Gamescom 2010: Hunted: The Demon's Forge Hands-On Preview - Co-Op Adventuring
Written Sunday, August 29, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Last March, inXile’s CEO, Brian Fargo, told us that the developer was looking to create one of the true great dungeon-crawlers with their early 2011 title, Hunted: Demon’s Forge. After inexplicably slipping through our fingers at E3 this year, we managed to finally get some hands-on time with the title at this year’s Gamescom to see whether it really had the legs to be a truly great dungeon-crawler. With little to no competition in this specific genre on consoles, inXile should be primed with a great opportunity.
We kicked off our hands-on taking control of the meatier of the two main characters, Caddoc, as we played through the opening moments of the game with a co-op buddy who took hold of the spritely E’lara. After stopping for a moment to take in the sights of the epic vistas that surround our two on the surface of the planet Dyfed, we work our way through the basic controls before we enter our first arena. Incidentally, the game is designed in that way, with arena after arena standing between the pair and their road to victory.
Not only do you learn how to aim, attack and recharge your mana - which simply requires you hit a batch of the blue crystals that litter the surface of Dyfed - in the opening moments, but after a short investigation of a key item of interest - the Death Stone - the two main characters can now speak to the dead, which becomes a source of various side quests along the way.
The first arena looked to show off the strength of the battle charge, as a skeleton warrior sat on a turreted weapon that began to overwhelm us with fire, making it abundantly clear that ranged weapons were the way forward here. The battle charge is Hunted’s way of keeping the co-op gameplay at the forefront of the proceedings, as it allows you to make one another’s attacks a lot more powerful, adding all kinds of magic effects to them. A quick charge of E’lara later, with Caddoc keeping guard, and the barrage of electrically charged arrows was enough to clear the first stage of the arena, leaving just a frantic finish to be had. It was Caddoc’s turn to shine here and taking up the reigns of the turret, we obliterate the undead skeleton army that starts to swarm out of a few of the arena’s portals. A few carefully placed shots later with the large turret though and the portal spawning endless waves of foes were closed and it was time to move on.
Moving into the swamp area, the players are greeted with the chance to partake in a side quest by talking to a sprit who offers clues to find a lost weapon that was lost in the area many years ago. After scouring the swamp area and seeing off the various beasts that attacked us, we came across the Axe of Delaine, a powerful unique weapon that’s only usable by Cadddoc.
It’s clear from the opening moments of Hunted: Demon’s Forge’s combat scenarios that the game has been designed as a co-op experience from the ground up. From the off, if you don’t work together and play to your character’s strengths, you may come unstuck, after all, there is a reason why Caddoc and E’lara are a brawler and a ranged specialist respectively.
“Co-op at a distance” was a line that inXile were keen to push back on its first showing way back in March and it definitely excelled on that front here, with both of us reviving one another from the other side of the level should we get downed and using a battle charge to add special abilities to one another’s attacks - charging E’lara for instance means her ranged attacks will provide shock damage as well as normal damage. As long as you can see one another, then you can assist one another; that’s the general mantra. Something that other co-op developers should really take note of.
On the face of it, Hunted is your traditionally developed third-person Unreal driven game, but this time, you’re trading bullets for arrows and Caddoc trades chainsaw-Lancers for a whole host of monstrous melee weapons. The melee combat unfortunately isn’t very complex and so those controlling the testosterone fuelled Caddoc may find themselves button mashing in no time, which is hardly an enthralling experience. After you’ve mashed the light and heavy attack buttons a few times, you start to realise how shallow it really is. E’lara on the other hand, is a little more entertaining to get hold of, using the cover, plenty of magic and her bow - which locks on ever so slightly, when you use the iron-sight - to dispatch the undead armies. Being able to seamlessly switch characters with your partner at various intervals though will come as a welcome change, especially for those controlling Caddoc.
I find it interesting that inXile are keen to label it a dungeon-crawler, when I was under the assumption that looting was a key ingredient of said genre. The inXile rep on hand did state that there were indeed many unique character specific items to collect along the way, but only being able to hold 2 of each weapon type makes it seem like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. According to the rep on hand, there is now more character customisation woven into the game, which is fantastic news considering that a few months back it wasn’t looking good for this aspect, so let’s hope they truly assess the looting aspect and revamp that further.
At present time, there isn’t anything truly awe-inspiring about Hunted’s combat, which inXile puts so much emphasis on, but we’re still intrigued to see more of the exploration and puzzle aspects, something which is said to make up 30% of the overall game. That for us is still the title’s unique selling point. The Gamescom 2010 demo gave us a brief look at the combat, but I fear on that alone, the title will be nothing more than a generic hack-n-slash title with a very rudimentary combo system. With huge sprawling environments though and plenty of puzzling, it could well be enough to make Hunted: Demon’s Forge an essential purchase for early next year. With the competition it will have though during that release period, it’s really got to deliver on those fronts or it could be destined to fall by the wayside.
Hunted: Demon’s Forge is scheduled for an early 2011 release.