ensues. If there were fewer enemies at one time during solo efforts, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance would have been a much better adventure.

With this being a PlayStation Vita launch title, another factor must be discussed, and that is how well Gameloft has utilized the handheld’s high-tech capabilities. Two of its noteworthy gadgets are only lightly used, which is not enough to keep this title from feeling like the port that it is. The touchscreen is used sparingly, to initiate fairy attacks, view the map from different angles or cycle through menus. All of those implementations are very basic and somewhat imprecise. On the other hand, shaking the system is required to break out of a stunned state or to speed up ally recovery initiatives. It’s disappointing that these features weren’t used in a better way.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Much like Asphalt: Injection, Gameloft’s other PlayStation Vita launch title, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance isn’t a visual powerhouse. It’s evident that both games are merely iOS ports with minimal enhancements. Needless to say, it doesn’t come close to using the device to its full potential.

The most notable visual drawback found here is a lack of definition. Character models tend to have a minor blur effect about them, and most of the environments are repetitive. While it’s nice to be able to go into a forest and other areas without being stuck inside of one specific dungeon, certain ones blend together. It’s a rather simple yet serviceable design, which can be partially attributed to the randomized environments that must be generated. Still, the game should look better than this on such a powerful handheld.


This dungeon crawling production could have been more efficiently optimized, which leads to thought that more time in-development wouldn’t have been a bad thing. What we’re treated to is a button-mashing experience that doesn’t lack frame rate and screen tearing issues. It simply can’t handle the amount of enemies who frequently dot the screen. Also, when the speed boost ability is blessed onto the player, the game stutters as it tries to keep up with that enhanced movement speed.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

If one word had to be used to describe the audio presentation found within this cartridge (or digital download file,) it would be lackluster. What’s there is once again serviceable, but it’s far from being noteworthy or impressive. The same sound effects are used over and over again, and even they tend to lack fidelity. Something resembling both a slash and a splat is used to create the effect of fantastical weaponry hitting its target. This happens to be the main sound byte that is used for melee attacks and it’s very basic, without much quality. In fact, it sounded like there were hints of static in it at times.

In many ways, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance feels outdated, and this is one of the most obvious. Not only does it lack a great variety of sound effects; it also tends to feature basic orchestral music. Adding onto that is a lack of real voiceover work, as the only time it ever pops up is in the background. Characters may speak a brief one-liner as you pass, but that happens to be about it. Their speech bubbles are always just that – text. Sure, the writing is half-decent, but the world ends up feeling less alive than it could have without these elements being implemented or focused upon.

Replay Factor

It isn't surprising that a game of this type has a notable amount of replay value to be found. However, the question is whether most players will decide to dive back in after completing the 10-15 hour quest. If that decision is made, then a new nightmare difficulty will be available for those particular users. It introduces tougher enemies to increase the overall challenge, with a trophy available for completion. That’s just one of many rather challenging trophies found on the game’s lengthy list.

In addition to the additional difficulty level and the aforementioned option to run through the game with up to three friends, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance also introduces a Pit of Souls mode. This is a wave-based challenge where players must try to survive against hordes of foes. Playing through it provides players with the opportunity to earn new gear, as well as a reason to keep playing after you’ve finished the main campaign. Although it can be played before the game comes to an end, your utilized character must be at level twenty-five or higher. That takes a while to get to.

Final Thoughts

Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is a relatively simplistic and uninspired experience, which ends up being forgettable. It doesn’t push the proverbial envelope, delivering a game that is far from a must-play. Not only that - it also fails to take full advantage of the handheld’s capabilities, proving to be more of a poorly optimized port than anything else.

In the end, it’s tough to recommend Gameloft’s dungeon crawler to most gamers. The people who will get the most out of it are also the ones who will dissect its parts the most, and that happens to be hardcore RPG audience. Those folks will be wise to how this is a rather mediocre and very overpriced release at its $40 price point. Why Ubisoft would decide to ask that amount of money for a game that previously retailed for much less is tough to gauge, but it makes Dungeon Hunter: Alliance harder to recommend. This experience certainly doesn’t compete with a lot of the other Vita launch titles, some of which cost far less than it does.

Tech Specs:

  • Formats: Physical disc and digital download
  • Download size: 1.03 GB

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1Q HD

Audio Formats

  • Stereo

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Co-op
  • Offline Co-op
  • System Link

Motion Controls

  • Yes

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Amazon
27.8
In Stock. Buy Now»