If you’re a fan of mobile RPGs, Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter series certainly hasn’t escaped your radar. Dungeon Hunter Champions, the latest installment of this renowned mobile franchise is a curious mash-up of different genres, from classic loot-driven action RPGs, through PvE, to MOBA games. Although RPG purists will undoubtedly interpret this tendency as an omen of increasingly bad times for the classic RPG genre (especially in the light of how much the franchise deviated from its dungeon crawling Diablo roots since the time of the first game), no one in the right mind could deny that this is a full-blooded AAA title.
For starters, the game boasts an addictive gameplay and multitude of different modes that tactfully endeavor to satisfy diverse gaming tastes and draw as many players as possible to its fold. Of course, as an invaluable aid to this ambition, serves an absolutely gorgeous visual identity that’s bound to appeal to the gaming crowds, with vibrant and colorful graphics that borrows liberally from titles such as Heroes of the Storm or Torchlight. To top it off, its gaudy character design is excellent, and thanks to details such as clothing, oversized weapons, bold hairdos and excessive quantity of various cute and fuzzy creatures, this game possess a distinct JRPG vibe, which it carries with ease and apparent pride. All things considered, Dungeon Hunter Champions reminds us of one of those legendary hybrid monsters made up of various animal parts such as gryphon, hippogriff or any of their less famous cousins – it’s not perhaps the most elegant of God’s creations, but it’s certainly quite imposing and will keep your attention for some time.
The first of many modes that Dungeon Hunter Champions has to offer is adventure mode. Basically, this is the single-player campaign that serves as an introduction to the game mechanics, as well as the background story for all your multiplayer activities. As you probably know from your experience with similar games, don’t expect a grandiose and epic storyline in the vein of Baldur’s Gate, because everything in the campaign will just be an overture for the multiplayer events.
The game is set in the world of Valora, where apparently the favorite entertainment comes in the form of fabled Eternal Contest, a competition of epic proportions where the best heroes in the land fight for…well no one really says what the grand prize is, but it undoubtedly involves riches and glory beyond all imagination. As a player, you take the role of Invoker, a being of divine power with the power to summon champions and draw them into the Eternal Contest. As such, you’ll be a silent omnipresence that will lead them on their path, control all their actions and fine-tune their abilities. You’ll start with just a couple of heroes, but will have the potential to recruit virtually hundreds in your service. At the beginning of the campaign, rumors of the corruption and discord spreading through the Valora will reach your divine ears, with a nasty side-effect of merging this and (apparently) all other existing realms of the multiverse. Initially, the likely suspect will be the infamous Baba Kruk, a Crow Hag with a particularly nauseating habit of rhyming in every sentence, but after you’ve defeated her you’ll realize that some much more potent force stands behind the corruption.
The single-player campaign has seven main parts, and every part (or map) is inventively represented as a classic game board. Each board has a winding path along which are placed various points of interest. They indicate scenarios, encounters, events or items, which successfully creates an impression that your champions are nothing more than pawns in some divine game. Levels are virtually pocket-sized and consist exclusively of groups of enemies that you have to vanquish in order to advance with the story, so you can expect that they’ll last exceptionally short, and although the level design is nice, it’s also very repetitive.
Now, don’t think that the shortcomings of the adventure mode and the main storyline will significantly influence the overall quality of the game – the goal of Dungeon Hunter Champions is to merge the classic ARPG and MOBA experience, and it’s obvious which of the two the developers are favoring. Combats are reduced to a true clickfest, interrupted only by an occasional tapping on the special abilities of your heroes. That being said, they possess a certain frantic appeal, and the strategies that you might expect for this type of the game will be mainly reserved for the leveling of your champions and combining them in functional teams.
However, that aspect of the game is done exceedingly well. Heroes have their attributes and special abilities and they also can equip different weapons that bring them bonuses (especially if they belong to a matching set). Leveling of the heroes is also pretty interesting because you’ll literarily consume lesser heroes in order to level up your favorite champions. Each hero also has the ability to ascend to a superior version of himself, but to do that, you’ll need a combination of various ascension elixirs that can be obtained only through challenging boss raids.
If you grow tired of your current crew, you can summon other champions, which you’ll mostly do by using various soul discs – different heroes can be summoned by appropriate types of discs. For instance, there are common, rare and legendary heroes and also matching types of discs, as well as elemental discs for various elemental heroes – you get the picture.
Finally, when you meet some requirements, i.e. finish certain parts of the campaign (which shouldn’t be particularly difficult considering the length of scenarios), you’ll unlock various multiplayer options, and that’s when the true fun will begin. You’ll get the opportunity to apply all that you’ve learned up to that point and go head to head with other players in the arena (classic PvP), 5 VS 5 (co-op MOBA mode), guild war and other diversions. If it’s not beneath you, you can buy items in the in-game shop and even enlist services of new heroes which will provide you with the additional edge in these multiplayer events. Those players in dire need of reliable backup can join some of the numerous available guilds and even create a guild of their own. That way you can directly communicate with like-minded players and enjoy other benefits, including an exclusive guild store where you can get items at a special price.
As a whole, Dungeon Hunter Champions is a title worthy of your attention, providing, of course, that you don’t expect too much of its single-player campaign. This is a game that’s obviously tailored for multiplayer gamers and their needs in mind and delivers great fun in that department. Although this isn’t a game that manages to reconcile different schools of RPG games, it is, nevertheless, an engaging title with an elaborate hero advancement system and few other original details that will make it worth your while if you give it a shot.