Back In Your Hand
It’s a twisty, looping path that Dungeon Hunter: Alliance has walked on its way to the Vita. What started out as a functional—if obvious—Diablo clone on the iPhone got a sequel on Playstation Network that has now been ported back to a mobile platform. Along the way it lost some Move functionality in exchange for a little touch-screen interactivity. Not that it makes much of a difference at this point.
When it first appeared on the Playstation Network, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance was already a dated game. Gameloft’s penchant for skirting the border of plagiarism is well known in the industry and Diablo is an obvious target since the fans of that particular franchise are starved for any action RPG experience that involves dungeon crawling and loot. Alliance, not having any competition to worry about from Torchlight on the PS3 carved a nice little niche for itself from the desperate, but it was by no means a stellar game. The graphics—particularly on an HD console—did the game no favors, the online play was iffy at best, and the game made the cardinal sin of having buggy, “floating” stats that changed at any given moment, nearly defeating the entire purpose of a loot-based game. Still, at $13, it was not an expensive pill to swallow, and PS3 owners really had nothing else like it to play until Dungeon Siege III dropped a few months later.
Now we get a slightly tweaked version of that same game on the Vita, and it’ll cost you $40 for the physical copy, $35 if you download it. And that’s the 800 lbs gorilla that is sitting in the room, pounding its chest so loud it’s making your teeth vibrate. A cheap, DLC game on the PS3 is now $40 on the Vita, and, barring the addition of touch controls, it is the exactly the same game content-wise. No extra areas, no new monsters, no new weapons, nothing. The $40 goes towards being able to pinch the screen to zoom in and out, and using the rear touch screen to move your fairy/special attack around the screen, instead of the much easier and far more efficient right analog stick. There’s also the addition of ad hoc multiplayer if you can find up to three additional friends with Vitas and this game to play with. Traditional online multiplayer is also included, but the big surprise is, it’s not cross-play compatible. Despite the fact Alliance has been available on the PS3 for over a year, Gameloft simply could not find a way to make a port of the PS3 version compatible with the original in online play.
This makes it a tricky game to recommend. Considering PS3 owners can play it on a big screen at a substantially reduced price, Ubisoft’s decision to make this a premium title on the Vita smacks of “You don’t have much choice in the Diablo-clone arena right now.” And they’re right. This is not an amazing game, but it’s not a particularly broken one either, and for fans of the loot-centric dungeon crawler, they really have no alternatives at the moment. If you’re one of those people that has a Vita and a desire to play a Diablo-style game that cannot be denied, you have no choice really; pony up the cash for this. For anyone else that’s not so desperate—particularly if you have a PS3—you’re better off passing on this Vita title and getting the cheaper version on your console. This is a game strictly for starving fans of the genre only. Everyone else can do better.