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Dungeon Hunter 4

Sword for hire

Product: Dungeon Hunter 4 | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action, RPG | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.0
Dungeon Hunter 4 iPhone, thumbnail 1
Remember the conclusion to Lord of the Rings? Where the eagles swoop in to grab Frodo from Mount Doom and everyone thinks: "well why didn't they just get the eagles to fly them in to start with?"

The answer to that particular question is, of course: "because that would have spoiled the story."

Dungeon Hunter 4 has its own mighty eagle, and it's called IAP. The thing is, this eagle is a greedy pest that constantly sticks its beak into your business, cawing 'Pay me! Pay me!' like some kind of mercenary Mr Cadburys Parrot.

Master swordsman

To be fair, Dungeon Hunter 4 is an extremely accomplished action-RPG. All of the Dungeon Hunter games are extremely accomplished action-RPGs.

In fact, right up until the last game we had very little to say against them. They've always had impressive 3D engines, solid controls, and plenty of hacky-slashy action, and satisfying character progression - provided you didn't mind a little grinding.

The good news is that Dungeon Hunter 4 is arguably the best yet in all of these areas. It looks fabulous, with a chunky, detailed - if generic - fantasy world that can throw a dozen or so intricate enemies at you whilst barely breaking a sweat.

The action is remarkably solid, too, as you guide one of four mystical warriors - a mighty swordsmen, a nimble dual-blade wielder, a powerful mage, or a crackshot archer - through assorted corridors and arena scraps.


The virtual combat controls work beautifully. There's a virtual joystick for movement, which never misses a beat, and several virtual buttons for standard attacks and additional special abilities.

These special abilities can be earned or bought as you progress, and there's a welcome dose of strategy as you decide when to employ them.

As you defeat enemies your character will, unsurprisingly, level-up. As you do so, your health and energy (used for your special abilities) will increase.

In order to boost your attack power you'll need to improve or update your weaponry, and that's where Dungeon Hunter 4 starts to show its dark side.

An axe to grind

As you defeat enemies and discover treasure chests you'll be given new weapons, as well as new armour. The thing is, these are invariably rubbish. Occasionally you'll get a slightly better piece of kit, but in general you won't ever find an amazing new piece of weaponry that gives you a real advantage.

At least, I never encountered one in the hours I spent with the game.

Gameloft expects you to buy any seriously impressive new weaponry with gems, which cost real money. This is fine in the early stages, as you can get by with simply upgrading your existing equipment (which you can enhance with elemental and status-imbued gems) using the in-game coin currency, which is pretty plentiful.

Then you hit the first of the game's arena levels, which can be played in single-player or online multiplayer. These are grind-heavy areas in which you'll be attacked by successive waves of enemies. From making pretty serene - though just challenging enough - progress, I suddenly hit a brick wall of difficulty.

Even going back to previous areas and grinding through a few more levels and investing in upgrades for my existing equipment, I still found I was having my backside handed to me again and again.

It's not even possible to obtain more potions for mid-battle healing, as these are only available using gems - or by waiting several hours for a free one to appear.

What's a guy got to do to get an enchanted sword around here?

Ah, you might be thinking, so this is a tough game to play. This is good. We like a challenge.

IAPs explained
Dungeon Hunter 4's IAP system is central to the game, so we've discussed its merits elsewhere. Here's what you can expect to pay.

£1.49 is the smallest amount you can splash out, and it will get you a pretty meagre 200 gems. That's enough for a decent sword.

£2.99 is the first truly useful amount, as 550 gems can get you a couple of decent bits of equipment and a couple of potions or a new skill.

Ultimately, if you want to really enjoy Dungeon Hunter 4, you'd better be prepared to spend a fair amount of money.
Except this isn't the case at all. Not when you can completely turn the tables with real money. £2.99 was enough to buy me a sword that was massively more powerful than my current souped-up example, as well as some tough new armour and a couple of potions.

I needn't have bothered with the potions. Going back into that first major arena, things were so one-sided in the opposite direction it was almost embarrassing. My desperate (but clever) tactics were swiftly dropped as simply mashing the 'attack' button reduced the opposing hordes to a messy puddle on the floor.

Here Dungeon Hunter 4 showed its true colours - and its one gaping flaw. It's out to make a large amount of money from you, even if it has to come at the cost of gameplay balance. Which it does.


As we've written elsewhere, Dungeon Hunter 4 is completely obnoxious in the way it rams its IAP promotions down your throat, going so far as to place potential purchases in your inventory. Yes, that's items that you don't own in among the piddly items that you do own.

It's like Tesco advertising a new product by having its staff throw it into your basket as you approach the checkout.

You can even interrupt the loading screens to jump to the shop for a special offer - that's the kind of priority that in-app purchases have here.

It's a real shame, because Dungeon Hunter 4 is mechanically the best of the series to date. It's good-looking, great to play, and it even has the option to play with or against other players. There's undoubtedly fun to be had here.

Unfortunately, to end as we started with a Lord of the Rings reference, it's a bit of a Gollum. The undoubted goodness at its core has been corrupted by a greedy, grabby spirit.
Dungeon Hunter 4
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 12 April 2013
Mechanically the best of the series and a genuinely accomplished action-RPG in its own right, Dungeon Hunter 4 blows it with a ridiculously pushy IAP system
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