Gamevil has long been a player on the Android RPG scene. With gobs of cute, 2D “Japanese” RPGs like Zenonia, Destinia, and Illusia, the Korean publisher has carved out a nice niche for themselves. Dark Avenger, then, seems like an interesting turn. It’s a Western-style dungeon hack in the vein of Diablo from Western developer Boolean Games, and it sets its sights squarely on competing series like Dungeon Hunter.
The timing is apt. Gameloft’s recent Dungeon Hunter 4 crippled itself with poorly implemented mechanics designed to leverage in-app purchases, leaving the door open for a more balanced free-to-play title to usurp the throne. Dark Avenger is clearly targeting the same audience, with very similar controls, mechanics, and atmosphere.
When you begin a game, it’s immediately apparent just how stripped-down Dark Avenger is, though. Not only is there no opening cut scene, there isn’t even a story of any kind. At present, there is only one class available, with more on the way, so hopefully you’re fond of melee fighters. You’re placed on a linear board with a series of levels, each around 5 minutes in length. Your only goal is to beat these levels and move on to the next, with all the depth of working through a game of Angry Birds.
The game itself is similarly straightforward. The in-game graphics are good, with detailed models and nice animations, and everything moves and controls very well. There’s a virtual analog stick, and a large attack button you can hold to watch your avatar slash through simple combos with aplomb. There are a couple small buttons that eventually open up with special attacks, and the controls work pretty perfectly.
While what is there is good, is soon becomes striking just what is missing. All the stages are completely linear, with no exploration whatsoever. Simply clear all the enemies and mosey over to the next area. There’s an occasional treasure chest, but expect to find the same exact items over and over again, until you reach a level where you’ll get the next set of items over and over. Boss fights help to mix things up a bit, but this is still a very repetitive game.
At least Dark Avenger manages to steer clear of some of Dungeon Hunter 4’s pitfalls, despite sporting the same “freemium” model. You won’t find obnoxious time-outs here, and everything you need to play you can earn within the game. Leveling up your skill tree and purchasing certain items requires “gems” that you have to buy or unlock with promotions, but you don’t have to do this to progress.
Of course, there is the usually slow leveling curve you would normally associate with free-to-play RPGs, and you’ll have to go back and replay levels to slowly build up your cash and level. This could be a serious complaint, but the fact is, progressing in the game and replaying old stages aren’t that different in this case. Even with a few different modes, Dark Avenger’s fundamental flaw is that it’s simply a shallow and repetitive game, without the much needed narrative and exploration components that help to make all that hacking and slashing worth the bother.