Looking at any screenshot of Dungeon Fighter Live is liable to spark reactions of the positive persuasion. Look at that slick HD 2D design. This reminds me of a modern-day Golden Axe. This is, of course, all until you see the game in motion, where that gorgeous canvas takes a turn for the worse. The animations are sloppy and the movement stiff, giving off a cheap flash game mentality. Still, if you can get past that, Nexon’s side-scrolling brawler offers a lot of bang for your buck, if you have the patience.
Based off the company’s moderately successful MMO, Dungeon Fighter Live attempts to bring the idea of the series to XBLA with a more direct approach. There is, of course, four-player online co-op and plenty of loot to gather, disperse and sell. You will venture into the same dungeons multiple times to grind levels and collect goodies, all while mowing down waves of motion-less enemies; at least early on. You will rinse and repeat these ideas over and over collecting more loot and unlocking more items and equipment, which is definitely the focus of DFL.
There are three classes to choose from: the sword-wielding Slayer, melee-focused Fighter and, finally, the gun-toting Gunner. Each one possesses a unique set of skills and moves that you can unlock. Leveling up all three and unlocking all of their skills and items will certainly keep you busy for quite some time. That is, of course, if you can take the monotony of grinding. As I mentioned, you will face the same dungeons and enemies time and time again before being allowed to move on. This isn’t a case where you can go back and grind; the game forces you to do it before allowing you to progress.
Combat is fairly straight-forward with your attacks mapped to the face buttons. The environments are very reminiscent of classic side scrollers with up/down movement as well as left/right. Chaining combos becomes a large part of your score for each area, as well as the XP you gain for completing it. You are given a grade at the end of each one and thus a set amount of XP to level up. You can also perform special moves by mapping them to hotkeys. These are accessed by holding down the bumper or right trigger and pressing the corresponding face button.
Directional inputs can be employed for a different set of actions. For example, you can do a down-forwards motion then the B button to perform a special move. This uses up a meter as well as having to cooldown between uses. These attacks are more powerful, and as you progressively unlock more and more of them, they become the centerpiece of combat. The one main gripe I had with the system is that the attack button is the same button as picking up items. This causes breaks in your combo chains because instead of delivering a punch, you are picking up some gold. This is a major design flaw that I am amazed made it into the final game.
Dungeon Fighter Live’s biggest problem though, comes from comparing it to its free-to-play PC brother. Usually I don’t like to make comparisons like this, but this game is modeled after that version and features a lot less than the price would suggest. The PC version level caps at 68, whereas DFL maxes out at 20. There are also a lot more dungeons and classes in the PC iteration. The XBLA limits you to three classes, while the PC sits at a whopping 20. It is hard to let things like this go without mention, especially when it is the same company, same universe and game and at no cost. If you have the means, definitely focus on that version.
Like I said earlier, visuals look great until they are in motion. The game’s look and feel is definitely slick, but once the animation starts it really takes you out of it. The stiff movement reminds me of a flash game, and an early one at that. Things do pick up later on, as the game gets more fluid, but it always retains that generic base.
This isn’t to say that DFL is without merit. I had moments of enjoyment leveling up my character and, of course, collecting loot. The game does a great job of rewarding you with new gear and items constantly. You can also break down items to use their parts in new recipes and, of course, hop online with buddies to grind dungeons together. For $10 it isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. It just comes with a large hang-up considering there is a bigger, better version available for free.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.