Hunted: The Demon's Forge First Look PreviewBy Eric Eckstein - Posted Mar 15, 2010
UPDATED IMPRESSIONS: 5/4/10
As a counterpart to the combat- and action-based demo shown at GDC, our demo at Bethesda’s gamer day focused on the puzzle solving and exploration elements in the world. Granted, the puzzles we saw still required use of the weapons, and mostly setting specific objects on fire, but it did show how the dungeons branch off in various routes where weapons and crystals reward the player. In one scenario, a flooded passageway was able to be drained through a series of tasks and later, by straying from the main path, Caddoc and E’lara decrypted a poem and activated the correct triggers with flaming arrows to unearth more powerful weaponry. It would appear that the puzzles are a far more omnipresent aspect of the gameplay, and not just intermittent distractions from the combat. Updating the classic dungeon crawler into the modern era obviously requires a combat hook to lure in those who never delved into that niche of gaming, and Hunted seems to have found a good balance between the two. -- Abbie Heppe
ORIGINAL GDC PREVIEW:
As inXile Entertainment's founder, Brian Fargo, shared his vision for modernizing the dungeon crawl from yesteryear, your mind goes all over the place. This was a man who created Interplay, a development company that specialized in RPGs, including Fargo's own The Bard's Tale and Wasteland. And while recanting the evolution of the RPG as part of his introduction, Fargo indeed mentions all the bests: Wizardry, Ultima Underworld, Oblivion, Baldur's Gate and even Dragon Age. Which is all the more surprising when the curtain is lifted on his newest game, Hunted: The Demon's Forge and it's none of the above!
Don't let the pedigree of Fargo fool you. Hunted: The Demon's Forge, is NOT a RPG. Instead, think of it as a fantasy version of Gears of War, subbing in crossbows for Lancer rifles and half-naked elf chicks for armor-bound meatheads. The emphasis is on action, as its two lead characters, E'lara the aforementioned elven huntress, and the fighter Caddoc, must take the fight to the enemy hordes. In the demo I witnessed, the game opened with both heroes entering a desolate town, when suddenly some demonic humanoid pounces upon a local, ripping the still-beating heart from the poor bastard's own chest. Yup, strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
Hunted: The Demon's Forge was designed from the start as a co-op experience, in single-player and with two human players. While both characters can engage in ranged, melee or spell combat at anytime, E'lara seems to specialize in distance fighting versus Caddoc's up-close-and-personal melee nature. The demo began with E'lara, who quickly took cover behind some sort of barricade, sniping enemies in a medieval-fied cover and shoot system. As a third person action game developed with the Unreal Engine, it looked a little too familiar as she took down other projectile-wielding bad guys from afar. When other more armored creatures rushed the duo, Caddoc took to the fight, hacking apart shields while E'lara hit the high-ground to snipe. This is the core of Hunted's mission to integrate “co-op at a distance,” where players can utilize different strengths, such as taking to the high-ground to turn the tide on a situation. If a player is downed, instead of rushing over to help them up, a player can simply throw a restorative vial to revive them. This allows the ranged player to remain in position, and the melee player to stay up front doing what he does best.
Additionally, the spell ability system also encourages cooperative teamwork. As the game progresses, the heroes are awarded points to spend on abilities. For example, Levitate which lifts enemies into the air and holds them helpless and Hell Fire, the Hunted version of the classic Fireball. At any time, players can wield these spells against the enemies such as firing an Ice arrow at an opponent for your partner to shatter, but if a player uses Hell Fire on another player, the context changes. Now, that player becomes invulnerable to Fire and can now engage an otherwise powerful Fire-based foe. How this will work with an AI counterpart remains to be seen, but in practice with human-controlled characters, it's quite powerful as the duo made short work of any baddies. Best of all, you can switch characters at special checkpoints sprinkled throughout the level, so if you get tired of playing one way, you can mix it up a bit.
Other elements I saw included minor puzzle solving which can yield rewards for those willing to explore. There will be weapons to be picked up in the world, such as crossbows that ignite enemies on fire, and prisoners to be freed (or killed!) to help further the story or share items. But again, this is RPG-lite, and the current focus seems to be about combat.
Hunted: The Demon's Forge was not what I expected from a legend in the RPG space, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. As the game is still early, there's a lot to work on, and I'm hoping more differentiators around its co-op game will come to light between now and release to help it stand out. For now, the good news is that Bethesda's latest to-be-published title looks like a game worth keeping tabs on for co-op fans or action gamers who prefer a fantasy venue, and naturally, we'll be sure to bring you more as details continue to emerge.
Hunted: The Demon's Forge is coming to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.