Hunted: The Demon’s Forge doesn’t sound terribly exciting on paper. It’s yet another action RPG set in medieval times populated by certain clichés like evil sorceresses, dark dungeons and of course, cruel beasts hell bent on world domination. But developer Inxile Entertainment aren’t targeting the hardcore RPG veterans over here; they’re looking more at the Gears of War crowd by simplifying gameplay and adding in a cover system. Does that work really well for the game? Well it’s kind of a hit and miss thing but overall Hunted is still fun to play as long as you can put up with certain issues including A.I. that just loves coming in your way.
In Hunted, you play as one of two characters, a burly warrior called Caddoc or an agile Elven archer who goes by the name of E’lara, both of who are mercenaries for hire. Not the most stable career on the planet, their hunger for money, fame and adventure lands them in bang in the middle of an ancient conspiracy involving demons, dragons (but of course) and really pale sorceresses. Yes, the plot isn’t particularly mind blowing but you do end up enjoying the ride thanks to some witty writing as well as the banter shared between the two pivotal characters.
As Caddoc, the game’s your standard hack-and-slash fare since the warrior is especially proficient with melee weapons like swords and axes. He can wield a crossbow as well but he’s not very good at ranged combat. That’s more of E’lara’s area of expertise as she can fire off a hail of arrows in record speed. But of course she isn’t as effective as Caddoc with a sword and a shield making her the ideal choice for ranged combat. Both characters can take cover behind objects while wielding projectile weapons during which the game kind of plays like Gears of War where you can pop out of cover to squeeze a few arrows off and then pop right back in. I admit, I did find the cover system a tad weird at first, since I’ve never seen a game with this kind of a setting use one. But after a few hours I was actually quite comfortable with it. Just don’t go in expecting a very smooth and intuitive one.
Single Players can choose their characters at different points
Co-operative play is undoubtedly the selling point for Hunted but in case you don’t have someone to co-op with, it plays just fine with the A.I. Although I would like to point out that the A.I. has the inherent (and highly annoying knack) of continuously coming in your way. It can get real irritating, especially in narrow corridors where your partner simply stands behind you like a dumbass or worst yet when he/she runs directly in front of your line of fire. And there were also times when my partner just decided to stand still at a random spot during certain levels as I got pummeled by an army of enemies. But to give him/her credit, they were always there to revive me when I went down fighting and most of the time, they held their ground in combat just fine.
While playing (the game) by yourself, you’ll get the option of choosing your character at different points in every level. While this does allow players to experiment with both characters, it’s somewhat of a gamble as you never really know what the level holds for you. Due to this, you may not end up picking the ideal candidate for the job. For example, in this one level I chose to go with Caddoc only to realize that there were explosive barrels spread all over the place. Choosing E’lara and her arrows would have made life so much easier.
Like any conventional RPG on the block, magical spells play an important role in this game as well. Some of these spells like the ability to electrocute your enemies are common to both, but others rely on your character's abilities. Caddoc for example has this badass charge that allows him to not only break an enemy’s defenses but their shield as well. E’lara on the other hand can fire explosive arrows that detonate on impact damaging multiple enemies at the same time. Of course, you can’t just spam these spells to oblivion (heh); each of them absorb a certain amount of mana so make sure you have that precious blue stuff on you at all times.
Magical spells are important
While Hunted does borrow a lot from various RPGs, it is still a very linear game. This isn’t Oblivion or Fallout where you can just wander off the main quest to explore the world. There is a certain amount of exploration, yes, but that’s limited to exploring certain corridors. Doing so will allow players to pick up gold, crystals (to upgrade abilities) as well as certain enchanted items, enhanced by magic that’ll dish out additional damage. Unfortunately these weapons can only be used for a limited period so that kind of sucked. Hardcore RPG vets may also get turned off by the lack of any sort of customization or crafting.
Hunted’s made using the Unreal3 engine and is a pretty spiffy looking game. But then again, this is Unreal 3 kind of spiffy which in today’s day and age does seem a tad outdated. Character models for both the good guys as well as the legions of minions is nice and full of detail but special mention goes out to the lighting that looks especially stunning while casting spells.
Take it like a man
Hunted is an enjoyable game but it’s bogged down by a few issues. If you end up playing it with another person, fine, but be warned, by yourself, the AI can get on your nerves a few levels in. Also the game’s more of action game than an RPG so if shallow, linear games turn you off, this one’s not for you. That being said, Hunted can provide hours of entertainment if you treat it as a corridor shooter with a few RPG elements thrown in.