iOS Review: Dungeon Hunter 4

Featured on April 11th in Apple’s N&N, Dungeon Hunter 4 brings the depth of Diablo to the iPad. This beautifully developed dungeon crawler game is fully fleshed out and truly impressive.  I’m sure the budget required to bring this game to life was staggering and is a sign of things to come.  Unfortunately, in order to offset the costs of this game Gameloft seems to have gone quite significantly overboard on the requiring players to pay to play and this is evident in the scathing iTunes reviews it is receiving.  While I would prefer to talk about how seamless and elegant the options to buy upgraded equipment are woven into the inventory and loading screens or how great the Wheel of Fate game is for monetization, I am forced to focus on  how tightly controlled the players health gauge is.

In DH4 Players are forced to pay 20 gems ($0.20) to buy a potion to refill their health or wait 2 full hours within the game for a free potion, they don’t recharge while the app isn’t open.  The reason I say forced is because the mobs you kill don’t drop health orbs like Diablo and its about impossible to even get through the second mission without needing to park your device in the corner for 5-10 minutes for a passive regen.  This elegantly crafted game has the serious potential to be the gold standard for RPGs on mobile right now and it is very disheartening for me (and Gameloft fans) to see it ruined by this very basic (and calculated) oversight.

+ Very intricate and fully fleshed out dungeon crawler
+ Tutorial actions are spread out and allow players to explore
+ Seemlessly integrated special offers and premium items
+ Wheel of Fate is novel, fun and free once per day
+ Rich multi-player options for co-op and pvp

– No starting gems and very few ways to earn gems
– Enemies do not drop health orbs, health is tightly controlled
– Dying can set you back 5-10 minutes, save progress more often
– Starting missions are impossible without spending  $10 or more
– Free potion timer is 2 hours and doesn’t refresh when logged out

Taking monetization too far:  There is a growing fatigue among players around the Freemium model and using IAP as a way to make games free.  At this point most players expect games to be free so much so that they believe IAP to be misleading or a scam.  As an industry, how can we combat this issue of players not feeling ripped off while still turning a profit?  The answer is, good game design which compels players to invest or recognize the developers work and not by putting monetization walls in the core loop of the game design.  The level of detail and execution is so good in this title that it could easily be a $60 game and this may explain the reason why developers decided to put pay gates around health.  Unfortunately, this takes monetization of the game way over the line because it restricts the core loop (kill monsters, level up, get loot, kill monsters), it essentially forces them to pay $0.20 multiple times in each session.  The player outrage is evident in the reviews, it gives freemium in general a bad name and hurts the entire industry in the process.  A better monetization strategy would be… Allow monsters to drop health orbs, sell health potions for coins and super health potions for gems.  Give only the first 3 missions in the free version and charge $5 to unlock the rest of the game; which comes with additional bag slots, free gems, a good weapon etc.  Similarly, have a version that costs $5 right away, with all of those bonuses and one other really valuable thing.  Again, DH4 is a beautiful game and this strategy would allow it to reach its full potential as such.

Game Design 9 – This is a fully developed, top quality game  
Game Balance:
 Tier system of weapons is confusing
Monetization: 3 Tightly controlled health resource ruins gameplay
Art & Theme: 7 Looks beautiful but not unique
Retention: 3 Players will play twice and either monetize or quit (angrily)
Social: 6 Great multi-player options and social statuses
Target Audience: Midcore Male
Overall: 6 Potential to be the best RPG in the market


Posted on May 6, 2013, in Mobile Game Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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