Dungeons are quite popular these days. Whether being sieged, defended, hunted, or dragoned; dungeons are, as the kids say, "Where it's at." What's that? No one says that? Fine. Be that way. In any event, it's hard to stand out from the pack by simply adding "hunter" or "alliance" to the word "dungeon." Luckily for Dungeon Hunter: Alliance, it separates itself from other similar titles by offering an abundance of co-op options and good old-fashioned isometric hack-and-slash action.
You play as a resurrected king who must save the kingdom of Gothicus, which has (surprise) fallen into ruin. Fairies are involved. The re-animated king must rescue trapped fairies and prevent the return of the Dark Queen. As awesome as the fairy story is, you can skip all of this nonsense with the triangle button. For those of you who must know why you're hacking and slashing, the story is perfectly serviceable.
The gameplay is made up of old-school D&D style goodness. Choose between the warrior, mage, and rogue classes and off you go. You earn experience and loot by killing baddies. Each level up gives you points to spread amongst attributes and skills, both active and passive. Special attacks and buffs can be mapped to different face buttons for easy use. I wish there was a zoom function or camera control, but alas, there are neither. The biggest let-down to the lack of a zoom function is that you can't see how cool your character looks other than at the character select screen. The best part about the lack of a zoom function is that you can't see how dated the graphics look. We're talking last gen, people. For a game like this, it doesn't really matter, but the models are less than impressive. On the plus side, animations are smooth and I didn't notice any slow-down when playing with four players.
You can count the polygons on that giant skull. All five of them.
There are some minor technical glitches. Sometimes when you're standing next to a destructible barrel you will repeatedly miss, or not swing your weapon at all. I haven't noticed this in combat yet, but it can be very frustrating when you have to take a half dozen swings at a barrel just to find the right angle to break it. Maybe barrels have really high armor classes in Gothicus. The biggest flaws I found within the game are the load times. They were so bad that I downloaded a stop-watch app in the time it took to get to the Main Menu. Then I reset the game and timed it. It took two minutes and twenty-five seconds to get from the PlayStation 3 dashboard to actually playing. Locally. To be fair, the initial start up is the biggest offender. Whenever you transition from one area to another you're looking a thirty second load screen, minimum. It's manageable, but time consuming.
Teleporters like these will keep you from pulling your hair out.
Dungeon Hunter: Alliance also supports the PlayStation Move. Chief Puleo tried it out and this is what he had to say: "Basically the Move acts as a mouse cursor, with a big arrow on the screen showing the direction it's pointing. Holding the trigger has your character follow it and the Move button is your primary attack. This combo makes it a bit uncomfortable to move and attack at the same time. Alternatively you can 'waggle' the controller to interact or attack, but really you're wrist is going to get tired pretty quickly unless you've had a lot of practice. Overall the controls work, but I didn't find them ideal, I'd much rather just use a controller."
The co-op is awesome. There, I said it. This is how co-op should work in dungeon crawlers. I, with the help of Jason, Nick, and my wife, put Dungeon Hunter: Alliance through it's co-op paces. You can play with four people locally. You can play with four people online. You can play with any combination of the two. Nick could host a game, then invite Jason and I to join. My wife only had to push start on the controller and she was right there with us. The host can manage players, choosing to leave the empty player slots public or private. The host can also kick idle players. The only drawback I found was that even online, everyone shares a screen.
You can get the Mage's Ice Beam early, and it is mighty.
You can play with your character both locally or online. All loot and gold you pick up stays with your character. Loot is dropped in a round robin selection. Each character is designated by either blue, red, green, or yellow. When loot drops it can only be picked up by a player assigned the same color. The drops aren't class based, so your super strong warrior may get a bow that is useless to him. That's okay, just ask the rogue to trade whatever two handed weapons he may have in the inventory. The game scales both enemy difficulty and loot to the number of players accordingly.
Quest progression is handled simply enough. If you join a game that is in the same Act as yours, you get quest credit for whatever you accomplish. If you join a game that is at an earlier part of the game, you'll earn quest progress once that game catches up with your own game. If you join a game that is beyond your story progression, you don't advance your own story. When you return to your game, your story will be right where you left it. You will keep all your loot, gold, and XP, no matter what game you join. Dungeon Hunter Alliance has an fantastic "Help" menu that explains all of this thoroughly.
I'm well aware of the difficulty gamers are having joining friends game. The "spam the 'x' button technique" worked easily for us, and I have the reflexes of middle-aged recovering alcoholic. It's an easy solution, so I won't slight the game for it... much.
With 12 Acts, a level cap of 75, great co-op, and a $12.99 price tag, ($9.74 for PlayStation Plus members) this game is a great little PSN Diablo clone. Dungeon Hunter: Alliance will scratch your dungeon-crawling/co-op itch.