First Impressions Of Dungeon Hunter 5 The Next Big Mobile ActionRPG From Gameloft

During my recent trip to PAX South, I had the pleasure of meeting up with some fine folks from Gameloft and playing their current tablet build of Dungeon Hunter 5. The latest in the popular action-RPG series, Dungeon Hunter 5 promises better graphics, an improved system, and much more. It will be coming to Windows Phone, Windows 8, Android, and iOS later this year.

Since playing Dungeon Hunter 5 I’ve been dying to tell you more about it, and at last I’m free to do just that. Read on for my impressions, an in-depth look at some of the new systems and improvements it, and an update on potential Xbox Live features!

Multiple types of missions and goals
Dungeon Hunter 5 will feature an epic campaign, not unlike Dungeon Hunter 4. I played through an early portion of the campaign on a tablet and was quite impressed with the scale that Gameloft has achieved in the new game.

After creating your own unique character (I chose an archer), you’re thrust right into the thick of things during a demonic invasion. An evil force has wrecked the local castle, creating an impressive sense of destruction.

Gameloft touts the increased environmental detail in this game. The environments really do look better and feel larger, with tons of detail not just at ground level but in walls, archways, and other structures. The level I played had a sense of verticality to it that you might not expect from a dungeon crawler.

Daily dungeons and weekly events
Every day of the week offers a different type of dungeon. Each daily dungeon type offers different Evo Materials as rewards. Provided these dungeons don’t get too repetitive, I can see at least running through the dailies even when my time is limited.

In addition to daily dungeons, Gameloft plans weekly events for players to join. Whether these are specific levels or just optional objectives and goals associated with the campaign and other missions, we’re not sure yet.

Naturally, each event will have a leaderboard. Players will earn prizes based on their leaderboard rank, not unlike the time-based events in World at Arms.

In addition to single-player campaign and missions, Dungeon Hunter 5 supports both ascyncronous cooperative play and competitive play.

Since co-op seems to be strictly asynchronous (not real-time), you’ll want to build up a friends list with which to recruit partners for missions. Most free to play games with asynchronous social mechanics only let you call on a friend’s help once per day, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that applies to Dungeon Hunter 5 as well.

When you take a friend’s character along during campaign missions, both players will receive Bounty Tickets. Presumably Bounty Tickets can only be earned through co-op. These can be used to open Bounty Chests that contain unique rewards.

Strongholds and raiding
The all-new stronghold system basically brings Clash of Clans-style PvP raiding to the normally cooperative-focused Diablo-style action-RPGs.

Each player can create his or her own dungeon, placing minions and traps to defend it. Your minions will generate gold (likely based on defeating invading players) that you can spend on further defenses. You’ll also be able to purchase shields for your stronghold, which will almost certainly cost premium currency. place minions, collect gold the minions generate, and optionally purchase shields for the stronghold

Raiding other players’ strongholds asynchronously works like Cloud Raiders and similar games, except you’ll directly control your character and fight through it like a dungeon. The final portion of a raid ends with you battling an AI version of the player who created the stronghold.

Players might be able to choose between several targets to raid rather than just being thrown into a specific match. By successfully raiding someone’s stronghold, you’ll earn rewards like gold, Quartz (premium currency?), and League Points.

All the loot
Seeing as how the Dungeon Hunter series is essentially Gameloft’s take on Diablo, “loot” (weapons, armor, and other items) plays a huge role in the game. Players will earn loots as they progress through the campaign itself, join in online co-op, participate in various events, and raid other players’ strongholds.

Gameloft has greatly expanded Dungeon Hunter 5’s loot system. Each weapon and armor can be leveled up to increase it stats, and they’ll often have elemental strengths and weaknesses as well. But the really big change comes from item fusion/evolution.

Gear fusion and super fusions
Players always tend to outgrow their equipment in games like this; it’s the nature of the beast. But you can keep using weapons and armor a lot longer in Dungeon Hunter 5 thanks to the gear fusion system.

Fusing your gear together requires items that are already at max level, plus fusion resources called Evo Materials ((earned from Daily Dungeons). It will probably take a little time to complete fusions as well. Every piece of gear has a tier (depicted as a number of stars) indicating both its rarity and max level. The higher the tier and level, the higher its stats can go.

Combining four items of the same type will add fusion points to the resulting item. Fusion points are separate from the item’s tier and level. These points increase the power of the item, such as greatly boosting a sword’s attack power. Fusion points can also be transferred to other items of the same type.

Improved monetization
Although Dungeon Hunter 4 was a large and well-made free to play game, it suffered from an overabundance of in-app purchase hooks.

Free games with in-app purchases are by far the most popular type of mobile game, and developers depend on those in-app purchases to make a profit and continue adding new content and improvements to their games.

Still, there is a line at which point the IAP hooks become too annoying or prevent a game from being as fun as it should be – and many players would say that Dungeon Hunter 4’s potion timers crossed that line. Potions are used to heal you character during combat, a vital mechanic in games like this. Unfortunately, once used, potions took several hours to become available once more unless a gamer ponied up real money for more. The end result is probably that some players used their potions, couldn’t play anymore, and moved on to other games.

Gameloft couldn’t go into full specifics about Dungeon Hunter 5’s IAPs just yet, but they did promise one important thing. The new game will either not have potion timers or they will be much shorter. The idea is to keep you engaged with the game whether or not you feel like spending money. There will likely still be timers associated with other mechanics like the new gear fusion system, but nothing that will keep you from being able to play outright.

Xbox Live support: yay or nay?
Gameloft made a splash recently when it updated several Windows Phone and Windows 8 games like World at Arms to include Xbox Live support. Achievement fans hoped that Gameloft would release all of its future titles with Xbox support as well. It turns out that won’t be the case.

Dungeon Hunter 5 will launch without Xbox Live features, much like the recently released Dragon Mania Legends. Still, this one is a good candidate for a future Xbox update, so players who grab it at launch will be ahead of the game compared to the crankypants who sit it out.

Regardless of Achievement systems, Dungeon Hunter 5 is looking like another killer mobile action-RPG so far. As long as this one doesn’t go too overboard with IAPs or make players sit things out when their potions run dry, this should be one of the largest and deepest mobile Windows games of the year.

Paul Acevedo with Gameloft’s Mandy and Ryan at the San Antonio Riverwalk

Dungeon Hunter 5 doesn’t have a solid release date yet, but it should launch within the next few months. We’ll have more exclusive coverage before then!