Dungeon Hunter: Alliance
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 04/12/2011
One of the aspects of Playstation Plus that both fans and critic alike point to when making their points about it is that PS+ is mostly a coupon service. That is, you pay money to get a discount on various games. We’ll leave whether that is a positive or negative up to you, the readers, and instead focus on a game that received a day one 25% price cut for Playstation Plus subscribers – Dungeon Hunter: Alliance. With the Playstation Plus discount, the game was less than ten dollars for a full length RPG, so I decided to bit the bullet and download the game, especially since it was described as a Diablo clone, and I’m big fan of that series.
Of course, this is Gameloft and they don’t have the best track record for porting their cell phone games over to consoles. Hero of Sparta, a popular God of War wannabe cell phone game fell flat on its face as one of the first PSP Minis. Our own Mark B. has skewered releases like American Popstar: Road to Celebrity for the DS and their recent 3DS launch titleAsphalt 3D. That doesn’t mean that Gameloft has reached the level of awful that say, Zoo Games, has “achieved.” Aaron Sirois enjoyed their remake of Earthworm Jim and Mark loved Midnight Play Pack, so they’re not all bad. Still, I was well aware that I was giving money to a company that provided us with such “Worst Game of the Year” nominees as Miami Nights when I purchased this. Still, it’s pretty hard to mess up a Diablo clone, so how bad could it be, right?
The game begins with you choosing between three classes of characters: Warrior, Mage and Rogue. The class doesn’t matter in terms of the story however. Regardless of what you choose you are the reanimated corpse of the King of some generic kingdom. You have been restored to life after being dead for roughly two decades by a fairy who specializes in lightning magic…and apparently necromancy. You look great for having been dead for so long and after the fairy revives you, she reveals that you were brought back to life to stop your wife who has become a psychotic evil tyrant since you died. Then you reveal she’s actually undead herself and when she died you went insane and used necromancy yourself to bring her back. Then when she was resurrected, she went all evil like and murdered you dead. So really, the past twenty years of horror that your subjects have been plagued with is all your fault. Whoops. Of course the game never says how or why you learned necromancy (especially if you chose a warrior or rogue) and why you can’t use it now, but trust me when I say this is just the start of the story’s nonsensical ramblings.
From there you have to fight your way out of a goblin infested tomb that somehow the fairy didn’t encounter when she made her way down to you, help a female knight kill some stuff (but then after you do, she just sits in your town, gives you a single quest that she doesn’t help with, and then never speaks again) and see the light of day once more. At this point you are subjected to the most linear hack and slash game you will ever encounter in your life. You have only the one city and the game has it sectioned off into districts, the gates of which will one per act with no plot continuity. At first you are told it’s because of the goblins in the tomb. Which makes no sense as they are living in the tomb and they don’t venture out. Then you are told it is because of a Bandit King. At least here the Bandit King actually comes into town to set up your fight against him. So on and so forth. The story is so agonizingly bad, that it attempts to explain why you can’t go into various areas just yet are shockingly lazy. On occasion you’ll get a note on the ground that simply says, “You can’t access this yet.” It seems Gameloft forgot that titles like Diablo and Dark Alliance were popular because of the story and characterizations, not just the mindless button mashing. Here the story is patently window dressing and it will easily annoy anyone that picks it up and wants a story to go with their RPG. Which you know, is NEARLY EVERYONE. Add on some of the worst writing and dialogue I’ve ever seen in an RPG, and you have a game that needs to be MST3K’d to even remotely salvage the adventures of your undead ruler (I named mine Stabby). Honestly, this is some of the worst writing and linear progression I’ve ever seen in a dungeon crawl. The only reason it’s not getting a “worthless” score is because at least there IS some sort of story going on, even if it is “Idiot king is resurrected to clean up his own mistakes.”
Story Rating: Dreadful
Dungeon Hunter: Alliance really doesn’t look like a PS3 game aside from the high definition coloration you’ll see from time to time. Otherwise monsters, backgrounds and characters alike look decidedly last generation. I can put in one of the Hunter: The Reckoning games, The Bard’s Tale remake or Dark Alliance 2 for my original Xbox and all have more texturing and detail than this game. Enemies have little detail to their forms, and that includes bosses. Things like the evil drider boss you’ll encounter in a spider-filled forest have no facial features, even though they are clearly meant to. Cannon fodder are discernable but only just barely. There’s just not a lot of detail here and nothing in the game ever looks GOOD. Sure the graphics are acceptable for a subpar hack and slash game, but at no point will you ever be impressed by what’s on your screen or find any of the visuals enjoyable. Now remember, this game started off as a cell phone series, so it’s understandable that the graphics are merely mediocre, but there are several other full length RPGs in the Playstation Store that you can pick up that are better in every possible way – especially in the graphics department. Just seeing your character on the start of screen with its cro-magnon facial features will be enough to convince you of that.
Graphics Rating: Mediocre
Most of the game’s sounds comes from the noise of weapons and/or magic striking down enemies. A lot of the sound effects blur together and there’s nothing very interesting or that sounds like the actual noises of swords hitting armour or the like, but at least there is a wide variety of noises going on. There is some voice acting but you’ll actually wish there wasn’t. It’s either the same few lines over and over again repeated with Ben Stein-esque delivery or obscure pop culture references like a child saying, “I attack the darkness” in whispered tones so that you’ll only hear it if you’re actively listening for it. Again, this game started off as a cell phone series, so it’s not like there was originally room for a full voice acting cast or money for people that could actually deliver lines properly, but since this is on the PS3 I can only be so forgiving. What’s here is passable. It’s not good by any means, but at least there is something.
The music in DH:A is pretty forgettable. None of the tracks are awful – they’re just elevator music quality. The game is very slow paced compared to a lot of hack and slash games, so one would think the music would make up for the drudgery with a speedy tempo to at least create the illusion that the game isn’t running at a snail’s pace. Instead the music is rather slow and somber, making the game feel even more plodding that it actually is. This is one of those times where the music of the game actually hurts the overall feel of the title.
Although what’s here would be fine for a cell phone game, Gameloft has released this as a PS3 title and we have to grade it accordingly. As such, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is definitely below the average for what you normally experience auditory-wise on the PS3.
Sound Rating: Below Average
4. Control and Gameplay
…and here’s where everything falls apart horribly. I haven’t played a hack and slash game that performed this poorly since the earliest days of the genre. Controls are sometimes unresponsive and other times you will experience noticeable lag between your button presses and what happens on screen. If you kill five or more enemies in a single shot, the game gets nails by a few seconds of severe slowdown. Your character will be end up stuck on invisible barriers that will cause them to be trapped and/or surrounded by mobs. Your distance attacks will stop in mid-air hitting other invisible barriers while enemy distance attacks go right through. Worst of all is aiming. This is because you can’t. The game aims for you. Sure, you can slightly influence where your attacks go, but the end decision on what your character attacks is completely up to the game…and the game is INSANE. Should your archer attacks the guy wielding two plays that is close to you, or the very slowly moving spider that is so far away it’s almost off screen. It will attack the character that is farther away, letting you take damage. Will your character attack the boss or a barrel? The game will also choose to attack a barrel over an actual enemy. It wouldn’t be that bad if you had more control over what you aim at, but since you don’t have a full 360 degree aim like you would in any other hack and slash RPG made in the past decade, you will sit there and grow increasingly annoyed with the lack of control that occurs whenever more than a single enemy is on the screen.
The overall pace of the game is fine, even while the controls are abominable. You just move your character through exceedingly long dungeons and cut down enemies as they appear. The left analog stick is used to move your character, the X button is to attack and the other shape buttons are used for your special skills. You can only have three skills set to buttons at a time, so if you have more active skills than this, you’ll have to decide which to use. You can have two different weapons equipped, and you use the R2 button to switch between them. Just expect lag when you do so. The L1 button lets you use potions and the you can also use your fairy every six second for a small area elemental effect. Much like the weapon shifting, there is noticeable lag here and sometimes the game won’t even register the button being pressed. Three joysticks and two PS3s says this is a fundamental flaw with the game.
Don’t get me wrong, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is playable. It’s just that the controls are unresponsive, laggy and downright horrible. Dungeons are excessively long and both you and your enemies move at a snail’s pace. You and the cannon fodder you encounter will often get stuck on invisible crap and the game is a fourth rate dungeon crawl compared to nearly everything else that is out there. If you are a forgiving gamer, you can definitely overcome most of the issue that plague this game from beginning to end, but there’s no denying this game needed a hell of a lot more time in quality control land before being released for purchase.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad
With three different character classes to choose from and the ability to have up to four gamers play in a co-operative fashion both locally and/or online, means that you can get a lot of mileage out of this game for the price point. Sure the game will stay exceedingly linear and it is one of the slowest action RPGs EVER, but playing with friends does improve the overall experience. That being said, the more people playing means that the slowdown that occasionally plagues this game will become increasingly frequent and this will be a dealbreaker for some people who specifically were thinking about purchasing Dungeon Hunter: Alliance for the multiplayer experience. Of course, that’s if you can get online at all considering there is a massive bug in co-operative play that prevents nearly everyone from entering each other’s games. Awesome job Gameloft.
There are also multiple difficulty levels, but you’ll have to beat the game and/or team up with friends to unlock them. If you can stomach the story and gameplay, along with the paint by numbers linearity of the game, you ARE getting a full length RPG for between ten and thirteen dollars with three slightly different characters to try out.
Replayability Rating: Above Average
The only real challenge in Dungeon Hunter: Alliance comes from dealing with the controls and gameplay itself. Slowdown, watching your character freeze up while enemies are still active, controls not responding and an inability to actually aim can and will get you killed. Oddly enough, the enemies – be they boss or rank and file grunts, present the least amount of trouble you’ll encounter in the game. There is little to no AI and all enemies will follow the same movement and attack patterns if you know how to trigger them. Here’s an example of how you can defeat ANYTHING with the rogue. First, take the exploding trap skill and max it out as high as you can with each level. You’ll end up doing over 300 points of damage per hit. When a horde of enemies appear, drop a trap in front of you (half the time the game will have your character turn around and drop the trap behind you, but this will still work), then run in a large circle. The enemies will end up following you and then you can trigger the trap (which has a large area of effect) whenever you want. Many enemies will die (Thus triggering slowdown, so be aware) and even bosses will take a ton of damage. Repeat until everything is dead.
As you ramp up the difficulty (either by selecting a higher setting after you beat the game or by playing the game with other players), all that happens is the number of enemies are increased. Which of course means you’ll encounter more and more slowdown. Which of course means that you’ll grow increasingly annoyed with the game. It’s a shame when the game’s biggest obstacle to overcome is the game itself rather than the gamer needing a modicum of skill. About the only time you’ll risk death is when your character gets trapped by the background itself.
Balance Rating: Bad
Let’s be honest – Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is completely and utterly bereft of originality and innovation. Every aspect of the game is cribbed from an older, better game and somehow DH:A manages to be both the latest dungeon crawl for consoles and yet one of the worst. From the handholding linear progression to the character classes, everything is a third or fourth rate version of something that has come before it. Gameloft didn’t even try to add something new to the mix here, unless you count support for Move controllers, which even they admit they just kind of threw together at the end. It’s just the most generic and dull hack and slash action RPG that I’ve played in years; maybe ever.
Originality Rating: Worthless
You know, I tend to love hack and slash RPGs. However, if the dungeons get far too long and the content just starts to repeat to the point where your eyes glaze over, I find it very hard to continue playing. This was the case for Dungeons and Dragons Heroes on the original Xbox and it is also the case with Dungeon Hunter: Alliance. The game’s utter lack of any real plot coupled with dungeons that were twice the length they needed to be made this game a chore from the get go. It also didn’t help that the “quests” felt like they were thrown together and tacked on to increase the length of the game. I was bored from beginning to end with this game. Bad controls, horrible aim and meandering dungeons all added up to a game I was glad to put down as soon as I could.
Addictiveness Rating: Bad
9. Appeal Factor
RPG fans are a strange lot sometimes. There will always be a few who defend a game no matter how god awful it is. I always say every game is someone’s favorite, and I’m sure that holds true with Dungeon Hunter: Alliance. As long as all you want is a real long time consuming dungeon hack where you mash a few buttons for hours upon hours, then you’ll be happy with DH:A. It’s between ten and thirteen dollars and it may be the worst action RPG I’ve played in many a year, but if you’re desperate to play anything that even remotely resembles Diablo, even a horrible version of it, DH:A might be worth picking up. The game is a smidgen better with friends, but only because then you are trading MST3K style quips about the third rate title you all purchased. Sometimes laughter hides tears.
If you love hack and slash games or you ever found yourself saying, “I really liked Untold Kingdoms but I wanted less plot, worse controls and longer levels,” you’ll probably enjoy this.
Appeal Factor: Bad
At the end of the day, paying ten dollars or so for a full length RPG, even a bad one, isn’t a horrible choice for the budget conscious. However, think of what else you can pick up for roughly the same price on PSN. Either Deathspank. That Vandal Hearts game that came out a few years ago. You can get both Penny Arcade Adventures for a whopping $3.98 (TOTAL) these days. There are definitely better choices out there, even if you’re on a budget. However, if length is your primary concern, then Dungeon Hunter: Alliance does win. It is also nice to have a game that supports multiplayer to this depth, even if it can make the game run even worse. It’s also nice to have three noticeably different classes and the ability to redo your specs for munchkin gaming, if that’s how you prefer to play. Yes, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance is probably the worst game I’ve played all year…but it does have some positives and I’d be remiss not to make sure you knew of them even while I beg you not to purchase it.
However, the fact this game launched with its primary selling point as a multiplayer action RPG and the game also launched with a crippling bug that prevented nearly everyone from being able to play online pretty much highlights the lack of quality and playtesting Dungeon Hunter: Alliance received. Even a console generation ago, a game would be crucified by gamers and reviewers alike for something like this (Remember Wrestlemania XXI anyone?) The fact something like this is shrugged off by a decent sized chunk of the gaming populace these days highlights how lazy companies have become and the shockingly low standards the gaming fandom as a whole has these days.
Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless
Sound: Below Average
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Bad
FINAL SCORE: BAD GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Dungeon Hunter: Alliance just might be the worst hack and slash and/or third rate Diablo clone I’ve ever played. From severely brain dead opponents to unresponsive controls and an outright asinine engine determining your aim with distance weapons, there is little positive to be said about this game. It IS playable, but beware of your character getting stuck on invisible barriers, severe slowdown occurs for brief moments if you kill five or more enemies at once, and a very long, very dull experience from beginning to end. Sure it may be less than ten dollars if you are a Playstation Plus member, but there are far better downloadable RPGS on the Playstation network to waste your money on.