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...

  • Iwo

    Cutting the story out of Dungeon Hunter is a sin ;/ I HATE DH3 ;/

    • Rocketcat Games

      They cut out the random-drop loot system, too.  Imagine a Diablo-clone... with no random loot drops.  Or dungeons, for that matter, just arenas.

      Oh man I just realized that the DUNGEON HUNTER series no longer has DUNGEONS in the video game sense of the word.

      • Iwo

        I'm trying to play it ... It should be ranamed to Hunter Bros, Sword Bros or someting ... DH2 was one of my fav games on iOS.

  • Declan Bowers

    Dh3 was...disappointing. I played it for about 15 min, thought it was ok, didn't see to much free to play stuff and then I quit the app to do something else. I have never started the app ever since. I'm not saying the gameplay or the free-to-play aspect is terrible or whatever. Put simply, the game just isn't fun to play, and when you quit, there is no motivation whatsoever to start playing again.

  • Anonymous

    I saw DH3 as featured in the UK store, followed the link, saw 'kill waves of enemies' and the free price. And I pass.

    Dungeon hunter was a great mobile Diablo. 'kill waves of enemies.' yeah, that ain't.

    I've not downloaded it, but my impression from the iTunes page screams 'we will nickle and dime you for this or give you a wintersabre style grind to progress.'


  • Baja Resident

    I know you tried to be nice, but coming from a fan of both Dungeon Hunter series let me confirm: DH3 sucks.  If you want a good hoarde mode game try out Glu games Eternity Warriors.  All Gameloft did was lose cred and ruin a franchise.

    • App Unwrapper

      How is Eternity Warriors better? I don't like either games, but it I had to choose between the two, I would definitely choose DH3. Unless you already put a lot of time and money into Eternity Wars, I don't see why you would prefer it over this. ...?

  • Anonymous

    Did that trailer seriously use the phrase 'endless waltz of battles' ?

  • Anonymous

    I couldn't even sit through the trailers for either of those games. If you have an iPad, I recommend Kingdom Rush. If you don't have an iPad, I recommend getting one so you can play Kindgom Rush.

    I don't work for the company. Just wanna support good games. I've already played through it twice. I've downloaded hundreds of games, this is probably the only one I've played through twice. Okay, Plants Vs. Zombies - I loaded that again about a year later and played through it again... That's not what I'm talking about... Kingdom Rush - I finished it, went to the start menu, and immediately replayed the whole damn thing.

    • Cat Astrophy

      Actually no. I recommend the developer port the game to iPhone/iTouch like they should. That type of game should not have to have an iPad to work. Good luck convincing someone who owns an iPhone or iTouch to spend several hundred dollars to get an iPad just so they can play a tower defense game.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, I've thought about that - it's such a good game, it's a shame only iPad owners can play it, but I don't see how they could do it and still maintain the integrity of the game design - pinch and zoom I guess would be possible, but I would hate to play that way... one of the fun parts of the game is that stuff is sometimes happening all over the board at once. I'm sure if the designers thought a fun iPhone port were possible they'd do it.

        You can play for free online (definitely recommended) if you don't have an iPad. At the very least, you'll see what I mean about it not being suited for such a small screen.

  • Anonymous

    I will never, ever support the freemium structure.  I like to know that the game I'm going to play is there in its entirety whether I choose to put more money into it or not.

  • Federico Astica

    There is light at the end of the tunnel: this is Gameloft's lowest ranked game.

  • Anonymous

    There was an article on the news last night, where yet another child racked up a $500.00 bill, not knowing he was purchasing in game coins using his mom's real coins. I understand small children not understanding, but I'm sure there is a huge adult market buying in to this crap, otherwise these money sinks wouldn't exist.  Hopefully, more people will become "aware" and simply stay clear of purchase until this whole freemium  idea gets catapulted to greed hell. 

  • Anonymous

    I‘d love to see another angle at the freemium idea. Make the game free, hook the players ... then just give them a single in-app purchase for the full features / full levels / full game. Every other in-app thing totally destroys the game for me.

    • Anonymous

      This I agree with - in fact, this is what Big Fish usually does with its Hidden Object adventures. Unlocking the full game at one price is the way it should be, however, what's taking place now is complete greed.  I'M LOOKING AT YOU EA, who is responsible for quite possibly the worst offender known as "Theme Park.

    • Will Buckingham

      Actually Gameloft tried this with their Zelda and Starcraft clones.  Unfortunately the iOS player base was too stupid to realize what was going on, and they complained until Gameloft created a separate version that was bought in full through the app store instead of through an in-app purchase.

  • Kelly Zan

    the whole freemium thing going to kill appstore .. I for one, already switching back to computer gaming  ..

    ahh .. for those who on steam store (and forgot about it because of ipad gaming like me), there are massive holiday sale there (which last until 3rd Jan 2010) .. you can buy bunch a lot of good games as low as $2.99 .. and if you haven't create your steam account yet, you should now and bought all the games while their on sale ..

  • App Unwrapper

    I noticed this, too. I was thrilled to buy Sacred Odyssey through an IAP after playing part of it for free, instead of downloading two separate 500+mb games. But so many people threw a fit over the IAP that I'm now probably one of the very few who own that version instead of the separate paid one. I hope this new path Gameloft is taking doesn't mean we'll never see a quality Sacred Odyssey 2, or other great games.