Earlier this week I reviewed a port of Asphalt Injection for the Vita and wasn’t very impressed, especially given the price. Lately I have been playing Dungeon Hunter Alliance (DHA) which is also a port from the iOS. Inherently, DHA is a deeper and more satisfying game, and that sentiment holds true in terms of how the two games stack up, value-wise.
Don’t get me wrong, DHA is still very expensive, especially compared to other versions that are already available (even on the PS3). That important point aside, however, it’s a decent game that is best played with friends. DHA supports online play, allowing anyone to Host and Join games based on certain criteria. You can also play via local ad hoc wireless. For the most part, I have played online, but I have had a significant number of connection issues that are dropping me out of games.
I’m mentioning multiplayer so early in this review because when I think about this game, it’s one of the first things I think about. My first couple of hours with DHA were single player, and, while it was okay, the repetition (to be expected in a dungeon crawler I suppose), was becoming a major issue. I fired up an online game and found myself largely refreshed, even though I was replaying one of the first dungeons. These types of games are really best played with others. Quick tangent, one of my favorite games on the Xbox was D&D Heroes. I tried playing it single player, once. It became stale and grinding; partner up with a friend though, and a dozen hours later we were still enjoying ourselves. That’s my takeaway with DHA, too, although not to that scale. Single player is a tough sell; but if you can find some friends to co-op with, it’s a much better game. Not the best co-op dungeon crawling experience by any means, but a competent and enjoyable one.
DHA has a basic story with a decent hook. Players begin by selecting a character name and type — warrior, mage, rogue — and off you go. You cannot customize your appearance, which isn’t too surprising given the small size of the game. Anyway, a fairy wakes you from the dead. Apparently, you were a king twenty-five years ago, and murdered by your wife no less. Some sort of evil consumed her and after dispatching you, she’s gone on to do a lot of other bad things, like letting the towns become overrun with human-eating goblins. The people are hurting, she’s abandoned them, and it’s up to you to restore peace to the kingdom.
Gameplay is textbook dungeon crawling — isometric perspective, tons of gold and other loot to nab, lots of enemies to bash on with melee, ranged, and magic attacks, XP and leveling, and plenty of buying and selling with vendors. It’s all very typical and uninspired, but not every game needs to bring something new to the table.
Vita controls allow you to zoom in and out, although unlike Rayman Origins, there’s no reason to zoom in here to take in the visuals. Graphically, DHA is not a very good looking game. There are some pretty spectacle-type moments where there’s a flurry of color and action on screen, but environment and character details are lacking in spades, especially for a Vita game. Framerates also stutter at fairly regular intervals, too (in both single and multiplayer), and load times are surprisingly long.
Getting back to controls, in addition to multi-touch zoom in/out, you can tap the player HUD icon in the upper left to bring up your character window. From here, you can check inventory, swap equipment, spend attribute points, review the quest log, and so on. Double tapping the front screen unleashes the fairy power. There are several fairies, six I believe, with powers including fire, lightning, and ice. The most interesting Vita control is the ability to use the rear touchpad to guide the fairy. You can also use the right stick (given that the camera angle is fixed), and at times I did, but being able use the rear touchpad to guide the fairy is a good feature.
There are surely better dungeon crawlers in the works for the Vita as we speak, and ones that won’t put players in the awkward economic scenario that DHA presents: pay a lot for a mediocre game that’s been available on other platforms for a long time at far lower prices, or shell out a lot of money for dungeon crawling on the Vita now. The choice is pretty clear.