What We Already Know
Hunted: The Demon's Forge has been jokingly referred to by the team at inXile as Gears of Warcraft, and it's an appropriate description. It's a co-op (either real or A.I.) RPG set in the world of swords and sorcery. You play as either the burly yet contemplative Caddoc, a melee brawler, or the impulsive and rash E'lara, who is best with her bow. There's a large puzzle-solving element to the game, and we took a look at it earlier this year.
What We're Seeing Now
It's been five months since we last took a look at the game, and it has definitely come a long way. The build that they were showing was brand-new, and highlighted both characters strengths and weaknesses. Most noticeable were the graphic improvements to the title. While there were some framerate issues at times, the game looked much sharper than it did back in March.
According to creative director Maxx Kaufman, we played through a roughly a third of a section of Chapter 4, "The Fall of Llyr," and each chapter has about six or seven different sections. With six chapters total, there's a lot of game to play. They weren't guesstimating the length just yet, but with online co-op and the ability to play by yourself and swap between the two different characters, it looks like the experience will be fairly meaty. Additionally, depending on who you're playing as, you can hear that character's inner thoughts at the beginning of each new chapter.
The section we played through looked like the ruins of a huge building, which was partially collapsed and on fire in several spots. Opponents would fire ranged weapons at us, while grunts would attempt to come in for melee attacks. Playing as Caddoc, I was happy to see E'lara take to a raised platform with cover so she could pepper the enemy with her ranged attacks. Caddoc is much better suited for getting up close and personal, with his sword/mace/axe attacks and his shield bash ability.
While Caddoc has a ranged attack as well (hit LB to switch easily between the two), E'lara is much quicker with her bow, and she has a handy freeze attack that can stop enemies cold. She's also the only one who can light arrows on fire, which comes in handy quite often, particularly when solving puzzles. With E'lara providing ranged attacks behind cover, and me bashing skeletons in the face as Caddoc, we made short work of the sword fodder grunts before a fair-sized Minotaur appeared. He's a bit harder to take down, and this is where E'lara's freezing power comes in handy.
Once the area has been cleared, and you've restocked your supply of arrows or picked up a new shield, you can explore the level a bit. Doing so yields a corpse surrounded by a green outline, meaning that you can activate a Deathstone on him. When you do that, you'll hear the ghostly last thoughts of the unfortunate soul, which in this case led us to a nearby fireplace with a skull mounted on it. The skull gives you clues that suggest you "find his bones, which you can easily locate nearby, although Maxx told us they would be more scattered in the final game.
Dropping the bones into the fireplace, you have to light it on fire (Caddoc will tell E'lara to do it if you're playing as him, or if you play as E'lara you can light an arrow yourself and send it shooting into the wood). This opens up a secret area, which contains an ability Crystal. Abilities in the game have to be unlocked, either by gathering crystals or completing small challenges like slaying a certain number of foes. Abilities include carrying extra health, extra mana, increasing your arrow capacity, unlocking new executions, and so on.
The game has two meters at the top of the screen: left hand keeps track of your health, and the right hand marks your mana. These meters look a bit like swords, and light up the usual red for health and blue for mana. The "hilt" of each sword contains three circular slots, and these are filled by either health or mana potions. Mana potions are activated when your meter runs out, but health potions have to be activated by hitting R3. I found myself not using much mana as Caddoc (you hit the right button for both characters to switch to magic attacks), but with E'lara and her freezing attack, I'd plow through it fairly quickly.
Another system that the developers are toying with is an in-game guide system. Clicking L3 will reveal a "trail of sparkles" for lack of a better term, which will lead you back to your partner, or towards an objective. They're calling it the "Golden Waypoint" right now, although that could change, and it will point out exits in a haze of smoke as well. It won't be a direct path drawn on the ground, a la Dead Space, because they want to encourage exploration in the game. As Maxx puts it, "The game is 70% combat and 30% exploration," and there' a lot of stuff to find.
We only played through in single player, although we took control of both characters, and unfortunately that meant we didn't get to see any of the two-player executions. With lots of exploration yet to come, mini-dungeons to spelunk, and riddles to unlock, we're looking forward to finding out more about Hunted. At the end of this new level, Caddoc and E'lara hide as a truly massive ogre (the thing is several stories high) lumbers by, and E'lara asks Caddoc, "Can we fight it?" That's exactly the same thing we want to know. The new trailer shows off some platforming, more puzzles, and a gigantic, winged demon. And yes, you can fight it.