Though Gameloft is a name primarily linked to mobile gaming, this year the publisher has really been pushing development on other platforms, most noticeably, the PlayStation 3. January saw the exclusive release of Modern Combat: Domination, an impressive online shooter carrying the brand name of Gameloft’s most popualr FPS franchise. In a similar fashion Dungeon Hunter, another one of the company’s prestigious series, is making its debut appearance on the PlayStation with Dungeon Hunter: Alliance.[boxout]Despite there being two existing instalments available on iOS, prior knowledge to the Dungeon Hunter series is not required to play Alliance. In the fictional realm of Gothicus, you assume the role of a fallen king who is suddenly brought back to life to find the land in turmoil. Murdered by your own queen, you must now embark on a quest to restore the kingdom and uncover the mystery behind your demise.
Truth be told, the plot is thin on the ground and at some stages almost non-existent. If you are looking for a compelling narrative, no matter how hard you search, you will walk away from Alliance empty-handed. There are only a few notable “characters” in the entire game, none of which are particularly interesting or well-developed. However, the realm of Gothicus is characterised quite well, presenting a fictional world which doesn’t borrow directly from already-established games and novels.
Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is an RPG solely centred around its gameplay more than anything else. Though there will be the occasional moment of downtime, usually near vendors or settlements, players will be spending a good 95% of the time continually engaged in combat. From a top-down perspective, players will be able to utilise the abilities of either a warrior, rogue, or mage to plough through hordes of enemies in order to reach objectives. Each class focuses on a concentrated group of attributes (the warrior favours strength, whereas the mage depends on energy) defining their play-style and the equipment available to them. Though all three classes feel a tad limited to begin with, the expansive skill tree helps you to create your ideal character. For instance, you can start with a mage and slowly raise the strength and endurance skills to form a hybrid class with potent combat and healing capabilities.
The actual gameplay itself is Dungeon Hunter’s most divisive element. Without any sort of combo system or block/dodge mechanic, combat never feels as engaging as it should be for a console RPG. Aside from a basic attack, up to three abilities can be stored using the remaining face buttons, making the game easily accessible, yet diverse enough to prevent monotony from kicking in. To spice the gameplay up somewhat, there are also special attacks with a sixty-second cool-down as well as a gear-switching mechanic, allowing the player to swap between one set of equipment to another in a split second.
Like Modern Combat: Domination, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is playable via both the Dualshock 3 and PlayStation Move. Unlike most motion-compatible games of a similar structure, Alliance only requires a single controller, without the need for an additional “Nav.” A cursor will appear on-screen to direct the character and will also be used to direct attacks and abilities. Though it’s prone to a few hiccups here and there (accidentally tilting the controller will force you to switch your equipment, for instance) it’s a refreshing way to play the game, and if there is a Dualshock shortage in your home, it means more players can get involved.
Alliance’s most defining feature is its multiplayer component which hosts up to four characters both online and locally. No matter where you are in the game, other players can drop in and out with the press of a button, also made easy for online strangers via the game’s simple matchmaking system. Though the gameplay remains unchanged, the added tactical element of working as a team really shines through, the three classes complimenting each-other soundly. Players also have the ability to chat and trade items but the online component isn’t without its hitches. Although loot is dished out evenly to each character, the distribution method isn’t very intelligent. No matter what the item is, it will be randomly assigned to a specific player who is the only one allowed to pick it up, unless they decide to trade it (a negotiation hard to pull-off while in mid-game.) This results in characters picking items which they are clearly not compatible with (warriors with robes, rogues with great-axes, mages with chainmail,) leading to bouts of frustration. Another frequent issue is the online lobby itself; rooms which are fully reserved will still appear on the list, and the transition between menus is sluggish.
For a dungeon crawler, Alliance hosts a splendid palette of diverse, vibrantly-coloured locations, from poisonous, infested sewers, to cloudy mountaintops and beyond. The lack of initial character customisation is a little disappointing but the wealth of appearance options available later on more than make up for it. The gallery of sound effects are just as impressive, with a moody soundtrack which fits nicely.
- Accessible to all gamers
- PlayStation Move is well integrated
- Plenty of content for the given price tag
- Looks and sounds great
- Instant online action
- Gameplay can get repetitive
- No block/dodge actions
- Boss battles can be brutal
- Clumsy loot system and other minor online faults
- Lack of character customisation options
Dungeon Hunter: Alliance may feel a little light to begin with, but a few hours down the line, and you may find yourself engulfed in the deepest RPG the PlayStation Network has to offer. Hardcore fans will easily be able to rack over 30 hours of play-time, the multiplayer component extending it even further. However, the repetitive and sometimes bland gameplay will definitely prove to be a barrier for some.
When we spoke to Gameloft last month they told us that their main goal in developing downloadable titles for the PlayStation 3 was to produce high-quality games with afforadable price tags. If Modern Combat wasn’t sufficient enough evidence to support their bold claim, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance will have you second guessing.