In the latest installment of Gameloft's Dungeon Hunter series of Diablo clones, the most effective means of healing your character mid-battle is paying for it. Screw that.
The Dungeon Hunter series starter off as one of the best dungeon crawling action role-playing franchises available on mobile platforms. The first game changed my idea of what a mobile game could be, and the second installment improved significantly upon the first.
The free-to-play Dungeon Hunter 3 was a disappointment to fans of the previous two games, replacing the Diablo-inspired story and exploration with a series of arena battles. It also introduced the ability to pay for items and skills via currency purchased with real money. The first two games were self-contained, pay once and you're done experiences. The third was a drastic change.
And the fourth?
That's a loading screen. It's also an ad. Everywhere you turn in Dungeon Hunter 4 you're assaulted by opportunities to spend cash-bought gems on items and equipment. Your inventory screen is filled with items that aren't in your inventory but can be, for the right price. Hub cities feature NPC shopkeepers, but they're merely set dressing, as every shop is easily accessible from the menu — why place an extra barrier between the player and their money?
Skills and skill slots can be purchased and unlocked way before the level they'd automatically unlock at. With a large amount of cash, a level one player could buy all of the powers and equipment of a player that's invested weeks of their time, assuming the constant advertising doesn't see the game wiped from their device within hours.
Healing is the absolute worst. The player is given three healing potions a day. Monsters do not drop them. There are no Diablo-like health globes to collect. There are skills that will facilitate healing on a smaller scale and health slowly regenerates over time, but for the most part your healing options, once those three potions are gone, are buy (20 gems apiece, with 200 gems running $1.99) or die. Or just stop playing and never have to worry about it.
The disgusting in-app purchase model takes me right out of what otherwise would be an incredibly sold mobile action role-playing game. Gameloft has brought story (demons are invading, go kill them) and exploration back to the franchise with Dungeon Hunter 4, cleverly weaving in arena combat areas to appease the fans of the previous game. The combat is solid (though I'd love to swap the on-screen controls for a game pad).
Multiplayer co-op could benefit from the ability to revive your teammates (but then who would buy potions?). Player-versus-player combat is laggy and way unbalanced in favor of the game's archer and magic-using ranged classes, and since players can pay for everything regardless of level, running into overpowered foes will be a common problem for players who figured free-to-play meant free-to-win.
Ultimately the lush visuals, competent combat and return to the glory days of following a plot are completely undermined by the obnoxious money grab. If there were a version of Dungeon Hunter 4 I could spend $10 on and just play as a normal, premium title, I'd be in heaven right now. Instead I wait on timers and ponder removing the game from my iPad.
We need to stop encouraging this sort of system, before free-to-play mobile gaming goes completely to hell.
Dungeon Hunter 4
- Genre:Action RPG
- Developer: Gameloft
- Platform: iOS, Android (coming soon)
- Price: Free