We’ve been keeping an eye on Hunted: The Demon’s Forge for quite some time now. Seduced by promises of a fantastic co-op adventure wrapped in a fantasy skin, every trailer has been devoured like a hungry Wargar, but now the game is here can it live up to expectations?
The game follows the story of Caddoc, a big bald melee specialist, and E’lara, a ranged weapon using Elf with an outfit so skimpy that by all rights she should have frozen to death years ago. These aren’t your typical good guys, and rather than fight for honour or valour these mercenaries fight for cold, hard coin. It’s this lust for gold that sees the duo accept a quest from a mysterious woman with a penchant for disappearing into magical portals. As you can imagine it isn’t quite as simple as that, and the pair are thrust into something much deeper.[drop] As protagonists go, the duo are fairly likable. The banter between them ranges from ‘roll your eyes and grit your teeth’ to genuinely amusing, although everyone else in the game world seems to either originate from Ireland or the Midlands. Whilst you are rarely interrupted by cutscenes, the story does just enough to push you forward as you strive to uncover just what is going on.
The main gameplay mechanic of Hunted is its co-op play. Using a good cover system akin to Gears of War, E’lara’s main job is to snipe enemies from afar with her bow, whilst Caddoc wades in and mops up any stragglers. It’s a clever idea, but one that is let down by the fact that Caddoc is just not that fun to play as. E’lara’s bow is extremely effective, satisfying to use and a weapon the enemy has endless trouble dealing with.
Enter the field as Caddoc, however, and you will find yourself swamped with enemies as you try and cut your way out of trouble. Scattered throughout every level are points where you can switch characters, although I would hazard a guess that the main argument at these junctures would be who gets saddled playing as baldy.
When playing on your own the AI does a competent job of simulating an actual human playing beside you. They will charge in, take down enemies and (usually) revive you when your health is critical. They will also take the best loot for themselves if you let them, adding an additional ‘real person’ feel.
Unfortunately I was unable to try the split screen multiplayer mode, as I had no one to help me out. I’ve not heard particularly positive things about it, though. Another downside is just how empty the servers appear to be when trying to find an online co-op partner. When you manage to get into a game it’s great, but more often than not you’ll be spending a lot of time staring at a “waiting” screen. The lack of drop in/out co-op is also a real disappointment.
Rather surprisingly for a Hack and Slash/Dungeon Crawler, Hunted doesn’t have an inventory system to speak of. You can store two health potions, two mana potions and that’s about it. Every so often you’ll come across a weapons rack which you can loot, but you are restricted to carrying one melee weapon, one ranged weapon, one shield and a piece of armour. Items can’t simply be unequipped, they have to be dropped and lost.
You’ll be doing a lot of that throughout the game, as shields degrade over time and weapons become less effective against stronger enemies. Everyone will have a mixed view on this system, but I quite liked the randomness of it all, and stumbling across a discarded weapon that has twice the power of the one you’re holding is brilliant.
Both characters also have access to magical abilities, albeit fairly limited ones. These abilities can be bought using the Dragons Tears that you collect throughout levels. You can have up to four spells active at any one time and assigned to the D-pad, and if you’re smart you’ll choose complimentary spells for your co-op partner. For example you could assign Caddoc a spell that traps an enemy and suspends them in the air, leaving E’lara to pick them off with explosive tipped arrows. Every ability can be upgraded.
You can also ‘Battle Charge’ your partner, which temporarily infuses them with the power of whatever spell you happen to be casting. Those expecting reams of spells to be available are going to be disappointed, but in my opinion the ones that have been included are solid, and a handful of good spells are certainly more useful than fifty half-baked ones.
Fulfilling certain objectives throughout the game will also see your stats increase. The objectives aren’t difficult (for example, kill 500 enemies with a bow) but the benefits they bring, such as additional health and mana, are a real life saver.
Although the game can get pretty difficult, a quick run through the main campaign can be achieved in about ten hours, but there are also a fair few side quests that can be found by heading off the beaten track. The main problem I found with the quests was that the rewards were very rarely worth the trouble, as more often that not the weapon I was gifted was worse than what I already had.[drop2] Some extra replay value can be found in the “Crucible” mode, however, which is a stripped down map editor where you can pick an arena, choose enemy waves, weapon types etc. These can then be played, or shared online. The biggest issue here is that everything in the Crucible requires gold to unlock, which is gathered by playing the main campaign. I dread to think how many times you’ll have to play through to unlock everything, and it doesn’t seem that it would be worth it.
Whilst the gameplay mechanics are sound there are a number of problems that get in the way of the Hunted experience. The game engine, whilst not as bad as Fallout: New Vegas, is still very glitchy and there were a number of occasions I had to restart an entire area as a set piece hadn’t triggered, or my AI partner had become rooted to the spot and wouldn’t stand where it was meant to, or an enemy had become wedged in the scenery and couldn’t be killed, thus not opening the next area.
Graphically, on the consoles at least, the game also looks about five years old with flat textures and wooden animation; Oblivion may actually look better. To add to this there are occasions during gameplay where everything would freeze up for a few seconds whilst the next area loaded. The level variety is good, however, and on the odd occasion you will come across some fantastic looking vistas.
Running is also an awful experience throughout the game, as you can’t seem to steer your character. This was made all the worse by having a giant boss you had to run from, and having obstacles placed in your way. Rage.
- Solid story.
- Fun to play.
- Competent AI for the most part.
- Amusing protagonists.
- Level variety.
- Good cover mechanics.
- Poor graphics.
- Bad running mechanic.
- Lack of drop in/out co-op.
- Crucible mode could have been much more.
Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is a fun, if flawed game. The story is enjoyable, the characters likeable and it takes you to a variety of places throughout your journey. The shine is somewhat diminished by an engine that just can’t seem to cope with what it’s being asked to do. There is also a concern over how quiet the servers are at the moment. However, if you have a friend with a copy of the game and are a fan of the genre then I’m fairly sure you’ll find lots to like.