I don’t know why roaming through dungeons and collecting loot is so appealing to me.  Sometimes, I think it’s because of my childhood infatuation with Gauntlet, and that today’s dungeon crawlers tend to be closer to what I always wanted Gauntlet to be.

I was 9 when Gauntlet came out, and I never had enough quarters to be any good at it.  I’d love to have a Gauntlet machine in my house.  Also, Moon Patrol

Back to dungeon crawlers.  These are also called “hack-and-slash” games, of course.  I’ve heard all kinds of criticism about them.  I mean, let’s face it, there is a lot of button-mashing involved (you’re totally missing out if you don’t follow that link, fwiw).

My bestie, Josiah, and I have played every single multiplayer dungeon crawler we can find on the PlayStation Network.  Our favorite, a game to which we consistently return, is called Dungeon Hunter: Alliance.

DHA 1

It’s one of the millions of games made by Gameloft, a dev/pub in Paris.  I’ve missed my bedtime, missed meals, and nearly been late for work because of DHA.

To be fair, there are other games that have caused similar situations, but DHA is special for so many reasons.

I have eleven characters built right now.  In DHA, there are the usual three character classes: warrior, mage and rogue.  The warrior can only use melee attacks and the mage is purely a caster with no close-combat attacks.  The rogue is the most well-rounded, adept at archery and/or daggers.

There are many things that keep me coming back, not least of which would be a platinum trophy (I’m two short; gotta raise a million gold and finish the game with four total players)

But here’s my favorite thing about the game.  A few weeks ago, I would’ve told you my favorite character is my rogue, Bubbles.  But at the moment, my rogue “Gumbo” is way  more fun. One of the best parts about the game is the flexibility in the skill tree of the three.

Even though Gumbo is a lower level and looks way less BA than Bubbles, I’m picking dagger skills over archer skills in the tree.  The best rogue perk of all, however, are the Acid Darts.  Those are amazing.  As you level up that perk, more and more darts are added that deal serious pain to enemies in their path.  “Jump Attack” is great, too.

DHA 2

The mighty Gumbo

But all three classes have really fun skills and perks.  This grants a seemingly high amount of flexibility within a smaller game (maybe 8 hours for the story?).  You can respec your character at any time, given you have enough gold.  Love it when games do that.

The mage is the least flexible because he’s only a caster and can’t do close combat.  That doesn’t mean the mage isn’t fun. Mages can choose this epic ice beam perk, the “Freezing Ray”, that does what you’d expect – the mage rotates around with this giant beam that freezes everyone.  Also, the mage is great at healing HP and/or MP, should you choose to put points there.  Unfortunately, the mage becomes considerably less fun if you’re doing single-player.  But in a team, the caster’s flexibility as a support player and a damage dealer is priceless.

DHA 3

Respect the staff

Then there’s the warrior. The warrior is a blast, and again, has really fun powers to level. The “Slam” is this hilarious uppercut that can toss large groups of enemies onto their backs. The “Cleave” is powerful as well. Like the other classes, there are numerous ways to level the warrior.

DHA 4

Stop!  Hammer Time.

The art and graphics for DHA are great.  The sound effects are great, for what they are. Goblin feet on stone floors – that’s the best sound.  The acting is what you’d expect; that’s not why we play these games and Gameloft made a good call putting their resources elsewhere.

The loot.  The loot!  It’s plentiful and varied.  Follows the usual white-green-blue-purple-gold route.  As you’d expect, when you increase the number of players, you’ll find rarer loot.  It’s really easy to share items with everyone, and even if you have four players, you can simultaneously open your menus to trade loot, sell or buy from vendors, or level.  In a dungeon crawler, a player can spend a lot of time searching through their skill trees and loot, so it’s brilliant that we can all have our menus up together as players in DHA.

You can couch it with your friends, play online with them or play with strangers.

As for the story within DHA, I couldn’t begin to tell you much about it.  I’ve never taken the time to listen to it, so the gameplay isn’t dependent on it in any way.  Personally, this doesn’t bother me.  I love a game with a great story, but the lack of a compelling one didn’t stop me from playing the hell out of Far Cry 3, either.

Additionally, it would be nice if we could map a second set of skills. Each class can equip two different sets of weapons, but you can only map three skills at any given time.  Bummer.

And please raise the level cap, Gameloft.  Preferably, raise the level cap when you release additional content.  Please, please tell me you’re making DLC for this game.  Please?

There’s a fair amount of repetition in DHA.  But, like a crappy story didn’t stop me from playing FC3, repetition hasn’t prevented me from a third playthrough of Borderlands 2.

If you’re looking for a fun experience on a PS3, with or without friends, I highly recommend Dungeon Hunter Alliance.  It’s a great (cheap) game with plenty of opportunity for a replay or two.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cats Atticus, June Bug and Lee, and loves gaming, with or without friends.