PAX South Sneak Peek: Dungeon Hunter 5

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Some of the best experiences at PAX South were the ones I was not expecting. Such was the case with my hands-on demo of Dungeon Hunter 5 by Gameloft. As much as I’d love to dive right into the details of the game and my initial impressions, I think the story leading up to the demo really helps frame why you should definitely check it out.

The Reunion

So there we were at the Saints Row 4 party sponsored by Lootcrate. The full Everyday Gamers crew was mingling with our independent gaming podcast family from Open Forum Radio, Press A To Listen, and The Daily Crate. Everyone was having a good time, when all of a sudden I hear Blue (@lasberry) of Open Forum Radio / Prove Your Point fame shout, “MANDY!” And lo-and-behold it was none other than Mandy Paez (@ladyluck34), former co-host of the Gamertag Radio podcast (recently featured on the front page of iTunes). Being the podcast connoisseur that I am, and having had previous Twitter conversations with Mandy and the GTR folks, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to introduce myself and see how her new digs as PR for Gameloft were working out. We chatted for a bit, and Mandy extended the invitation to Open Forum Radio and Everyday Gamers to come check out Gameloft’s latest build of Dungeon Hunter 5 the following day in the PAX South convention hall.

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The Interview

Saturday, after battling scheduling conflicts and atrocious wireless coverage, the Open Forum Radio crew and I (EDG) met up with Mandy in a (surprisingly) quiet sunlit hallway of the convention center. We got the overview of Dungeon Hunter 5 and its mechanics, and then Mandy asked who would like to get hands on with the game. Those of you who know how I ended up on the Everyday Gamers podcast will not be surprised that I jumped at the opportunity to be the anointed tester (I may have even said that I was really good at mobile games… tongue in cheek, of course!)

Dungeon Hunter 5, for the unfamiliar, is an isometric brawler akin to games like Diablo and Torchlight, with several unique evolutions to complement its mobile platform. As the game loaded, Mandy explained the various upgrade mechanics of DH5 such as how not only does your character level up with experience, but the loot you collect can also be leveled up. I chose my character–a rogue-like dual sword-wielding menace (pictured above)–and set out on my adventure. Right out of the gate, the graphics impressed. It was not long until I was receiving a quest on which to embark. While I expected a game of this type to have the typical text-based dialogue, I was further awed by the variety and quality of voice acting from the NPCs with whom I was conversing. That obviously led to the question of how large the file size of the game would be. While the build I was playing was a demo build and not the final product, we did learn to expect something in the ballpark of 1.5 Gb (my estimation, not Gameloft’s). While that size is not uncommon for a game of this magnitude, I did want to mention it, as file size is a big deciding factor for some.

The controls were easy to grasp, with a virtual left thumbstick for movement and virtual action buttons on the right for attacking, dodging, health potions, and magic. Other than forgetting to use a health potion once or twice, I never found myself fumbling for the right button, and the movement “stick” centers on your thumb when you touch the screen (which is huge if you’ve ever played games with static virtual thumbsticks). I vanquished my enemies and fought a mini-boss or two, completing the demo level. That alone sold the game for me, but there was more.

After finishing the first level, we were introduced to the upgrade options, for which I won’t go too far into detail. There is a rock-paper-scissors weapon system, except in Dungeon Hunter 5, it’s more like fire>nature>death>light>water>fire, with each element having its own distinct advantages. It quickly dawned on us how deep this system can be; not only could your hero/heroin have a certain fighting style, but you could also outfit them (literally) with armor and weapons with unique characteristics; further, unlike many games with a “put on new shiny better thing”, DH5 allows you to upgrade and combine existing inventory items via “evolutions” and “fusions” (so if you have that sweet-looking sword you don’t want to junk, you can just upgrade it).

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The Verdict

We were asking questions throughout the demo, but one of the most important was one on everyone’s mind. How much? We’ve seen games of this nature retail at the $7-15 price point, easily. Mandy then dropped the news on us that the full game is absolutely free. Free, y’all. As if I wasn’t sold already, this news sealed the deal; heck, I’ll clear some space off my tablet if I have to. As one would expect, there will be several options for various microtransactions to acquire some of the game’s currencies or assets, but as I understand it, they are not of the pay-to-win or pay-to-not-have-a-gimped-experience variety (y’all know what I’m talking about).

I’ll update this article with additional information as I receive it (gameplay trailer, release date, etc), but in closing, I really enjoyed my experience with Dungeon Hunter 5 at PAX South. Granted, a huge huge part of that was that “one of us” had made it from independent podcasting/journalism to a job in the industry we love, but it’s experiences like these that validate our efforts at Everyday Gamers and drive us to continue to do what we do. Keep listening to the Everyday Gamers podcast to get more DH5 impressions once I get my hands on the final build.