Between dungeons, visit the friendly town blacksmith (center) and rapist (at right).
Trips to town precede and punctuate just about every run through a dungeon. Towns look a bit different than in Dungeon Fighter Online, as they’re now menu-based and no longer populated by other players. While those aspects are missed, the streamlined version makes finding NPCs and getting your business done a fairly quick process. Most NPCs sell a particular kind of item and can repair any equipment damaged in battle. Remembering to repair your stuff is paramount because weapons and armor lose all effectiveness when their durability points expire. NPCs also bestow quests, which consist of MMO mainstays like killing X number of enemies or finding Y number of items. Nothing too fancy, but they’re worth doing for both the rewards and to unlock new dungeons.
Having covered the meat of the game, let’s focus on the multiplayer. First, the good: Dungeon Fighter LIVE supports any combination of local and online players in 4-player co-op. You’ll face the same number of enemies no matter how large your party, so playing with a group definitely makes things easier. Completing dungeons in a local party offers an XP bonus, while online parties get an even bigger bonus. Everyone gets Achievements, even in local games.
Now we return to those awkward design decisions I mentioned earlier. DFL only contains three of the PC game’s six primary classes – presumably so that the others can be sold as DLC at a later date. Understandable given the XBLA game’s low price, but it’s strange to only offer three classes in a 4-player game. Full games will always have double of at least one class. Worse, you can’t even visually distinguish characters. It would be so easy to at least allow players to select their own color pallets as a form of personalization, but instead every player looks identical. I’ve actually been in online matches consisting of four Fighters or four Slayers, each one differentiated only by the colored triangle floating above everyone's heads. Heck, even the freemium PC game lets players buy visual customizations with real money. Why can’t LIVE do the same? (The only PDLC so far is Resurrection Stones, which function as extra lives during dungeons and are mandatory for completing the final level.)
Considering DFL’s online multiplayer focus, the online partying system is also inexplicably obtuse. When you set out to take on a dungeon, you can form a party either by inviting friends or matchmaking. The problem lies after completing the dungeon and returning to town. Every single time you go to town – necessary for a number of reasons, including repairing equipment – the party disbands. To play with the same group of people after you’ve done your business, you’ll have to invite them all over again. The need to constantly break up and reform the party makes what should be a simple process needlessly complicated and time-consuming. At the very least, you’ll want to keep everyone in an Xbox Live Party to coordinate the invite process.
Strange as it seems, local multiplayer fares much better since offline parties can return to town as a group. Whenever a player enters the menu, whether in a town or dungeon, everyone else does so as well. Each person gets their own quarter-screen menu, making it easy to equip your gear, etc. while the others do the same. Gameplay only resumes once everyone readies up. Local multiplayer would be just about ideal if not for one major annoyance: the item trading interface. Trading can only be done from the party screen right before entering an area and is far from intuitive. You can’t even move items between your own characters directly – that would necessitate trading the item to someone else and then coming back with another character to receive the item. A proper trade interface and/or bank system would have made the game a fair bit better.
Dungeon Fighter LIVE: The Fall of Hendon Myre is a good game that could have been a great one if only it had a better director or producer on hand to smooth out its kinks. The inability to keep online parties together between dungeons, customize character appearances, and trade items between characters are all such obvious oversights that anyone who’s played an online RPG before could spot in an instant. But don’t let these complaints scare you away from the game. DFL is a vast adventure that can easily provide 20 or more hours of action-RPG entertainment. Like any beat-em-up it particularly shines in local co-op. If you’re a fan of loot hunts like Phantasy Star Online and Diablo, you could easily find yourself addicted to DFL as well.
The Co-Op Experience: Team up to clear dungeons with any combination of four online or offline players. Oddly, items can only be traded between players online, while parties can only stay together between dungeons offline.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.