Preview | Dungeon Hunter: Alliance Hands-On
Format: PS3 | Genre: RPG | Publisher: GameLoft | Developer: GameLoft | ETA: 2011
Andreas Varotsis gets overly possessive about loot thanks to DUNGEON HUNTER: ALLIANCE.
IF YOU’RE a console gamer, odds are, unless you’ve spent too many hours on Borderlands or Diablo 2’s console-bound sibling, you haven’t experienced the dreadful plague on our society that are point’n’click action-rpgs. From Diablo to Torchlight, Titan Quest to Sacred, these harbingers of hopeless addiction are challenged only by massively multiplayer games in their ability to turn all who play them into number-crunching, loot hunting adventurers for months on end, sending them to the depths of imaginary dungeons in a hunt for ever more colourful weaponry like some degenerate, cocaine fuelled magpie. Sadly, your days of peace may well be at an end – along with Modern Combat, that I looked at last week, Gameloft also intend to bring their Dungeon Hunter franchise to PSN by year’s end.
Like Modern Combat, Dungeon Hunter is a tried-and-tested formula taken, updated, improved, and released on PSN at a very affordable price point – but the focus here is undeniably on cooperative play. As one of three classes – the rogue, warrior, mage – you and up to three friends are, once more, tasked with saving the world from insurmountable evil. It’s hardly radical, but in the immortal words of grandparents everywhere, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. No matter how many players you have, or what class you pick, you’ll be woken up by your own personal fairy guardian in an underground tomb, with a nasty case of amnesia – an illness which seems to have become scarily contagious in video-game land, seeing it seems to have spread to every protagonist in any gamer ever.
With your small band of friends, you’ll set off to the surface, defeating a seemingly endless flood of goblins, spiders, and other generic fantasy fare. Each character has a standard attack, but can also map a variety of special attacks to the controller – you’ll be able to either expand your repertory of skills, or focus on improving your current choices, and while I didn’t witness anything particularly mind-boggling, what few skills I did learn in the initial levels proved to be great fun. Perhaps more importantly for a co-op game, they had a great deal of synergy with my companion’s skillsets: by level 4, my mage was sweeping a giant blue freeze-ray across the room, while our warrior sliced-and-diced the weakened foes with impunity. Even if one of you dies, which I promptly did during the first boss battle, your team-mates are but one button push away from resurrecting you – and while this did result in a not particularly serious game of musical corpses, with each of us being resurrected before promptly being crushed, it’s about as entertaining as bringing somebody back from the dead gets. It’s a well thought-out touch, which builds team-play and co-operation into even the most disorganised band of merry adventurers.
In a game about loot however, the strongest bonds of friendship aren’t forged over the trials and tribulations of hunting underground monsters, but over incredibly shiny weaponry – and that’s something that, thankfully, Gameloft seem to been keenly aware of. No matter how many times you’ve resurrected me, how many potions you’ve given me, or how many levels we’ve grinded through together, if you steal my axe of uber-epic-pwnage +3 that I’ve been dreaming about for weeks on end, I’m afraid we’ll be sworn to eternal battle for generations to come. It was a problem keenly felt in Borderlands, where instead of any sophisticated loot distribution system, you instead had to rely on the age old “I-saw-that-first-you-git” system. Thankfully, loot in Dungeon Hunter seems plentiful, balanced, and diverse – perhaps more importantly, specific pieces are restricted to specific players, so you don’t run a risk of age old vendettas forming over who stole what. It also does a exceptionally good job of increasing your character customisation. Although I was only able to hit level 5 with my character, I’d already found 3 different staves, each of which changed the elemental alignment of my starting attack.
How crucial customising your character is going to be wasn’t entirely clear, but there are already a gargantuan amount of possibilities. Not only do you pick up an impressive amount of procedurally generated gear as you travel – although if, like me, you’re not particularly finicky, you can just chose to let the game pick your optimal equipment for you – each character also has a “fairy attack”, which you can unleash every couple of minutes, and you’ll collect more fairies with different attack patterns and elemental powers as you progress.
Character customisation however, is largely pointless without replay value. You can only customise a character so much over a course of one play-through, and there’s not much point in playing through the same game time and time again to attain that perfect character build in a linear game, even if it is mainly co-operative. Thankfully, Gameloft have revealed that the majority of the content in Dungeon Hunter Alliance will be procedurally generated : dungeons will be randomly built from the ground up with every new game you create, so even if you do want to find that perfect item for you perfect character, you won’t need to suffer through precisely the same playthrough time and time again like some perverse, fantasy groundhog day.
If Gameloft polish this off properly, they may have a winner on their hands. Fun, co-operative, endlessly re-playable, and at a price point people are unlikely to mope about, this may prove to be one of the best value games on PSN yet. It may not be revolutionary, but I can’t really think of a better way to spend a night with some 3 friends, at least not without involving strippers and cocaine, and in terms of value for money, I’d say Dungeon Hunter Alliance definitely comes out on top.