Dungeon Fighter Live: Fall of Hendon Myre was co-developed by Nexon Korea Corporation, Neople Inc. and Softmax Co., Ltd. and published by Microsoft. It was released on July 13, 2012 for 800 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.

One year and change ago Nexon’s free-to-play dungeon crawler, Dungeon Fighter Online (DFO), surpassed 300 million registered users, redefining the phrase “massively multiplayer.” Last week the franchise made the leap to console in the form of Dungeon Fighter Live: Fall of Hendon Myre. Hendon Myre is a pseudo-sequel that takes place in a slice of the original’s map; features the same fighting game-inspired combat that has hooked so many PC gamers; and three of the original’s nine base classes. Yes, only one-third of the original character classes have made the transition to console (gunner, fighter, slayer).

It’s not all addition by subtraction, though; the visuals have gotten a slight bump from those featured in the now eight-years-old DFO, and split-screen drop-in/drop-out co-op has been tossed in to go along with online play. That’s important, too, because the game is infinitely more enjoyable with a group of four than it is when flying solo. Dungeon Fighter Live has tried and true mechanics at its core: raid a dungeon(s), return to town, buy/sell/craft goods, rinse and repeat. Designed to be replayed many times over on different difficulties and in search of new quest items, Nexon’s action-RPG is great button-mashing popcorn entertainment with your chums — not so much by your lonesome. One can only plow through so many waves of identical gray goblins in grassy fields before the very notion of starting the cycle anew induces sighs of tediousness. But by introducing a trio of friends to the equation, the game remarkably becomes enjoyable once more.

Here’s what we liked:

The “Gauntlet effect” – The temptation to put down the controller for good after beating that umpteenth goblin — oh look, red and blue ones now, how novel! — in a solo mission can be strong. Each dungeon has three paths through it that are all but identical to one another, differing mainly in the challenge presented by the MoB. There is always the promise of more loot to be had, but that will only keep most players coming back a few times before turning their attention to the many superior single-player experiences on XBLA. Co-operative multiplayer is a goblin of a different color, however. Dungeon Fighter was never meant to be consumed primarily by sole adventurers, so solitary types are taking a risk by jumping into this one. Bringing the gang along allows a mixture of two or all three of the classes to work in concert, taking advantage of each party member’s unique loadout and abilities. The screen becomes a delightful mess of attacks as a foursome plows through overmatched enemies before scrambling to grab all of the drops.

Dungeon-crawling by way of fighting – Fall of Hendon Myre‘s enjoyable combat mechanics are inspired by fighting games. Tapping X pulls off basic attacks that are leaned on heavily in most fights. Special abilities can also be purchased and activated through a combination of directional presses or RT/RB and a face button. A healthy dosage of customization is possible through hot-keying, and attacks are as fun to activate as they are to watch.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Can’t see the forest for the trees – Hendon Myre has visibility issues. Serious ones. For starters, the game’s camera is too zoomed in for its own good during many battles. Each map tile is full of groups of enemies that collapse upon would-be heroes, and these baddies regularly end up being knocked back off the currently visible chunk of the battlefield. Melee enemies make a habit of standing just off-camera and chipping away at anyone who wanders near the edge of the screen. Worse yet, there is no shortage of ranged enemies who have no qualms with taking potshots from unseen locations. While not terribly troublesome during solo runs, things can and will get ugly during co-op play when players stretch the camera to its insufficient limits. Compounding the nuisance is the fact that environmental objects, such as trees, provide even more opportunities for obstructive views. Transparency does kick in at times but not nearly to the degree that it should, and trees will move in and out of opaqueness during skirmishes.

Members only – Dungeon Fighter Online veterans will surely jump right into Neople and Softmax’s XBLA follow-up without missing a beat. Those new to the franchise won’t be so fortunate. It’s apparent from the start that this is a game meant for fans of the PC iteration. Certainly there is a fair amount of text explaining the basics of combat, weapon crafting and a few of the title’s other intricacies. In fact, these explanations often run far longer than necessary when detailing the minutia of some of the more simplistic gameplay mechanics. But good luck to newcomers when it comes to figuring out what is happening story-wise aside from that there is some sort of disease infecting some people in some land or another and that some people need to stop it. Even more infuriating is the lack of direction when it comes to unlocking new paths and advancing through the campaign. There are instances when it seems that clearing each path and running fetch quests do the trick but others that will leave rookies scratching their heads.

Double tap – Basic attacks, special moves and item usage are all mapped excellently to the Xbox 360 controller. Running is not. Characters plod along at an unbearable pace when not they’re not running, so there is a strong urge to always run when moving. Trouble is, the analog stick or d-pad must be tapped twice in any direction to do so. The woes of the 360 controller’s d-pad have been well documented over the years, and tapping the stick twice feels clunky, leaving no good option. Well, none that the developers chose to take advantage of, anyway — LT and LB conspicuously do absolutely nothing during gameplay.

Dungeon Fighter Live‘s rambunctious multiplayer mode is a delightful time-suck that is destined to keep many coming back again and again. Unfortunately it’s mated to a single-player experience that falls flat. Co-op play is good enough that it’s worth overlooking the faults and taking Hendon Myre for a spin with a trio of friends in tow.

Score: Try It