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The Dungeon Hunter series from Gameloft has a sordid and controversial history, and it's about to get worse. The first two games, while not paragons of the dungeon crawling genre, were well made and fun to play. Then, Dungeon Hunter 3 came along and introduced freemium elements alongside a more fast paced twin stick combat style in what was essentially Gun Bros. in a Diablo type setting. Now, with Dungeon Hunter 4 we're back to a fully fledged game with a plot, decent voice acting, and all the rest, but the freemium elements have been ratcheted up to a comical degree.
After choosing from one of four distinct classes with unique play styles, you're thrust into a battlefield full of demonic hordes that aren't going to cut themselves down! You quickly set off to enter the burning castle of your kingdom and discover the fate of the King and council before setting off to rid the world of these demons. As a high profile warrior in this world, you are looked up to as a leader and inspiration, and there is a lot of dialogue that is surprisingly well voice acted.
Combat is as solid as it was in Dungeon Hunter 3, fast-paced with plenty of abilities to make use of. The game starts out as fairly easy, but soon the difficulty really takes a leap or two, and you might find yourself struggling . Especially once you run out of potions, since you can't buy and use potions normally, but get free ones every couple hours. But you can buy extra potions with the freemium currency! Upgrading equipment and crafting items also takes up a lot of resources and takes some time, but you can instantly upgrade things with the freemium currency! Also, the general loot drops in the world are very disappointing, and after picking up the same bracers for literally the 9th time and selling them, you'll learn that most equipment in the shop is crazy overpriced. But you can buy those items with the freemium--I think you get the picture.
While the game is not impossible to play without buying any freemium gems, it's much more of a grind, and way less satisfying. It just really stings, because there is clearly a great game under the surface here. The graphics are gorgeous, the exploration elements and dungeon crawling are deep, and a lot of developers put a lot of hard work into this game, and I appreciate that. I can see why there are so many people who are apathetic or apologetic for all the gem and timer nonsense.
Aside from some accidental button pushes due to playing on a small screen and bouts of lag on an iPhone 4 and below, this is a polished and tight game. There are even cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes alongside all the other bells and whistles, but it's hard to acknowledge any of that when the freemium elements are some of the worst we've yet seen, which is an impressive feat in its own right. Everything from the loading screens to your own inventory is used to advertise sweet loot that should be randomly dropped in the world. Dungeon Hunter 4 is worth checking out for an hour or two, but don’t stick with it.
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