Dungeon Fighter Live: Lean back and fight with friends

July 13, 2012

Nexon’s Dungeon Fighter Online has certainly found a fan base, though most of it may be located in Southeast Asia. The 2D multiplayer free-to-play loot-’em-up relies on a small selection of characters and customizable move sets to make the dungeon delving worthwhile. With a release on XBLA, Dungeon Fighter Live: Fall of Hendon Myre ups its cost of entry to $10, but with a deep pool of content and some console-specific features, it may just be worth it.

You can choose from three classes: Slayer, the high-damage sword-wielder and all-around useful person; Fighter, the combo-heavy close-combat specialist with no range; and Gunner, a long-range fighter that uses guns and generally has some trouble if he gets too close. (The PC release includes a few more options.) I said it with Crimson Alliance, and I’ll say it again here: three classes in a four-player game? Awkward, guys. Awkward.

The game’s distinct visual style remains, with detailed sprite work that looks nice and whose choppy, missing-a-few-frames look is almost charming. There’s definitely been a visual upgrade for all the other elements, likely because the nature of XBLA means Softmax didn’t have to worry about running on random low-power systems like it does on PC. The sounds are a bit repetitive, but largely unobtrusive.

Venturing into a dungeon is ultimately what you’re here for, as the tactical challenge (and “tactical” “challenge”) can be addicting and fun. The maps aren’t randomly generated, so there are specific formations and rooms to deal with. That part’s nice and refreshing, as side rooms with treasure and particularly-fierce baddies are common and interesting. You can rush to the boss or check out a few more areas first, but those optional paths are the most lucrative. Once you reach a certain point, quests give way to challenging leaderboard scores with particularly-impressive speed runs.

If Dungeon Fighter Live has a real issue, it’s with its interface. While it’s totally usable, it’s not intuitive, and there’s incredibly little guidance as to how to look at equipment statistics and sell items. It’s something you can get used to, but just be prepared for the adjustment to be more than the “just tell me what the buttons do” of a lot of popular arcade titles. Also, it’s clear Softmax has no idea how to design some things without mouse input, as most non-combat screens are just cursors with some lock-on functionality.

The PC original’s online multiplayer is still here, so you can delve in with friends. New in this version is a local multiplayer component, so three others can join you right on your couch. (You can mix and match if you’d like.) This works, mostly, but there are elements of this that point out flaws in the game that are then apparent in single-player as well. The game throws too much loot at you, most of it’s useless and there’s no easy way to dispose of low-tier stuff, so you’ll spend lots of time sorting through them, determining which to equip and selling (or dismantling) piles of the rest of it. Running through dungeons would be a lot easier if the exits were more forgiving in the detection of whether you and your friends are standing next to it. Having the pick-up-item function and the main attack mapped to the same button? Not great.

Even though this version costs money, there’s still a certain element of the microtransaction model included with the game, largely tied to resurrection mid-dungeon. It’s not necessary, though, since you keep all progress and items you get and just have to start over. Also, the quest structure generally forces you to run through areas multiple times, and it may be a bit repetitive but it means you are usually sufficiently leveled for your task.

Whether Dungeon Fighter Live is a good proposition for you ultimately boils down to two questions. Do you like playing games on a console more than on a PC? And do you want to play local multiplayer? If one of those is true, it’s probably worth your time to play this over the free-to-play Dungeon Fighter Online, and if both are true it could be the thing you do in your spare time for quite a while.

Pros: Fun local play, depth and equipment customization
Cons: Interface issues, Necessary overmanagement

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.