If only every daily grind were as entertaining as this. Leveraging the experience of countless hack 'n' slash games before it, Dungeon Hunter levels up iPhone role-playing with action-packed gameplay and gorgeous graphics. What it doesn't wield in originality, it equips in sheer fun.
The high fantasy realm of Gothicus has succumbed to the forces of darkness and it's your calling as the kingdom's reconstituted royal heir to restore peace. After an untimely death, you take the role of a resurrected prince charged with defeating his former lover who has infected the land with evil.
As one of three classes – Warrior, Rogue, or Mage (curiously, no ranged class) – you make your way from rural catacombs to the malevolent queen's castle beating her demonic minions along the way. You don't sojourn solo, though, as fairies accompany you on the quest as sidekicks that can be summoned for devastating magical attacks.
Trekking across the expanse of Gothicus means hacking enemies patrolling the cities, forests, and mountainsides. There's wonderful variety in the environments, complemented by an equally diverse bestiary. In pursuit of experience points, you face an array of interesting creatures from poisonous green slimes to rock monsters with magma flowing through their veins to skeleton knights.
Defeating these enemies can be challenging, though proper balancing avoids the need for level grinding. Creatures are strong enough to present a threat, though never overwhelming.
It helps that experience goes far in pumping up your character to confront even stronger foes waiting in the next dungeon. With each new level you're able to boost any of four core attributes, as well as unlock new abilities and upgrade existing ones using skill points.
Naturally, available skills vary among the three classes with Warriors focusing on abilities central to direct combat, Rogues on agility, and Mages magic. Not only does this ensure each classes feels distinct, it also provides incentive to run through the adventure a second or third time.
Admittedly basic, character development surprisingly never feels constrained. There's always something new to earn or interesting to unlock, which makes every level rewarding.
Tons of loot also only furthers customisation, enabling you to outfit your hero with nine different pieces of equipment. Special pieces come with attribute-boosting enchantments, though these are found or purchased like regular equipment. It would have been great to see an optional item crafting system for added depth.
More compulsory is the need for improvement to the controls. While Dungeon Hunter wisely offers options, control over movement is an issue. The game provides virtual analogue stick or tap to move schemes, the former preferable though imperfect. You're regularly moved an extra step or positioned at a slightly off angle that puts your hero at a disadvantage in combat. It's not a game killer because you're able to adjust, but any undue impact on your ability to move precisely during battle is undesirable.
Also of concern is the save system. Automatic back-up ensures that your character's progress is preserved, although you're unable to save manually within a dungeon. Exiting the game in the middle of a level means later resuming play at the dungeon's entrance. This makes Dungeon Hunter difficult to play in short sessions since you're unable to really stop playing and pick up where you left off.
To a degree, it's not much of a problem because Dungeon Hunter is fun enough that you won't want to set it down. Great graphics, satisfying character customisation, and loads of variety – this is as good as hack 'n' slash role-playing gets.