Definitely a Crawler
Dungeon Hunter 4 is the latest outing from prolific developer and producer of iOS games Gameloft. Fourth in the series of dungeon crawling adventures, the kingdom is under threat from a horde of monsters, and an intrepid hero is needed to fight the gazillion enemies. You explore the map, slay tons of monsters, and pick up more stuff to develop your character.
Unless you just recently got introduced to gaming, this should be pretty familiar by now. It’s essentially the same formula since Gauntlet released in 1985, and like the pioneer of this genre, you have four stock characters to pick from. Each character has his signature weapons and variety of skills suited to his fighting style. You get the full spectrum of characters, from the brawny tank for close combat to the ranged spell caster.
The graphics are very good for the platform. The sprites are fully animated. The backgrounds are surprising detailed. Visually, the different parts come together well, forming a cohesive world. Dungeon Hunter 4 also features a fully scored soundtrack and competent voice acting. All the voice actors were clearly British, which I think was a nice touch for the fantasy genre. Although, I think this was more a choice of region, rather than aesthetics, seeing how Gameloft is headquartered in Paris.
I need to talk about the gameplay of Dungeon Hunter 4, and this might get a bit unclear, but stick with me. The gameplay itself – moving, strafing, accessing the inventory – is excellent. It was clearly modeled after the AAA titles in the same genre like Diablo, and Gameloft does an amazing job. However, Dungeon Hunter 4 is hamstrung by its actual controls. The game has a spot to touch in each corner that represents analog sticks. Left stick moves the player; right stick attacks. It sounds good in theory, and then you try to do it when a horde of monsters is coming at you from every angle. I was seriously starting to wonder if my archer was doing tequila shots during the loading screen. I’m willing to entertain the idea that the failure may lie with me on this.
But wait – there’s multiplayer. So we took our archer, who runs into walls and shoots wherever the hell he feels like it, to find other heroes. Dungeon Hunter 4 offers this in the way of PvP or co-op arena battles. There’s no co-op campaign, and that’s a big miss for any dungeon crawler. Now, given the aforementioned difficulty with controlling our character, we lasted about as long as that proverbial hell-bound snowball in multiplayer.
Dungeon Hunter 4 is a “freemium” game. That is, the initial gigabyte plus-size download containing the basic game is free. They have two different currencies in game, gold and diamonds. Diamonds you purchase with real world money for use in game, and there’s a whole bunch of stuff you can buy with them. To put it in context, $1.99 gets you started buying diamonds, and an upgrade to your basic weapon starts at five dollars. We’ve all seen freemium models that work, and those that don’t. Dungeon Hunter 4’s freemium model is obscene. It’s like having a five year-old in tow at Toys R Us: “I just want to show you something.” “No, you want me to buy something.” The enemies drop no – and we mean zero – health items. You have three health potions to start with, and when those run out, you can either purchase more with diamonds or wait four hours. At least in Gauntlet you can drop another quarter in to keep going. We don’t have a problem with paying to play more of a game we like, but when the game has its hand out for money every time you turn a corner…
Games of this size are not easy to make, and Gameloft’s teams, like any other development team, deserves to profit from their efforts. However, it’s not a good idea to base gameplay itself on the pay-to-play model. During the process of reviewing the game, we would play for twenty minutes and then have to wait four hours to start up once our potions refilled. Gameloft might have modeled too much after Gauntlet; the only thing missing was a narrator telling us we needed food badly.