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Dungeon Hunter Champions review: The endless grind begins
Dungeon Hunter, one of the most popular mobile hack-and-slack action RPG franchises, is back and bigger than ever in Gameloft’s most ambitious title to date. Dungeon Hunter Champions raises the stakes by adding both PvE and online PvP modes, including an all new MOBA-like 5v5 mode.
The game has a ton of content, but just how much is hidden behind the freemium barrier? Let’s find out in this Dungeon Hunter Champions review.
Dungeon Hunter Champions offers traditional action RPG gameplay
Dungeon Hunter Champions feels a lot like previous games in the series. You control a single champion, either fighting solo or with a team of up to 5. You can switch between the members of your team at any time, as long as they’re still alive.
The controls are pretty standard. There’s a virtual control pad on the bottom left of the screen and action buttons on the bottom right. Each champion has up to 4 unique abilities, and some have a fifth passive ability. These can range from healing spells to crowd control abilities to good old fashion punchin’. Each ability (except for basic attacks) has a cooldown, so you have to choose when to use them carefully.
If you’re tired of mashing buttons, you can toggle an auto-battle mode on and off in-game. This is handy if you want to max out your champions, because it takes a lot of grinding. The AI also does a good job dodging enemy attacks, and you can still give some commands like choosing which enemy your team should focus on by tapping them.
There is an auto-battle mode that can be toggled on and off in-game
In more challenging battles, you can also slow the action down to half speed. This gives you more freedom to control each character’s abilities, though personally I think the game is more fun at full speed.
Although the controls work well, I found myself turning on auto-battle every time it was available. The team seemed to do just fine without me.
Game modes galore
Dungeon Hunter Champions features tons of game modes and scenarios, all based around the same action RPG-style gameplay. They break down into two major categories: Adventure (PvE) and Battlegrounds (PvP).
Adventure mode includes a lengthy story mode, featuring seven worlds with 11 stages each. Each stage also has 3 different difficulty levels. It will take a long time to burn through all of it.
The story itself is convoluted. You play as an “Invoker” who uses soul discs to summon champions from across the multiverse to fight the forces of corruption. Or something. All that matters is you need to smash buttons to kill bad guys.
Single player scenarios range from killing hordes of enemies to taking down powerful boss monsters. These bosses will show up again in Boss Raid mode, with special rewards. The different objectives shake things up a bit, but really it’s all pretty much the same. Especially if you’re just using auto-battle.
There are a few other single player modes like Ultimate Blitz, Events (there haven’t been any yet), and co-op. Even if you only want to play solo, there is a ton of content to play through.
Dungeon Hunter Champions also has a PvP, but it’s not particularly fleshed out. The Arena mode is not really PvP, since you’re just playing against other player’s champions controlled by the CPU.
The 5v5 mode feels more like a MOBA-light than a true rival to other competitive titles like Vainglory
The only true PvP is the MOBA-like 5v5 mode. In it, you control a single champion (no auto-battle here) alongside four other players to attempt to destroy the enemy node before they destroy yours. For those unfamiliar with MOBAs, the game introduces simple MOBA strategy and gameplay as you play through the story mode, with auto-battle disabled in the tutorials.
The 5v5 mode feels more like a MOBA-light than a true rival to titles like Vainglory or the more recent Paladins Strike. There are 3 lanes, towers, jungle monsters, and so on, but no items or other features to influence your character’s strength in battle. You simply level up as the game goes on. Matches are mobile friendly, typically running from 8 to 20 minutes.
It’s nice they included a pure PvP mode, but it plays less like a competitive MOBA and more like any other mode where your true goal is grinding materials, character levels, and so on.
Stamina and freemium limitations
Like many other free-to-play titles, Dungeon Hunter Champions requires stamina to enter each level. There are two types of stamina, one for the single-player Adventure mode and one for PvP Battlegrounds.
Fortunately, the stamina-gating isn’t much of an issue, and Gameloft is quite generous with stamina rewards. You get stamina back for winning stages, completing missions, and even as log in rewards. The stamina that would go to waste when leveling up is sent to your inbox to be used within 7 days.
The real limitation to progress is champion level and selection. In true gacha fashion, you are at the mercy of random summons to unlock more champions. Once unlocked, you can level them up by playing missions or training. It will take a long time to get your champions to max level, so prepare to grind.
The real limitation to progress is champion level
The PvP mode has some pay-to-win aspects. Players who shell out cash (or grind for months) for the strongest champions will have an advantage, though perhaps not as large as in other titles. All champions start out with the same base stats. Rarer ones have higher maximum stats. This means everyone is roughly the same strength at the beginning of a match, so there is always some chance of winning.
The game includes both ads and in-app purchases (IAPs). The ads are optional, and watching them can double your post-match rewards or return some stamina. Real money can be used to buy gems, which let you get pretty much anything, including unique items and summons.
The game asks if you want to enable push notifications at the beginning. I chose to “Cruelly refuse,” and for some reason the game promptly started sending push notifications anyway. I checked the options and, sure enough, they were enabled. Who’s the cruel one here?
Graphics are where Dungeon Hunter Champions really shines. The scenery in single player missions is rich with lots of moving parts. It doesn’t always make sense (flying whale boats?), but it certainly looks cool. The game features a number of visual styles, all taken from its multiverse.
Bosses are enormous and fill the entire screen. They really look epic. When auto-battle is enabled, you have plenty of time to take in the scenery, too.
There are a number of styles featured, all of which are taken from the game's multiverse
Character designs and animations are also good, and there is some variety in style. There are roller derby girls with spiked clubs, sharks with knives, and children riding dinosaurs. There are also sci-fi and steampunk characters, which are welcome additions to the franchise. At times Dungeon Hunter Champions goes a bit overboard with fan-service, but that seems to be standard for free-to-play mobile titles nowadays.
You can adjust the graphics in the settings for less powerful devices. Some users have reported the game freezes or stutters at certain points. I didn’t have any issues, even when playing on an older Nexus 9 tablet.
Character icons frequently got mixed up. Sometimes my most powerful champion would have the portrait of a puny mushroom. It was just a visual bug, but it definitely made me do a double take.
More customization than you can handle
Dungeon Hunter Champions boasts more than 275 champions, each of which can be leveled up and equipped with powerful gear. As if that weren’t enough, the gear itself can also be leveled up using gold. If you move the gear to another character, it loses the levels are lost and you have to be purchase it again.
This is definitely the type of game you'll want to consult a wiki for
That 275 number is a bit misleading, since the vast majority of the champions are reskins of other champions. There are 6 elements in the game, so most champions have 6 different versions. Some also have another 6 identical, but slightly more powerful versions.
You’ll quickly discover all of the one and two-star champions are really only useful to be consumed by more powerful champions. The game literally calls them “Food.”
Whether you want to compete or just continue through the story, expect to spend a lot of time grinding. The menus are a bit unwieldy and intimidating at first, and the tutorial doesn’t do a great job explaining everything. This is definitely the type of game you’ll want to consult a wiki for.
Dungeon Hunter Champions offers more than enough content to keep your fingers busy for months of commuting on the train — maybe more, considering Gameloft’s track record for updates.
The game is ambitious, but ultimately a lot of the content feels the same. The 5v5 MOBA battles don’t feel unique or competitive, and there isn’t much reason to play it other than resource grinding. It’s definitely no mobile esport.
It’s easy to recommend Dungeon Hunter Champions. It’s free, so why not give it a shot? Just temper your expectations and buckle yourself in for an endless grind.
What do you think of Dungeon Hunter Champions? Let us know in the comments!