A flight of fantasy.
Nexon's attempt to bring their successful free-to-play Dungeon Fighter Online (DFO) to the console downloadable space in the form of Dungeon Fighter Live: Fall of Hendon Myre (DFL) depends on what you compare it to, much more than other titles being brought to Xbox Live Arcade. On paper, a $10 four-player cooperative beat-'em-up with local and online multiplayer should make as many waves through the Xbox community as Castle Crashers did. Dungeon Fighter Live only somewhat follows through on that promise.
An unusual, phantasmagorical disease has spread throughout the land of Arad, and monsters have become more vicious and restless surrounding Elvenguard and Hendon Myre. An order of priests has been sent to investigate this phenomenon, but they have been met with deadly resistance. Luckily, a trio of hardy adventurers—double-fisted Fighter, sword-slashing Slayer, and ammo-grinding Gunner—have come to save the day.
Like a traditional beat-'em-up, your avatar of choice must eradicate all of the goblins, beasts, and zombies lurking within the dungeon. Each class, beyond the basic jump and a string of normal strikes, can perform various skills that can be hotkeyed on the shortcut bar or simply executed by entering the right command. In this way, every skill you learn is at your fingertips, allowing you to channel all your concentration into epically lengthy combos, even if it's against a lowly goblin whose mightiest attack is a swipe of a big stick.
Chaining isn't just for show. Loot drives much of the dungeon exploration, with almost every enemy and barrel dropping some gold or equipment. Any unused loot can be sold and disassembled for recipe ingredients. Keeping combos alive will also contribute to your final grade at the end of a dungeon and earn extra experience.
The trouble, however, comes when pitting Dungeon Fighter Live against its PC forefather. Whereas Dungeon Fighter Online features eight classes, DFL only has three, is level-capped at 20 instead of DFO's 68, and has only a fraction of the real estate. This prevents the three classes in DFL from choosing a specialized subclass at level 20 or awakening as a more powerful form at level 50.
Then of course is the matter than DFO is free-to-play. For its $10 cost upfront, DFL throws a handful of resurrection stones that can revive you on the spot or purchase powerful Legacy-level weapons and armor, but that's nothing compared to the content that could have been in DFO. My hunch is that Nexon might make the game expandable with DLC, though asking for more money upfront would make the price of entry even harder to swallow.
The other issue is that some design elements break the flow of the gameplay. There's no reason why the command for attack should be the same for picking up an item—far too many combos are broken and far too much unnecessary damage is taken because of it.
On a more unfortunate note, multiplayer would have much better if the camera was centered as it is in single-player. Playing multiplayer nets you extra experience and more hands to defeat monsters, but getting hit from enemies you can't see is infuriating enough to stick with single player; that is, if you don't already since other players take their share of the loot. Also, most players quit before you can trade with them (so if you want the Achievement for it, you'd better go to an official forum).
Even with its shortcomings, though, Dungeon Fighter Live isn't too far off the mark and sits fine in the same company as Crimson Alliance and Dungeon Defenders. The lack of content compared to the MMO is still surprisingly adequate. The loot-based hack-'n'-slasher does enough right to see it through to the end and beyond, with King's Road difficulty which will test your evasion and force you to join other players despite the camera issues. If Nexon brings some free content into the fold and a few patches, it could be among the best downloadable titles in the marketplace today.
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