Hands On: Hunted – The Demon’s Forge

By Alec Meer on April 26th, 2011 at 5:06 pm.

Yeah, cos you'll see this camera angle all the time

Bethesda’s is a crown with many likely jewels at present – Brink, Rage, Prey 2 and of course Skyrim are all mightily impressive prospects in their own distinctive rights at present. And then there’s Hunted, whose gleam is a little harder to discern right now. A welcome break from the post-apocalypses which dominate Bethesda’s shooter range, in broadest terms it’s Diablo making the beast with two backs with Gears of War. An appealing concept – hackery and slashery up close and personal, with a strong co-op emphasis. My kind of thing, nominally.

I’ve played the game twice now, and had it demoed to me a few more times on top of that. Based on this, I must admit it’s not currently a game I’m particularly anticipating, but it’s important to note that I’ve only seen sequences out of context and thus my observations on the interplay between its two characters, the hulking man-brute Caddock and the (ugh) sassy Elven archer E’lara, may well be moot. From what I’ve seen it’s all painfully knowing but occasionally unintentionally hilarious innuendo and hollow kill-celebrations uttered in forced-sounding accents, but in the full flow of plot and with more sense of exactly what this blood-frenzied pair’s relationship is, it might well be more convincing. If not, I fully expect to be playing with subtitles on and sounds off.

As an action game, it’s found mechanics that work even if the efficacy of the structure and characterisation is TBC. Each character has two skill trees, one focusing on simply improving combat aptitude and enabling new perks and powers in that regard, and another more dedicated to supporting magic. The meat of the game is in going crazy with a sword or bow (Caddock appears best suited to the former and E’lara the latter, but either can do either), but zap-blasts and monster-delaying whirlwinds and fireballs and all sorts spare it from entirelybeing an empty button-masher.

It appears to mostly be about the button-mashing, however. It’s a game which tends towards chucking waves of enemies at you, making for a strangely modular experience that involves lurking within bleached-looking, arena-like areas until the enemies dry up, then continuing on to the next area to do it all over again. Action is all, killing vast numbers of skeletons and assorted other fantasy meanies is all. There’s even a turret section at one point.

As a capsule experience, it’s an entertaining one – the tangibility of an FPS attached to an RPG-lite. It’s meaty and intense, and isn’t afraid of throwing apparently overwhelming odds at you yet ensuring you can overwhelm them. As a prolonged experience, the elements I’ve played simply feel relentless, however. More monsters, and more, and more, and more. Perhaps I’m too used to exploring fantasy worlds at my leisure, but the breakneck, no rest pace of this didn’t enthral me. I personally didn’t spot or feel anything that gave me a sense of accomplishment from surviving one of its hordes, and I kept on hoping something more enthralling was around the next corner. In the full game, that probably does happen – outside of some faintly infuriating teleporting, turret-dropping mini bosses, I’ve yet to run into anything like a set piece.

As a co-op piece, I’m not sure how I feel about it. The presence of another player certainly helps offset the dogged churn of the wave-based fights, but so far it seemed more like two guys doing their own thing on the same screen than working together. The critical exception is the use of healing potions; Hunted uses the buddy revive system that’s so common these days, but restricted by however many healing potions you’re carrying.

If your chum goes down and you’re out of magic juice, you can’t help until you’ve found one. Or maybe you’ve only one heal left and settle on a tactical decision that it’s better spent getting you through your current entanglement. The line between selfishness and strategy in terms of resource-sharing in co-op is forever fine, and hopefully Hunted can make something of that.

There’s loot, too. Of course there’s loot. Swords and shields and bows, that kind of thing. The RPG element of the game is tiny compared to the monster-bashing element, but it’s very much there and it doesn’t seem afraid of positively draping its items with stats. It isn’t anything like as thick and fast in that regard as Diablo, but in other senses it’s definitely pursuing that approach, albeit from a behind-the-shoulder perspective. To be honest, I’m surprised more publishers/developers aren’t frantically trying to realise something Diablo-esque before the main event itself arrives (most likely next year) – there’s a clear appetite for That Kind Of Thing. That in itself may see Hunted pick up more attention than it perhaps otherwise would. I hope it makes more sense as a whole than as occasional dive-ins, I really do.

Also in there is the Crucible, a level design tool. This is a modular tool rather than a full creation tool, involving the selecting of arena shapes, types and contents. In a way it casts a lot of light on the main game itself, being based as it is on the choosing of enemy waves which must be defeated to progress to the next room. Whether it can offer additional variety that isn’t present in the core game remains to be seen, but you can certainly rack the difficulty all the way to stupid o’clock if you want to give yourself a hard time for kicks. Or you can just hack away at yet more dark rooms full of respawning monsters. That too. Additional stuff – primarily foes – is unlocked for use here by collecting coins in the main game, so in theory it’s an evolving and growing experience if you want it to be.

So, we’ll see. Hunted may be lacking that immediate ‘ooh! Wanna!’ that the rest of the Bethesda portfolio seems to radiate, but I’m hoping it suddenly makes sense when embarked on as a co-op adventure with a chum who also doesn’t want to take it entirely seriously. Killing skeletons with blade and spell is an easy route to party time, after all.

__________________

« | »

, , .

40 Comments »

  1. McDan says:

    Sassy woman character who makes smart alec comments, I like the originality of it. But I am really looking forward to this. Co-op games are ma thing.

  2. Jimbo says:

    ‘Spears of Gore’ as they oh so cleverly call it.

    They should probably stop making these videos. You can always tell when the developers involved have little confidence in their game because they start saying things like ‘Killing monsters with cool and amazing and special effects! Awesome!’ What are they even talking about? So you took two cliche personalities and just switched around which character they belong to? That’s great.

    They get some leeway, because Brian Fargo, but this just looks incredibly dull. Maybe with 4 players it would have had potential, like a modern Gauntlet…

    Whatever, I’m off to read the back page of the Baldur’s Gate manual, then watch this trailer again, then cry myself to sleep.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I would like to know what Baldur’s Gate has to do with anything. This is clearly inspired by Golden Axe.

      Doesn’t look like it will be a revolution or anything. But chopping off heads in coop will probably be fun. A damn site more interesting than one of the most overrated games of all time anyhoo.

    • Nick says:

      DrGonzo, look up Brian Fargo.

    • Viper50BMG says:

      Fascinatingly, Brian Fargo’s very first game (according to the esteemed Wikipedia) was entitled “The Demon’s Forge”, a title he wrote and marketed himself (much like the early Ultima games, I would imagine). Could it be that this is a reimagining of that game? He does mention that this project has been something he’s wanted to do for twenty years, so this could be either a) a brilliantly crafted tale set in an intricate and well-thought-out universe, or b) the only bit of stuff he had left in his closet of unused original ideas, made all the rosier by age and nostalgia,

  3. RyuRanX says:

    Button mashing? No thanks.

  4. Diziet Sma says:

    Fish & Chips with a side of Mashed Buttons

  5. Brumisator says:

    Is this reminiscent of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic in any way?
    I kind of liked that game.

    • Zarunil says:

      From what I’ve seen, it has more in common with Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (which was a fun co-op game for an evening, but hardly memorable, apart from the amazing jiggly-ness of the tavern wench’s tatas, which were a milestone in virtual racks).

  6. mattratcliffe says:

    Anyone remember severance: blade of darkness? If it’s anything like that, I might just take a look. Absolutely loved that game!

    • Teddy Leach says:

      People keep mentioning that game and I keep wondering if I should hunt down a copy.

    • enshak says:

      Its a crime what happen to Rebel Act Studios those teleporting creatures were genuinely scary as were the barbarian’s chafing thighs.

    • mattratcliffe says:

      Yes, truly terrifying monsters. I remember the first orc encounter when you realise he has a poison blade, pretty lethal adversary but so much fun. If you like a thinking man’s hack and slash track down a copy it’s ace. Yeh, real shame about rebel act studios, if they had released at a different time to Rune, we may have had severance 2 & 3 to enjoy..

    • enshak says:

      Never got round to playing Rune being broke at that time, is it as atomospheric as Severence or the Heretic games.

    • origo says:

      Blade of darkness was one of my favorite games, I even made one arena map when that game was still hot from presses (my first attempt at modding :p).
      What kind of game it is… close combat glorification, where skill matters. Timing positioning, dodging, unleashing combos (lots of weapons, and each has unique special attack with different button combination). And if you suck, even weak goblin can rip you apart in couple seconds. basically it requires skill.

      And if speaking of old but good swordfighting games, i gotta mention Die by the sword. You control the sword’s swing directions with mouse there.

    • zergrush says:

      Anyone that liked Blade of Dakness should take a look at Demon’s Souls.

    • mattratcliffe says:

      Rune was good for multi player. You could decapitate opponents and then throw their heads for some good taunting action. But it didn’t come close to severance in terms of combat precision, I’ve yet to play a game since (possibly jedi outcast 2 with lots of mods) that enabled as others have to said to dodge, parry and counter attack. Tried die by the sword, another great game but not demons souls so no idea what that’s like.

    • zergrush says:

      It’s an action-rpg ( light on the rpg side ) game with a very deep and skill-based combat system, it has many different options of weapons and movesets and a heavy focus on dodging / blocking / parrying and aiming your strikes properly and also has a very unique and well-designed multiplayer system.

      The only downside of the game is being a PS3 exclusive =(

    • Zanchito says:

      I have VERY fond memories of Severance, and for its time, it was really ahead in tech. It looks dated nowadays, but is still able of some gorgeous inmersiveness (the music was ace too!). If you have ths slightest doubt about whether to play it or not, do yourself a favour and catch a copy. Also, take notice the different characters take different skills and approaches to fighting, so if you find one overly difficult, try another one.

      Does anyone know any other good PC fighting games (not Dark Messiah)? Demon’s Souls is PS3 only, for shame!

    • zergrush says:

      @Zanchito

      Did you try Zeno Clash? I thought it was better than Dark Messiah.

    • Zanchito says:

      Yep, Zeno clash was nice, although I liked the movement better in Dark Messiah. The setting of ZC, however, was nothing short of genius.

  7. Mashakosha says:

    I’m still looking forward to this quite a lot. Shame I wont be buying it on release due to money, but still, looks fun enough for a co-op mashup in the wake oof Portal 2.

  8. Starayo says:

    Don’t care. They’re charging $90 USD on the Australian Steam store. Bethesda can burn for all I care, the price-gouging bastards.

    They won’t get a cent of my money.

    • PanzerVaughn says:

      its not bethesda’s fault the internets have to swim all the way over there to give you your downloads.

    • Camerooni says:

      My mate pre-ordered back when it was 49.99 usd – when it went up to 89.99 he cancelled his pre-order.. one person unfortunately probably doesn’t count.. but he said he wouldn’t put up with it..

      Power to him, he might have just dodged a crummy game :D

      [Edit: Corrected original price - was 50 not 40 :D]

  9. Casimir's Blake says:

    Is there no first-person option in this game? A lot of interest lost right there…

    I definitely approve of the mentioning of Severance here. It was a touch clunky at the time, and looks even more-so these days, but the combat, atmosphere and the level design were all excellent.

  10. Gonefornow says:

    @mattratcliffe
    Severance certainly had it’s flaws, but its combat and serious fantasy atmosphere are unparalleled.
    Thus I don’t really have faith in this one topping those two merits.
    It probably will have a better leveling system though.
    Edit: dang it….

    • mattratcliffe says:

      Absolutely, if you went in button mashing the monsters would hand your head back to you on a plate and some levels you felt totally alone against a horde of nasties.

  11. endintears says:

    Why, Brian? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

  12. Isheh says:

    WHYYYY GFW. Oh why you do this Bethesda

    • Kandon Arc says:

      Games for Windows IS NOT Games for Windows Live. It just means that it will be on PC.

  13. Wixard says:

    I really would have liked the first person viewpoint in this, a bit of a modern Witchaven/Hexen type of thing.

  14. Jake says:

    It sounds interesting because of the co-op potential – games with dedicated co-ops are by far my favourite thing to play these days and ones where you compliment each others abilities are the best although I don’t like the look of the magic – magic is for wizards only!

    But it looks quite immature and far less clever than they seem to think it is. Swapping the two characters’ personalities over is not exactly the pinnacle of good character design and it’s all a bit teenage boy stylistically especially the half naked women. Also it really puts me off when designers say ‘awesome’ or things like ‘really cool swords’, I don’t have a lot of confidence in them to write something I want to hear.

    I have to admit I thought Gears of War was pretty great and unintentionally hilarious most of the way through so maybe this game will tap into that same ludicrous macho posturing thing.

  15. Zanchito says:

    Does it really play like dumb button mashing or is it just how you played it? (honest question, I play Mortal Kombat as button mashing, but other people actually know what they are doing, go figure!).
    Furthermore, does this game play anything like the old Severance: Blade of Darkness or the PS3 Demon’s Souls? Because those games are pure WIN. If you haven’t played them, think Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, but third person, more difficult/rewarding and even better.

  16. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I wonder. At first glance it seems rather superficial and forgettable.. but well, I haven’t tried it.

  17. hamster says:

    Yeah the devs didn’t seem too enthusiastic. i liked the part where he talked bout the spell link and how anything that gets between “takes massive damage.” I dunno, i would feel fairly embarrassed saying that, to be honest.

  18. RegisteredUser says:

    Could the PC have Demon Soul now please?

  19. gorgol says:

    Hmm, for some reason it reminds me of The Force Unleashed. Use cool abilities in interesting ways to kill waves of enemies. Not sure if worth putting on my enourmous to try list.

  20. RegisteredUser says:

    These people need to seriously learn tag team logic.
    Where are the games where one co-op brawler holds down an enemy and the other hits or shoots it?

    Say the brute picks up the meaty enemy and uses him as a shield, while he turns into “mobile cover” and the arrowgirl shoots from behind him.

    Or how about her hopping on his shoulders and suddenly becoming a semi sniper?

    Or him grabbing her by her feet, her curling up inside her armor and the two becoming a wrecking ball team?

    Or what about a tag-team-clap before dual-punching someone stunned in the face. Or or or…so many possibilities.

    FFS people have none of you seen WWF or fun fighting games/cartoons?

    There is an insane amount of FUN co-op ideas potentially there, why doesn’t anyone do any of it..

  21. BloodPukeSalvation says:

    blade of darkness was an excellent game. i remember purchasing it when it was new and relatively unknown, at least to me. I think i went off a pc gamer review that gave it a high score. im glad my risk was rewarded.

    i feel it is responsible for my inability to play other games of the genre. it carried itself so maturely and the music was incredibly atmospheric but not over intrusive. the level design was pretty solid from what i remember and i definitely recall feeling utterly alone in the whole game, in a good way. while i played all 3 character types i probably got the farthest with the barbarian guy. ive never finished it… just kept getting stuck on where to go/what to do. i guess the level design wasnt that perfect after all. maybe ill give it a run through again now that im older and wiser.

    i do remember desperately wanting to play against other players but if i remember correctly there was no matchmaking system in the game and i dont think gamespy supported it.