Dungeon Hunter 4 review - Gameloft releases version 4 of its action packed arcade RPG
Dungeon Hunter 4 makes a welcome return to the hack and slash RPG series. You scurry around dungeons; fight hordes of enemies and upgrade your character.
Along the way you’ll loot treasure, discover new weapons and armour. Dungeon Hunter 4 is a solid, if unoriginal, game (it’s in its fourth incarnation so it must be doing something right).
First of all the mechanics: Dungeon Hunter 4 is a good game, but one that suffers from virtual on-screen controls. For a while now we’ve felt that the best iOS games (Angry Birds, Cut The Rope, Tunnel Run, and so on) have all eschewed recreating traditional controls. It’s an old complaint but as time goes on and more games fit into the newer category, we’re having less sympathy for those in the older category. We have Xbox and PS3 for games that require gamepads, and iPhones and iPads for games that utilise touchscreen and accelerometer-based input. Each is best at what it does.
That out of the way, Dungeon Hunter 4 is a good action RPG game. It’s has neat visuals, large levels and all of the role-playing elements from earlier games have been enhanced. The gameplay itself is still ‘run and bash’ but the upgrade system is a fair bit more complicated than before: there’s quite a lot you can do to weapons, armour, and magic in this game.
But Dungeon Hunter 4 introduces Gameloft’s new Freemium model of gaming, whereby you get the game for free but your upgrade ability is time restricted. You can upgrade weapons and armour, and buy new weapons and armour but these take time to build. You spend your acquired loot to skip this time, but if you’ve run out of cash then you have to either purchase in-app credits or aquire them by watching adverts, installing other games or signing up for online services.
As another incentive pay or wait, you can carry up to three health packs and you get an extra health pack every two hours. Unless you pay for one.
As we mentioned in our Iron Man 3 review whether you like this idea or not depends on whether you have cash to spend or would rather buy a game outright. It certainly seems like the way forward for the games industry, particularly the mobile gaming industry, which is struggling to get customers to pay enough money for apps to support the development of visually complex games like these.
In some respects this Freemium model seems ideally suited to the RPG genre, with its natural built-in upgrade mechanism. However, in Dungeon Hunter 4 there is a definite point where you get stuck and either have to go back to earlier levels to grind up, or start spending your money (or start watching video ads). We found that this grated and this brick wall stopped us from playing. We also weren’t comfortable paying to progress in the knowledge that at some point we’d hit another gaming wall and have to pay again.
Dungeon Hunter 2 (£3.99) was the last Dungeon Hunter game that was purchase-and-play, and we played it for a long time. Much longer than Dungeon Hunter 3 or 4 with their Freemium models, so this system clearly isn’t working for in this style of game. The drop in score from Dungeon Hunter 2 to Dungeon Hunter 4 is partly due to the on-screen mechanic feeling increasingly outdated, and partly due to the Freemium business model.
Many online reviews are focussing on the Freemium model and how badly it works, although we think it can work well in balancing your personal ‘grinding’ time with your ability to watch adverts or your ability to pay. We think it’s a good model for the industry. But it clearly suits some games better than others, and we don’t think it fits this game as well as Iron Man 3.
Dungeon Hunter isn’t a good enough game for us to overlook the Freemium business model.
Dungeon Hunter 4 is free to buy, so it costs nothing but your time. But your time will be spent watching a lot of adverts, either for in-game upgrades that you’re encourage to purchase, or external games or services.