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Disclaimer - This product is being reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
On paper Hunter's Arena: Legends is an extremely cool idea. It's a mash-up of the battle royale genre and the MOBA style, that pits players against hoards of enemies, powerful world bosses, and other players wandering the map. This creates the emphasis that you as a player need to farm and grind so that before the map shrinks you into an enemy player or team you make sure your gear is enough to see you through. While the game wasn't topping my list of things to play, it wasn't to say I wasn't interested in diving into it.
It isn't like I had high hopes, but I went in with an open mind. That is why when about 20 rounds in I found myself asking "Why am I still playing this?" I found myself disappointed. I kept trying, long after that to get to some point where the mechanics stopped feeling cumbersome, and any issues with my own play had stopped me from feeling that I disliked the game because I was bad at it. I did get better, even won a few games by the end, though I would argue I never got great. Ultimately those feelings persisted. Hunter's Arena: Legends is not a great game, at times it struggles to be a good game. All of that hurts more because it is a truly unique game.
Like most battle royale games, Hunter's Arena: Legends has vague lore that serves mostly as a backdrop for the game itself. Eventually, most of these games build into a more prominent narrative but since Hunter's Arena is only a month old, I cannot speak to if it will nor can I hold against it that it doesn't. I assume the players of most of these genres don't walk in hoping for the next Last of Us so it is serviceable for what it is.
The champion characters and setting draws influence from Eastern Mythology, though I am a little rusty as to whether goblins were a major part of many religions in the East. In college, I dabbled a little with the Shinto Faith but it seems this game draws more from Chinese and Korean faiths, with the developers being based in Korea. One of the characters, Wukong, fights with an extendable staff and is clearly an allusion to the Monkey King from the epic novel series Journey To The West.
At the time of writing, the game is undergoing its first battle pass where players can earn new levels just like battle passes of the past. Maybe as more of these go on we will see new characters, a fleshed-out story, and more. For now, however, I know that the major outfits that are on tap seem to be Super Sentai-related. These should go great with the twerking emote that was important for the female characters to launch with.
The world itself feels it popped from a fable or an old Chinese landscape painting. The game starts on a large tower/pagoda in the center of the map. There are multiple typographies around it where players can jump towards. These are fairly standard for the Battle Royale genre but due to the hack and slash nature of Hunter's Arena, there is a different structure to how the world is designed. This is best evident in the snow area of the map that features a large ruin that players can explore. Even though there are branching areas, the ruin dominates the region.
The game, even in areas like this, never shrugs off its eastern influence. If you have played a Korean-made game like Black Desert before then you will be familiar with the employed art style. But it's the design that separates this game from others. Case and point, a center area in this ruin have four spike pits on either side that offers instant death should you fall in. Unfortunately, in my long stay, I found that areas like this were few and far between, which is a shame because fighting there was some of my most fun.
As you may have expected if you have played a Korean game before, the character models are fantastic. There is a level of complex detail to not just every outfit but every weapon as well. In combat, it is easy to get distracted by the characters as they move about, coats and dresses flailing as flashing attacks appear against each and everybody. While, as I will explain below, the combat did not impress me, it was pretty to look at.
It is at this point I need to specify that I was reviewing the game using the PlayStation 5 version. I called on the aid of some friends to help me try the game and all of them happened to be on the PlayStation 4. They reported clipping issues, texture loading issues, and field of view issues that I was not seeing. As that stands the PlayStation 5 version seems to be the best way to play.
When it comes to being disappointed, it was the audio that, ultimately, failed to impress in some meaningful ways. All the characters have voice acting and English voice acting to boot. Maybe because it is little in the way of back story but almost all their in-game dialog seems inconsequential. In Apex, for instance, all the characters have minor dialog but, at least, they fit a personality. In the case of Hunter's Arena characters, I don't know who they are, which is contradictory to how much they seem to talk. To make matters worse, some of them even use similar dialogue. I can't be certain if this is a placeholder for now, but it is boring, inconsequential, and consistent.
The music didn't work much better either. While it wasn't horrible by any stretch, it does commit the cardinal sin of being generic. The biggest issue was the game's tendency to jump between musical cues that never seem to work together. There is a light background track for most of the match that you will mostly listen to upon death and more upbeat battle music that can trigger by both random world enemies and players alike. This, as you may assume, makes it difficult to tell if you are fighting or in a fight.
In a game like this, it is almost like everything else doesn't matter. Since 90 percent of the game will be dropping onto the map, fighting, and getting killed until you figure out how to win. So to that point gameplay is everything and truth be told encompasses the biggest chunk of the final score. This is why my score isn't great, because the gameplay just isn't that great. The first few playthroughs seemed like a bit of fun but soon after, nope.
There are three modes to choose from with two being the standard battle royale experience. In single-player you drop by yourself and try to survive to the end, while a trio mode has you team up with a group of three to do the same. I was shocked when I played both modes to see they actually feel very different. The strategy changes dramatically between them due to the nature of the game: getting up close and personal. In single-player, I often found myself tracking an enemy down and landing on them for a quick albeit cheap kill. That is if I was lucky. In trio, the optimum strategy was to avoid groups until we had to farm. On this inevitable occasion, we'd always take enemy teams by surprise.
The issue, though, is that most, if not all, combat comes down to who strikes first. The camera being finicky and the lock-on being easy to manipulate (several games had enemies quickly move players behind something to break it) means that combat largely comes down to how prepared anybody is to fight another player. The game has gear but I had both wins and losses with the higher gear. Suffice it to say gear did not matter much to an overwhelming force. You are given abilities and tools to break out of conflict, but in a fight where you already lost the advantage, this serves to prolong the battle, not flip the script.
Managing to make it all the way to the end of a match pits you in a gigantic free-for-all that confused and befuddled me as to why this seemed like a good idea. Unlike its gun game counterparts, there is no high ground in this game. No, when the ring shrinks you find yourself in a small circle with six or seven other people just attacking and running. Since any poor maneuver will land you in a killing combo, you cannot initiate one or two hits before being exposed to a large group of enemies.
The third mode offered is a 1v1 fight where players choose two heroes and battle against each other for victory. This mode, I assume, was made to showcase the fighting game influence that is, kind of, in Hunter's Arena but not to any degree that would make this mode enjoyable. The truth is I lost three times when I was learning the mode before figuring out the secret sauce for a winning streak. That is to say that, unlike the battle royale mode where DPS-based melee characters are king, the 1v1 mode favors ranged characters. Their ability to avoid an enemy hit radius makes them vastly superior. It took me like 10 minutes to figure this out and two hours later I was still destroying melee-based teams. They had not gotten the memo.
Another core issue I had with Hunter's Arena: Legends was its microtransactions. Although I got the game for free through my PlayStation Plus subscription, it usually charges 19.99 for admission. Characters are locked behind 25,500 currency checks, which also have cosmetics, and emotes with some reaching over 50,000. I will say the cosmetics in the game look great and diverse for characters, but it is hard to care when the game already had issues holding my attention. In games, second and first place wins offer a decent payout of in-game currency, and by that I mean a few hundred. In contrast, third place and lower will see you earn less than 100. Don't worry though, kills barely payout so if you really want to make a decent bank then predict where the ring will shrink and hide.
In the end, I am left to wonder if the game itself failed to deliver a fun experience, or if it was the ill-informed blending of genres that left much to be desired. Maybe the issue is a little of both. At the end of the day, a game that looked unique manages to be, at best, generic. At worst, however, it takes mechanics that work far better in PvE games (they do not require the extreme reaction time), then proceeds to do nothing to evolve them. On top of that, the microtransactions, which are some of the few you actually have to buy in the Battle Royale market, feel exorbitant.
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