Dungeon Hunter 3 Game: Mobile

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Dungeon Hunter 3 Review: Addictive Dungeon Crawling Series Tainted Somewhat by Freemium Model

It may come as a surprise to most of you guys, but we are not big fans of games with integrated social networking elements –more often than not, it takes away from the game and prevents players from pursuing a solid storyline since they will be hampered by time restraints and access to resources simply because they cannot afford to pay extra for premium content. Most hardcore players would agree: better to have a full game that you purchase once and be done with than to keep spending trite amounts of cash that would eventually build up to quite a bill at the end of it all (barring any discussions on DLCs and add on content of course).

Still, despite our inhibitions about the shift of the Dungeon Hunter series from a fully paid downloadable title into a micro-transaction funded smart phone/tablet app, we actually found the game to be quite playable and exceptionally fun. So how did that happen? Read on and find out.

OMG! It Is a Real Game!

The thing about games like these is that they often get compared to their more hardcore versions –in the case of Dungeon Hunter, the DH Alliance version was released on the Playstation Vita and it was exceptionally fun to play for any fan of the dungeon crawling genre. DH3 on the other hand, had the misfortune of being launched on the iOS, and Apple’s devices are not exactly well known for providing solid hardcore gaming experiences (just ask anyone who has tried to play Ace Combat on the iOS and you would get an earful).

So imagine our surprise when the game booted up nice and quick and immediately sent our half bald trickster gal into the heat of the battle. Within seconds we learned how to nock arrows into the bow and quickly dispatched the goblins headed our way. Five minutes later, we were casting multiple arrow shot skills and summoning magical lightning from the skies –basically kicking virtual goblin ass in every way possible. The game manages to fit a solid control system into the extremely rudimentary input controls of the touch screen.

The big sacrifice that the game took on its trip to the social-gaming league was the fact that the storyline ended up being watered-down (which, is not that big a loss since the actual storyline of the DH series is not all that interesting to begin with). In the end, the main focus of the game is the dungeon crawling experience –and DH3 is certainly great at that.

How It All Works

If you are wondering how a dungeon crawling game would work on a touch screen without any control pads, joysticks, or buttons, here is how:

The touch screen allows for multi-touch input, which means that it will track the position of your thumbs as you place them on circles on the two corners. You play around with these circles as if they were virtual analog sticks –the left one controls movement, the right virtual pad controls the direction and initiates attack.  To activate skills, players simply press their thumb on a small circular icon above the control icon –the one on the left side activates the fairy skill, while the one on the right activates the class skill.

It sounds a little complicated on paper, but in practice, it takes mere seconds to learn. In fact, ranged combat benefits greatly from these controls as the dual-stick setup makes for easy circle strafing around enemies. The game is played from a top down 3/4 perspective, and the user interface is visibly easy to read without being a distraction from the game.

The only issue with the controls is getting a feel for the movement pace of the character. This is because the lack of a physical stick prevents you from judging how much push, tilt, or pull your fingers are dragging along the circle’s surface. Also, the lack of a button tends to make activating skills while kiting very difficult –since you are moving away from the opponent, your character would also face away when you move your right thumb to press the skill button. The best way is to stop moving first before activating the skill (so it is launched while you are facing the right way). This must be done carefully when kiting powerful monsters as the momentary pause in movement will allow the enemy to catch up with you for a bit.

Using melee combat is a whole lot easier in this aspect since you would rarely be kiting with a sword equipped. But at the same time, this method also comes with its’ own set of complications regarding the controls –mainly knowing how to run. Nudging your thumb around the left circular pad slightly will make your character move at a walking pace, pressing it towards the edge will let you run. For the most part, this will not be a problem –except when you need to move quickly between walking and running; it will take quite a bit of practice to figure out exactly how much you will need to move your thumb along the outline to get the movement done properly.

Free Missions for All

You can play any mission of the game at any time –playing missions is not dependent on a consumable resource -yey! The only things that are consumable are the “progress keys”. These keys allow you to open up the reward treasure box provided at the end of each successful mission –which is extra gold and experience points. While the keys help, they are not necessary for gaining experience points and gold –both of which can also be earned while fighting enemies.

Purchasing items from the shop is also easy –once you buy something you can instantly equip it. Also, the items are static, which means you will not have to wait for several refresh cool-down cycles hoping to get some good armor. The one thing that requires waiting is the upgrade function. This, while really useful, is not something you would want to get unless your equipment is already high tier.

Basically, upgrading a weapon or armor will take time before the bonuses take effect, but the gear will still be equipped on you so you can still use it regardless of the item being upgraded or not. You just have to wait until the upgrade cycle completes before the increased item stats take effect.

Easy Multiplayer

Once you have gotten the hang the game and dealing with the various basic enemies that you will most certainly encounter, then it is time to jump into the multiplayer function of the game. Here, you get to team up with other adventurers as you take on stronger enemies (and also, larger wave volumes). Keep an eye on the game rank being set by the host as it will determine how hardcore the enemies can be (new users should stay away from the higher level players in this mode as the higher level characters will certainly want to play in the more dangerous maps).

Visually Stunning

Stunning is definitely the word you would use when you boot up an iPad game and then stare at disbelief at what you see. Full 3D graphics, no slow downs, smooth animations (they may have cheated the framerates, but the end result still rocks the tablet’s capabilities), and of course, impressive looking particle effects.

The end result are stages that are well designed and are great to look at –which means a lot since you would be holding the device at an arm’s length away from your eyes. Also, figuring out the differences between the different enemy types is easy thanks to the highly detailed monster models used in the game.

The user interface on the other hand is as easy as it could possibly be. Of course, the fact that you are on a touch screen already streamlines much of the navigation that you would get from a joypad or keyboard-mouse combo. Still, the buttons are clearly labeled, everything is self explanatory and you can concentrate on enjoying the game instead of wondering if you pressed the wrong setting in one of the menus (and fumbling across complex menus is pretty common in RPGs).

The audio is not as epic-level impressive as the visual, but it certainly manages to keep up with the rest of the game in terms of quality and delivery. The music is hardly a bore to listen to –in fact; you may even grow to like it over time. The sound effects on the other hand, add a vibrant dose of life to the game as it adds weight to your sword swings, and a sense of fatality to any arrows you fire. And let us not get started on how ethereal the crackling of fire and lightning sounds in this game –if you love fantasy games, Dungeon Hunter 3 has all the ear-smacking goodness you could ever want.

For the Hardcore Ones

Fans of Diablo 1 & 2 who felt cheated at the change in the visual presentation of the game in the highly lauded Diablo 3 installment will certainly find Dungeon Hunter a whole lot more aesthetically pleasing. Sure, the gameplay is not as deep without all the complex skill trees and unique equipment-artifact bonuses or character skill builds, but in the end, you get straightforward dungeon crawling fun with none of the unnecessary DRM (sure, DH3 requires an internet connection to play, but at least it is honest about it. Dungeon Hunter 3 may not never be regarded with the same amount of gaming cred as other full on console gaming titles, but it certainly stands out better in many aspects.

The Verdict

Of course, it is undeniable that the game is still a social tool –which you will feel as you pass up on reward treasures as you lack the time appropriated keys to open them. Putting aside the freemium issue for a split second DH3 offers free gamers an impressive gameplay system, streamlined touch screen controls and surprisingly good graphics. These are definately the plus points, now back to the freemium issue. Although the paid for extras are un-intrusive they are a fairly cheeky gesture to fans of the series. We would have preferred for the game to simply be charged at a standard one off price and then for all the content to come in the download. Sadly Gameloft opted for the freemium model which many games are moving towards and this has aggravated too many fans. Due to this error in judgement we give Dungeon Hunter 3 a cautious dungeon dweller's 75/100.

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