Take a dungeon explorer franchise with an incredibly generic title and bring it to a new handheld console as a launch game. It’s very easy to get sucked in to dungeon crawler games like Diablo or Baulders Gate but Dungeon Hunter: Alliance just lacks the charisma that other dungeon RPG games have. Set in a fantasy world, you play as a deceased king that is recently brought back to life by a magic fairy. Already it sounds a little corny but it only gets better. After being revived the King sets out on a quest to abolish the evil that is taking over the land which is now ruled by his former Queen who killed him. The story is filled with lots more generic RPG elements such as magic powers and evil crystals, and just like the title it all seems very unimaginative.
The game starts with you creating your own character and choosing from one of three classes which are either a warrior, mage, or rouge. You travel through the center town of Thamos which leads you to multiple different battle areas such as underground dungeons, forests, and caves. The game is heavily loot based and you pick up new armor and weapons along the way. You also collect different fairies that allow you to use new elemental abilities. The game is broken up into a quest system with your overall story quest taking priority but you also pick up one or two side quests each time you enter a new area. While the side quests try to add depth to the game they fall short as if you just run through every area you will usually complete your story mission and side missions in one shot. One thing that keeps the game interesting is if you don’t feel like playing alone you can play through the game in co-op thought unless you are playing with your friends you may not have any luck finding a game. You do have the option to sort out games by mission and character level but it’s rare you will find someone in the same position as you.
Dungeon Hunter: Alliance uses pretty standard hack and slash controls as you will find yourself pressing the X button more times than you would ever wish to count. As you defeat enemies and complete quests your character levels up and you can spend points on attributes and learning new abilities that you can then assign to the face buttons. The game allows you to set two different sets of commands for your abilities or two different weapons sets that you can cycle through quickly using the d-pad which allows you to have a variety of weapons and powers at your disposal. Inventory management is made fairly simple by placing your equipped items next to your menu items with the stats listed so the player can easily compare which weapons or pieces of armor are better.
Something that works to the games advantage but seems odd for a game that was originally on a touch screen device is the lack of touch and motion controls. You can zoom the screen in and out by squeezing your fingers on the front touch pad and you can full size your map by just tapping it on the screen. One thing I find to be a little annoying but didn’t really affect the gameplay is the back touch screen. You can use either the back touch screen or the right joystick to move your fairy around the screen to help you find hidden objects and it’s hard not to be rubbing the back touch screen just by holding the Vita. My fairy was constantly moving all over the screen and it just got a little distracting. What really killed moments of the game for me where the shake controls. If your character ever gets stunned you have to shake the Vita to recover and it is very interruptive of the gameplay and caused me to die more often than it corrected my character. Unfortunately it was happening frequently in the beginning of the game and almost turned me off immediately.
If you were to tell me that his was a game ported from an iPhone I would believe it. For something that is meant for a launch game for a new console you would think a lot more effort would be put into making the game look nicer than an IOS game. It manages to look better than what a PSP game would have been able to manage but you still can’t help but feel as you look at Dungeon Hunter that this game could have managed to look much better. The characters in the game just look extremely uninspired and have little detail while the environments pick up the slack a little bit but are still unimpressive.
The screen is often cluttered with excessive amounts of enemies when you are in combat. Playing the game online can make that experience even worse as quite often while just playing alone I would lose sight of my character among all of the villains crowding in on me. The amount of enemies that are thrown at you at one time seem incredibly extreme and I was fighting most of my battles blind just using my crowd control attacks to clear up some space on my screen.
While it can be a fun game for friend and is still enjoyable by yourself the game has one major roadblock in that it is just too damn difficult. I constantly felt like the game was designed to be played in multiplayer as the bosses were sometimes near impossible and there were just too many enemies thrown at you at once. Collecting loot is still infectious but you rarely feel like you are getting anything better than what you are already equipped with. This just feels like a game that is made to be enjoyed with friends all playing together and leveling at the same time. It is still nice to have a dungeon crawler on the Vita but I feel like there could have been a more entertaining one put out than this average and sometimes frustrating title.
To put it bluntly Dungeon Hunter: Alliance just reeks of mediocrity. While it may sound silly out of context there really is a great fiction in this world but you have to go out of your way to hear any of it. With basic mechanics that add nothing new or fresh to the genre it’s easy to pass this game up and while it may be fine for some, it may be best to wait for a better put together RPG for the Vita. I can only assume we will see more dungeon crawler games in the future and I would love to see a Dungeon Siege release on this console but instead we get an uncharismatic game that just feels like a cash grab. While you may find some enjoyment and it will definitely play better on the Vita rather than a phone you may want to save your money and wait until you can find the game a little cheaper.