Preview: Dungeon Hunter II for iPhone

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One of my most anticipated games of this year has got to be Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter 2. I absolutely loved Dungeon Hunter and after hearing about all the improvements that are being made in Dungeon Hunter 2, such as 4-player co-op and a darker, more mature story, I can’t help but to check the App Store on a daily basis to see if the game has finally been released. Gameloft invited me to their NY studio last week to get some hands-on time with a near final build of Dungeon Hunter 2 and to say I was blown away would be an understatement.

The story of Dungeon Hunter 2 starts 25 years after the events of the original game. You start off picking one of three classes: Warrior, Rogue, and Mage. Once you select your class, the game begins with your character stuck in a cage in a dungeon as your captor is taking prisoners out of their cages and bludgeoning them to death. Your character eventually dies, but an old man and a fairy revive you and set you free.

For those of you who spent more hours than you’d like to admit on Dungeon Hunter, Dungeon Hunter 2 will feel very familiar. The combat, UI, and overall feel of the game have been left unchanged, but there are a number of improvements over the original game. The first thing I noticed is how much of a graphical improvement this game is compared to the original. The environments, character models, and special effects all look great on the iPhone 4. There were also no noticeable lagging or slowdown when the screen was littered with enemies.

Another thing I noticed was in the character equipment window, which is where players will spend a lot of their time upgrading their character with various loot that’s picked up during your adventure. There’s now an auto-equip button which, if you’re a more casual gamer, will certainly cut down a lot of time from mixing and matching gear to get the best result, to having the game dictate which gear would be best for your character based on a number of variables. As much as I enjoy personally customizing my character, I find having an auto-equip button will save me a lot of time if I don’t have a lot of time to mix and match gear.

When you first create your character, you’re given one of three options: Warrior, Rogue, and Mage. In Dungeon Hunter 2, your character can evolve to a number of other classes at around level 12 to branch off from the original character class. At the time of the demo we weren’t given access to the new character classes, but we know we’ll be able to play as a Berserker, Crusader, Death Walker, Archer, Shadowmancer or Illusionist. Allowing your character to evolve to another set of classes will add a ton of replay value to Dungeon Hunter 2 as you can branch off to a total of 6 additional classes.

One of the last things we were shown during our demo was the co-op, which supports up to 4 players. Since there were only a handful of journalists available at the demo, I teamed up with 2 other players for some hot local Wi-Fi co-op action. Aside from local Wi-Fi, the game will also support local Bluetooth and online through Wi-Fi games through either Gameloft LIVE or Game Center. I began with creating a lobby for my team to join. I informed them of my lobby name and they connected within 10 seconds of my info. I then launched the game which took us to where my single-player campaign left off in the middle of the starting dungeon. I assume joining where the host left off in their single-player campaign will be the norm. During co-op play, each player will be able to import their character from the single-player campaign and all of the gear, experience, and gold that’s collected through co-op will be available to your character in single-player.

Each player was completely independent of me while we were all in a level of the dungeon which has its pros and cons. Tying down a player to the host’s screen could be a problem and could ruin how the game should be played as players should be allowed to roam free within a level. On the other hand, I found it to be bothersome as was there were no on-screen indications of where my teammates were located within the level if they happened to wander off from my viewpoint. Since we were playing a local game, I was able to talk to my team to find out their whereabouts, but if the game is played online, I could see how keeping your group together could become troublesome, especially since there’s no voice chat or any sort of communication during play.

Dungeon Hunter 2 so far looks to be a great sequel to an already solid and addictive game. Altogether the game will contain 100 levels and will offer a large amount of replay value, not only in its darker, more mature story, but also in how players can branch off to experience a number of other classes. The co-op mode has a lot of potential, but the experience might be frustrating if Gameloft doesn’t offer some quick fixes to help with player navigation. Dungeon Hunter 2 is set to be released sometime this month, and as soon as it does, you can be sure that I’ll be delivering a full review.

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