Two favorite franchises of the TouchArcade forums, Dungeon Hunter and Zenonia both had sequels drop during the Christmas flurry of releases. Both the good news and the bad news is that these games are totally free to play. Depending on which side of the free to play fence you're sitting on, this is either great news or horrible news. I'm not sure there's any wiggle room in between, if arguments on our forums and in iTunes reviews are any indication. In my opinion, regardless of how you feel about the whole free to play thing, both Dungeon Hunter and Zenonia come from a pedigree of games that are worth giving the benefit of the doubt to. They're free to try, and who knows, you might not find their respective free to play mechanics that offensive… So I say, no harm in giving them a spin.
Dungeon Hunter hit in mid-2009 when we were still totally willing to overlook Gameloft being, well, Gameloft with their highly "inspired" games and were just beyond happy to get a great 3D dungeon crawler on the App Store. Dungeon Hunter 2 hit over a year later and improved upon the original in every way imaginable, most notably, adding online co-operative play.
Dungeon Hunter 3 [Free] departs from the traditional Dungeon Hunter formula in that it abandons all semblance of a story in exchange for a hoard mode which has become a surprisingly popular secondary game mode for all sorts of console games. Choose a class, kill everything as fast as you can, repeat. Like many "premium" games that make the "freemium" leap, progression feels artificially limited and grindy, unless you feel like opening your wallet. Still, if all you're looking for is to bash some monsters faces in, Dungeon Hunter 3 will do the trick.
Similarly, Zenonia hit the App Store in early 2009, and even though the Korean RPG formula leans heavily on grinding, there wasn't anything else available that came close to the gameplay offered. Iterative improvements were made both over Zenonia 2 and Zenonia 3 with new art, sound, classes, monsters, and more added with each jump in the series.
The recently released Zenonia 4 [Free] follows this trend, with a free to play mechanic sandwiched in. The controls feel just as clunky as every other Zenonia game, but just like previous installments, don't take long to get used to. Zenonia 4 is the best looking Zenonia title as well, as it comes packed with full Retina Display graphics. Progression doesn't feel any slower than other titles (which were never very fast) and the free to play mechanic hinges on a constant pressure to buy ZEN points which can be used to improve your character in basically every way you can imagine.
I just wish both of these games were available as a single purchase game, tuned to provide a fun gameplay experience from beginning to end instead of goading me to open my wallet or play for eternity. This seems to be the case for most of these "premium" games that make the free to play jump, so it's not like the shift in gameplay should be news to anyone. Regardless, they are free to try, and we still likely won't see any new games until next week...