Dungeon Hunter stalks the platform with one of the best RPGs to date

Posted: September 17, 2009 in RPG

Gameloft has been one of the companies that consistently puts out good games for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. From platformers and shooters to sports and RPGs, Gameloft has provided gamers with a diverse selection. The latest entry is Dungeon Hunter, which is arguably one of the best looking RPGs to appear in the iTunes store. Aside from the amazing visuals, the game’s beauty is beyond skin deep with an in-depth RPG system, extensive story and side missions, and an epic storyline that is actually engaging.

The story follows the story of a prince brought back from the dead to take back the Kingdom of Gothicus by battling the evil that has overtaken the land. The prince treks across a vast world doing battle in a number of dungeons, while taking on a variety of equally dangerous side missions.

Visually, Dungeon Hunter is a work of art from the villages to the various dungeons. While the artwork is reminiscent of Hero of Sparta, which I considered to have the best visuals at the time of its release, make no mistake—this isn’t your father’s Hero of Sparta. As your character journeys through these places, there is a sense that you’re watching an animated movie from above because the backgrounds as so beautifully done and have visual depth with shadows, hues and tones that stand out. While this game mostly involves venturing through dungeons, catacombs and underground nooks and crannies, the visuals of forests and villages are really what caught my eye. This also applies to the enemies and the battle scenes all of which run smoothly on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0.

The game also includes the ability to interact with others, namely those who aren’t trying to kill you and illustrated with a round ring or for deeper interaction, an exclamation mark. To speak, a dialogue button appears which you tap to begin the interaction. Story and dialogue are presented in dialogue boxes at the bottom of the screen.

In the game, you can select from three different character classes and depending on which one you select, the range of abilities available will differ and alter your strategy. Fortunately, the game has 4 save slots so you can experiment to your heart’s content.

Warrior—can take on many opponents at once and can wear the best armor; strength is his skill
Rogue—agile and doesn’t require heavy armor; dexterity is his skill
Mage—uses magic, employing an energy shield for protection or to repulse enemies; his skill is energy

The game offers two types of controls:
Touch—touch wherever you want your character to go
Virtual Stick—joystick for movement

In general, both sets are passable, but could be more responsive. Of the two, the virtual stick makes it somewhat difficult to accurately move your character. The touch controls work fairly well, but take getting used to with some frustration thrown in.

In addition, there are several buttons to keep in mind:
Attack button—facilitates offensive and defensive moves
Fairy button—unleashes the selected fairy’s powers
Skill button—activates selected skill

In terms of RPG elements, there is a fair amount of depth, easily outpacing other games in the category for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. Your character’s RPG elements are accessible by tapping the character icon in the upper left corner in what I like to call the DH Nerve Center. From here, you can view character attributes, statistics for offensive, defensive and magic attacks, customize your character according to the four character aspects, equip your character, choose a specific fairy, and determine your current mission. And, alerts notify you of yet to be assigned skills or character points. For me, the DH Nerve Center is intuitively laid out and one of the more extensive on this platform. On occasion, I did have some difficulty with the buttons and weapons selection scroll downs which are a tad on the small side, but then again, there is plenty of content here.

As with any RPG game, wealth and experience matter. Points are accumulated by defeating enemies that raise your hero’s level while wealth (gold) is acquired by defeating enemies or opening treasure chests and barrels. With each level up, points and health are awarded that further build on your characters attributes, and enable you to unlock new skills. Points can be applied to character and skills based on your strategic preferences, and of course, enhancing existing skills generally take more points than simply unlocking new ones.

Character Attributes
Strength—ability to deal with melee damage and wear heavy armor
Dexterity—ability to hit enemies with melee damage; also determines ability to dodge melee and enemy attacks
Endurance—ability to resist melee attacks; increases health and ability to block
Energy—ability to manipulate the 5 elements; increases fairy’s spell strength, elemental resistance and total mana

In terms of skills, each class of character has 15 core skills—both active and passive and vary depending on the character—most of which are unlocked as you level up and where points can be added to boost. At any given time, you can have up to three concurrently active skills available. For example, as the Warrior, you can add points to core skills that impact damage inflicted on enemies or reduce damage that can be inflicted on you as well as enhance new weapons’ skills.

Aside from the typical RPG elements, your character also has a sidekick in the form of a fairy. There are 5 fairies to choose from which are gradually revealed as you progress through the game, each with special offensive and defensive powers. Attacks are activated by tapping the Fairy button, and there is a slight down time in between attacks as the fairy powers regenerate.

Celest—lightning
Wetty—water
Windy—hurricane winds
Rocky—stone hurling
Hotty—fire storm

In addition, equipment plays a significant part in Dungeon Hunter, and hundreds of items are available to equip your character and can be stored in your inventory. The number and types of weapons are significant and can be classified into three categories:
One-handed weapons
Two-handed weapons
Off-handed weapons

Each has magical properties based on color inflicting different levels of damage
White—no magical properties
Green—1 magical property
Blue—2 magical properties
Purple—3 magical properties
Gold—4 magical properties

In the Inventory section, gamers will have the option to specifically select different items for use or for those who aren’t particularly fussy, use the Auto-Equip function to automatically gear up your character for battle. One nice touch is that your character visibly changes with the additional and subtraction of items. From swords and armor to shields and robes, such items can be acquired by killing enemies, destroying barrels and treasure chests or via the town merchant. Speaking of the town merchant, items can also be purchased or sold with the town merchant at any time. A handy option is the transmute function where you can turn inventory items into gold from anywhere without having to travel back to the merchant. Of course, this comes at a significantly discounted rate.

Dungeon Hunter has an achievement system recognizing 50 different achievements including completion of certain quests, unlocking of new adventures and skills, and even acquiring new equipment. Unfortunately, these achievements can’t be viewed offline and is only accessible via Gameloft’s online scoreboard.

The gameplay in Dungeon Hunter is among the best you’ll see on the platform. This game has plenty of depth as you move through the various villages and dungeons. As you soon learn, going back to previously completed levels is a necessity in order to acquire additional loot and items to build up powers. And, battling the different legions of enemies is never the same since they become more difficult and stronger. Enemies come in a variety of different flavors including bandits and thieves, killer skeletons, and poisonous slime to name a few. One thing you’ll notice is that battles are not easy even early on as you take damage. A good tip is to purchase your maximum allotment of 12 health potions which work to boost health. Along the health bar is an indicator showing the number of potion available, and tapping it will recharge health. At the maximum allotment, you won’t be able to collect any more potions.

While the maps and enemy spawns are not randomized, many maps do have multiple paths to choose from, with booby traps and bigger gangs of enemies in some cases that you can choose to follow which lends to experimentation. The paths are varied so while one path may be laced with jutting spikes, another may offer the switch to clear out the other path.

Before completing a quest, a boss fight usually ensues. These bosses come in human and non-human forms with an individual health bar. Often what happens is you’re deceived into thinking that you’ve just killed the boss, when the reality is that there is another one waiting in the wings. The game has many side missions that you can choose to take on, and which are usually presented in your interactions with others. While these side missions can kill you, they are also useful for acquiring loot and a bigger reward upon completion.

From depth in RPG elements to the visually engaging, immersive gameplay, Dungeon Hunter delivers one of the best RPG games on the platform. While the game has a minor rough spots, Gameloft has created a solid and entertaining game that should only heat up the RPG arms race as devs try to outmatch each other. For now, Dungeon Hunter sets a high bar.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (strong RPG elements with a deep game that should tie over many for the time being; controls may be wonky for some, but content and top-notch graphics make this tough to pass up)

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