Gameloft is one of the pioneering Android game development/publishing houses in the world who have, over the past couple of years, put out a number of memorable high-production-value titles that have raised the bar for games on the platform. With the latest iteration of their popular franchise Dungeon Hunter, the company brings refined gameplay, picturesque environments and a ton of RPG fun to the table that’s sure to enthrall fans of the genre.
Unfortunately, Gameloft‘s releases are also known for in-app purchases, and in the case of DH4, these are more mandatory than optional if you want to stay alive for more than a few minutes. On the other hand, this game offers an experience that’s certainly worth more than the price of free. I decided to spend a few dollars, stick around and find out what all the noise was all about.
A Dungeon Crawler’s Life
If you’ve never played an RPG before, here’s the low-down: you’ll explore vast environments, go on quests and side missions, talk to scores of NPCs to get information, score loot, slay hordes of enemies, and be the hero you always wanted to be. DH4 doesn’t reinvent the wheel here: there’s a basic storyline that describes how you find your kingdom of Valenthia overtaken by The Demons, and remain the sole hope to save your people. Typical fare indeed, but hey, at least now you know who and what’re you’re fighting for.
You can choose to begin your journey with one of four classes of characters to play as, based on your preferred fighting style: the Battleworn deals close-range damage with a broadsword, while the Blademaster prefers to use dual blades for melee combat; the Warmage dishes out magical attacks from afar and the Sentinel wields deadly long-range combat weapons. You can choose either gender for each of these as well. Choose wisely, as the character you choose is the one you’re stuck with till you complete the game.
Dungeon Hunter 4 features gorgeous graphics, with lush environments ranging from dank dungeons to bustling markets to picturesque forests and richly detailed and varied characters. A major part of your progress depends on how you manage your inventory; both the inventory and the shop (which can be accessed at any time) take some getting used to, but eventually become fun to explore as you upgrade your way to becoming a merciless killing machine. In-game music, sound and voice acting are all well excuted, and keep you sufficiently engaged as you go along.
As with most RPGs, DH4 utilizes a top-down view into the game world, and you can move around using the left virtual stick and attack using the buttons on the right. There’s essentially one main attack that you can employ, with a few special attacks that you can invoke when you have enough manna: the Blademaster, for example, can slash through his enemies with two charged attacks or invoke fire to rain from the heavens upon his enemies.
All the hacking and slashing in DH4, coupled with exploration (don’t forget to smash every environmental object possible, there’s gold to be found) and completing quests, is pretty satisfying. RPG fans will appreciate the vast array of weapons, armor, charms and upgrades that are available through the game; there’s even a Crafting menu for when you have enough minerals to have special high-damage weapons made for you.
There aren’t any puzzles to be solved in DH4, but most quests will require you to keep an eye on where you’re going and follow the map. If you’re happy to take your time with this one, explore as much as you can to find side missions and gold scattered throughout Valenthia. You can also play certain missions with friends in multiplayer mode. It’s all pretty enjoyable except for one thing…
The Dreaded In-App Purchase Curse
No surprise here: DH4 is riddled with ploys to get you to spend real money to play this game. While that’s usually not a big deal, the vice-like grip that the commerce aspect has on the game squeezes the life and fun out of DH4, making it a pain to play over time. Very early on, you’ll arrive at a scenario where you can’t get past a particularly large horde of enemies without shelling out real money for gems to buy health potions with — and sadly, gems can’t be found in levels like gold, but rather must be bought or earned slowly.
Gems are also necessary to speed up processes like weapon upgrades, and can’t be substituted with gold (of which there is plenty across Valenthia). Plus, you can only make certain purchases with gold, and those are usually low-end items that deal or take minimal damage. Picking up where you died will cost you 50 gems. During one playthrough, I spent $8 just to reach the Goblin Tunnels level, which isn’t very far in, and is impossible to finish without further upgrades.
While I certainly don’t want to begrudge developers their right to make money off their hard work, DH4’s purchase system is too demanding on players’ wallets and has too much control over players’ experience of the game. Ideally, a player should be able to experience a freemium game in its entirety without having to spend a dime, but have the opportunity to enhance his/her experience by paying for what they need. Sadly, DH4 doesn’t play by my rules.
Dungeon Hunter 4 is very well crafted and has the potential to be a ton of fun, but unfortunately most players may not stick around to share that opinion. The in-app purchases lead to more purchases, and the cycle doesn’t seem to end at any point. I’d have been happier paying anywhere between $5 and $10 for a game like this upfront so I could enjoy rambling about and saving Valenthia without scenarios set up to force me to spend more. Enter these dungeons only if you’re heavy of wallet — or obsessed with goblins and wizards.
*NPC: non-playing character