Dungeon Hunter: Alliance
Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter series originally appeared on the iPhone in 2009 and impressed many gamers by successfully bringing the Diablo style loot-heavy action RPG to mobile devices. It was a great feat on that platform, but in the years since the quality of mobile gaming has improved rapidly, Torchlight has proven that you can copy the Diablo formula while still having a unique sense of style, and Gameloft has been increasingly written off as a developer incapable of producing much beyond weak look-alikes of better games. Is there enough steam in Dungeon Hunter’s borrowed formula to make for a worthy Vita launch title?
Alliance’s minimal story sees you waking up in a tomb to discover that you are the long-dead king of the land of Gothicus. Something has gone wrong in the generic fantasy land since your death, and the last remaining unimprisoned fairy has awoken you from eternal slumber to solve the kingdom’s problems and face off against a deranged queen. There’s almost no voice acting and very little meat to this tale, but that’s fine. The short cut scenes are easy to skip, allowing you to focus on cutting through hordes of monsters.
Sadly there are plenty of other technical problems to steal your attention. Dungeon Hunter doesn’t have great graphics, but despite that concession and the presumed power of Sony’s new handheld, the game seems unable to handle the on-screen action. If you enter a battle with more than five or six enemies and use a special ability, it slows to a crawl. These processing problems are especially unforgivable in a hack-and-slash title where you’re almost always against huge groups of bad guys.
Even when the game ran at a solid clip, I encountered numerous bugs. The most frustrating and frequent had enemies suddenly "evading" all of my attacks for a few seconds before rubber-banding back to their spawn points and regaining all of their health, an especially maddening issue when you come up against higher-level opponents. I also hit one bizarre glitch where I discovered an endless stream of gold, which I documented in the video below:
Problems aside, I admit that Gameloft clearly understands the core joy of the Diablo formula. The progression of getting more powerful feels well paced, and the various skills your warrior, mage, and rogue can learn are interesting and fun to use. Alliance also features a wide variety of settings and great loot variety.
Unfortunately, this quest is marred by boredom. None of the regular enemies and very few of the boss encounters require tactics beyond "keep slashing and down potions when your health is low." Whatever the visual theme, most areas are linear. By the end of the game they break down into a series of closed-off arena fights, including a painfully dull section where you must fight every previous boss a second time.
If you’re going to create such a clear-cut clone without any identity or soul of its own, the least you can do is put the time in to make sure it’s polished and runs well. Gameloft hasn’t even done that much with Dungeon Hunter: Alliance. This dud is full of enough bugs, framerate slowdowns, and online problems that it makes you never want to step foot in a dungeon again. To add insult to injury, the exact same game – minus minor touchscreen controls – is available on PSN for $12.99 and is currently on sale on the Mac App Store for $0.99. If you desperately need a loot-hunting fix no matter how uninspired, go with one of those options. Ubisoft must think the Vita audience is brain-dead to try to sell them a flawed, unimproved port of an already mediocre game for $39.99.