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DPrime Previews: In-Depth and Hands-On With Hunted: the Demon’s Forge

Hunted logo

At Quakecon 2010, I sat down with Maxx Kaufman, game director of InXile entertainment, to play through a 30 minute demo of the company’s latest and greatest, a cinematic dungeon crawler called Hunted: the Demon’s Forge. I also settled in at the grand ballroom to see Maxx play a much more epic demo of a different level. No news on whether or not the main characters in Hunted are actually being hunted, but I can say that a lot of things are trying to kill them in a game that requires a lot of very satisfying killing.

I played through the demo as the male starring role, a stoic badass called Caddock who is one of two characters you can choose from to play through cooperatively with. After what I can assume have been years of hardcore smoking, Caddock’s voice has been reduced to a low purring growl that really utilizes the bass woofer. Caddock breaks things, and I’m pretty sure his favorite color is red. Everything Caddock does looks titanic and violent: if he wrote this article, he would be TYPING violently, I swear to god.

There are three main weapon types that you can cycle between in Hunted: a ranged bow (or crossbow in Caddock’s case [of course]), magical attacks (ranged and close), and the hack ‘n slash sword. Characters also have abilities such as one of my favorites, a rushing magical maneuver that can cover around 50 feet in a half-second. The two major stats are health and magic, and magic regenerates as you kill shit and do cool stuff, or take potions.

BOOM

Hunted is the first promising dungeon crawler that I have seen in some time, but don’t let the “dungeon” in the genre suggest anything about the locales in which the game takes place: from high peaks to Zen-like gardens to the more traditional dark scary cave and beautiful jungle oases, Hunted has some beautifully crafted environments for players to slaughter in.

There are also simple puzzle mechanics in the game that allow for a rest from the action and time to find valuable equipment and items that will help you later in the quest, such as crystalline shards that can be used to upgrade magical abilities. The puzzle I went through in my demo was a rather simple affair that left me feeling neither crafty nor accomplished when finished, and hopefully some of the conundrums encountered in the final build of the game will provide a more comprehensive challenge for the title.

Meet your new friends, Caddock and E'lara. I think you can guess which is which

I mentioned Caddock breaks things: probably the most important of those things would be shields, which he goes through like cigarettes, using them to smash enemies to the ground and other badass activities you don’t see at summer camp. Players who choose Caddock will find themselves getting new shields whenever they can. Maxx explained to me that as players go through the game, enemies will drop better equipment to be used, much in line with the dungeon crawler tradition—though equipment will be taking a backseat to magical ability in the realm of upgrades and modification. Stat elements in the game will also be limited to what you’d normally see in a hack ‘n slash, so don’t expect to be telling your friends how much this new enchanted chainmail buffed your strength.

Caddock, though holding his own with E’lara in most weapon categories, is best suited to the up close and personal, with his magical rush attack, stunning shockwave spells that engulf nearby enemies, and of course large muscles and a big sword. E’lara, on the other hand, is the Elven ranged goddess of classic fantasy lore, capable of shooting a large volume of arrows from her longbow and with precise lightning spells to deal concentrated damage from afar. By shooting spells at each other, our two heroes can give one another a temporary elemental charge. At one point in the demo, I started crackling with energy and was informed that my teammate had given me an electric boost that was reflected in all of my attacks, boosting my damage the way you would expect lighting to. In the ballroom demo, an epic final battle with a demonic boss could only be brought to an end when Caddock was lent the strength of E’lara’s magic to help defeat him in an incredibly badass way.

The demon boss from the ballroom demo

The Hunted duo is more than simply two killing machines, however: backed by good voice actors, interesting and amusing dialogue and banter circulates between Caddock and E’lara constantly, with what Maxx described as a “Tarantino tension” in the relationship of the two exceptional fighters. Caddock is in every way a representation of the masculine, less in control of his emotions than E’lara and more blunt in terms of his thinking and action. E’lara is the calculating and alluring female, and more the strategist and planner of the pair, based on my experiences with them. Both characters are portrayed as stoic and intelligent, and their relationship—platonic in the circumstances—holds and underlying sexual tension that—Maxx had it spot-on—reminds me of similar tensions between characters in Tarantino movies (like Mia and Vincent in Pulp Fiction).

CHARGIN' MAH LASAH

Of course, cooperative play is being stressed in Hunted, with two players on stage for the ballroom performance and undisclosed special features Maxx hinted at for Co-op only. As I’ve mentioned above, some obstacles in the game cannot be surpassed without cooperation, and considering the difficulty of the game—me dying many times and Maxx and his partner quite a few times themselves—the player-assisted resurrection dynamic (sort of like in Gears of War, only viable from a great distance) is all the more incentive for another human being behind the wheel of the character at your back.

With an early ’11 release date, there are still plenty of kinks to iron out of the game, with he hack ‘n slash controls feeling slightly clunky with Caddock and some room left for more destructible environments, but the game is coming along nicely and has a cinematic feel more at home with blockbuster movies than dungeon crawlers. Hopefully the other aspects of the title will live up to Hunted’s epic vistas and exciting moments.

Raised by a pack of wolves in North Texas suburbia, Derek Sommer has become a consummate writer, gamer, artist, and party fiend. Find him at the nearest whirling epicenter of fun to Lewisville, TX.

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