I’ll be honest and say that I had no idea what to expect going into the presentation of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. It’s a brand new IP and I hadn’t seen or heard a thing about it, so it was quite exciting going in blind.
Developers of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge – inXile – had one goal with this game and that was to re-invent the dungeon crawl genre of games. Working with the creator of Bard’s Tale, Brian Fargo, inXile set out to make a relevant, modern action title whilst bringing back the essence of games like Wizardry and even Dungeons and Dragons.
The biggest focus in Hunted is co-op play. They have designed this element into “every fabric” of the game from the very beginning of development and it features drop-in drop-out online play. The story features two main characters, which we’ll get to later on, both with their own unique abilities, pros and cons. With co-op sitting at the very top of inXile’s agenda, the game play and interaction between these two comes in many forms. You will need team work to overcome certain obstacles, you will need to keep an eye out on one another’s health and help heal when needed. The game also features a cover system which has lead to Hunted’s nicknames such as Spears of War. But those comparisons to Gears of War aren’t entirely inaccurate. The two games do share a lot of similarities, it’s just that Hunted places it all within the dungeon crawler genre with orcs and skeletons as well as magic and XP points.
Also high on inXile’s list of features was the need for exploration. The game allows you to play at your own pace. There is obviously a critical path to follow but you will also get access to locations containing puzzles and quests that you don’t have to do if you don’t want to. Completing them will win you rewards, however.
As mentioned above, the game centers around two main characters. Elara is the slight, agile female character utilising a bow for range and magic for freezing enemies. Caddoc is the muscle-bound, testosterone-fuelled male character that prefers swords and shields to fight in melees as well as the ability to levitate his enemies. It’s fair to say that the two are very stereotypical of this type of setting and their temporary voices don’t do the dialogue and banter any favours. Think Jason Statham and Joanna Lumley and you’re pretty much there; although these are likely to change. On their own they are good but they cannot get things done without working together. Elara can lend her magic to Caddoc whilst Caddoc can push objects and attack at close quarters. Both sets of skills will be needed so neither one of them should ever feel like a burdon.
The subject of enemies is a difficult one to talk about. At this presentation we only witnessed one kind – skeletons. A lot of skeletons. They were your basic kind of enemy although some looked like they may be tougher than others. When gathered in one location, the numbers game did come into play and despite them not being overly difficult, the sheer amount will pose a threat. We were assured that the game will feature various types of sword-fodder including a race of orcs known as the Wargar. We also got a small glimpse at some kind of giant spider/scorpion creature that will no doubt take some time to overcome. They also teased a 20ft-tall demon that will act as a boss at some point in the game.
The story sees you embarking on a journey to investigate a vision that Caddoc had of an object called the Deathstone. This journey will take you through various locations including open-air environments rich with plants, water and structures as well as underground mazes and dungeons. The graphics are good with great ambient sounds and lighting. Due to the nature of the game, these fantastical locales have been completed in the perfect style; not mind blowingly amazing but just what the game requires.
As mentioned, each area will have sections containing puzzles and these appear well thought out and well executed. It once again means utilising your individual skills to progress through the game. Caddoc can push buttons and move objects whilst Elara can utilise her bow to light paths and break things that are out of reach. Checkpoints throughout the game will allow you to switch between players if you so wished.
As well as body-swap checkpoints you will also come across Deathstone events. These act as a way of progressing the storyline and revealing information but they also offer hints, which if followed, will guide you toward secret areas containing new weapons and special abilities. These are completely optional events but you can still stumble across the rewards even if you don’t access them. In this instance the Deathstone event lead to a gigantic axe. If you do listen to the Deathstone events but can’t work out the riddles within, the dialogue will be stored in a journal so you can reference back if you ever get stuck.
Whilst fighting and puzzles feature heavily within the game, the RPG element is also present throughout. Along your way you will find crystals and currency which you can then exchange for new magic and new skills.
The HUD is very simple and very unobtrusive, which is great considering the number of things that you have at your disposal. It would have been easy for the screen to become cluttered and messy. The camera angles are perfect – allowing you to see enough of the surrounding area without causing frustration. There is also a cinematic kill cam which will allow you to see the gruesome (and sometimes amusing) deaths in slow motion.
Considering I knew nothing about this game beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised with the game on show. There are aspects which aren’t original or surprising but inXile appear to have accomplished their goal of bringing back the dungeon crawler all the while adding a fighting twist into the game which will no doubt help to appeal to those who aren’t necessarily fond of RPGs. If they can finish off the characters with more serious voices and diversify the enemy types then Hunted: The Demon’s Forge could be one to keep an eye.
Hunted: The Demon’s Forge: Developed by inXile, published by Bethesda and due for release on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in early 2011.