by Derk Bil
previewed on X360
Co-op gameplay, not exactly new but completely reinvented for Bethesda’s new action title Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. Developer Inxile is going all out to provide a story-driven co-op experience without peer.
The game follows two characters, Caddoc and E’lara, in their quest to uncover the truth behind the sudden appearance of all sorts of creatures normally only found underground. Their presence coincides with reports of villagers disappearing everywhere. Realizing that the two events must be connected, they set out to find the missing villagers.
Caddoc is a human swordsman of the kind you would rather not mess with. He’s not too shabby with a crossbow, but his true strength lies in wreaking major trauma with his sword and shield. Bashing, hacking and stomping is what he is born to do. The sexy Elven E’lara prefers ranged combat over the melee fighting style of her partner and puts her bow to good use. When push comes to shove, however, she can handle herself with a sword but as an expert archer she is best applied attacking from a distance.
Don’t be fooled by their looks though. Caddoc may look like the scary one but in fact it is E’lara who is the homicidal maniac of the two, a loose cannon in danger of exploding at any time. Caddoc on the other hand, is a quiet, calculating killer. Together they make up a small and efficient team of mercenaries capable of unbelievable feats. With two such opposite characters, playing with one or the other is certain to have a profound impact on your gaming experience.
Both characters know a little bit of magic which they mostly use offensively. I was able to spend some time playing as Caddoc during which I saw some impressive magic cast by the AI controlled E’lara. Many of her actions were in direct response to my own. As Caddoc, I had access to a cool levitation spell that enabled me to lift both myself and E’lara after which she proceeded to pick off our enemies one by one using her bow.
Combat spells and abilities often have a dual purpose. When aimed at your partner you will buff him/her and if used on the hordes of evil, you will inflict some pain. At one point I allowed Caddoc to get in trouble quite badly and E’lara, without me having to give any commands to do so, gave me a buff that made me pull through. Nice one babe!
Despite the fact that Caddoc and E’lara are definitely not joined at the hip, it is quite satisfying to realize that they supplement each other perfectly and have each other’s backs. And while I am fully aware of the fact that half an hour of gameplay is way short, I haven’t had the feeling that the AI was acting like a retard or that it was totally overpowered, not leaving anything for me to kill. It all felt pretty balanced.
If you like, you can start the game with either Caddoc or E’lara and play it all the way through but if you find that melee or archery doesn’t suit your preference all too well, there will be points in the game where you can switch characters. This goes for both games where you play with an AI partner or one of your friends.
There are some roleplaying elements present in the game, but this is primarily an action adventure game. Puzzles, which range from mostly easy to fairly challenging are intended to be fun, but especially the harder ones are totally optional. Quite often merely serving the purpose of supplying you with better weaponry. Better gear is of course nicer to have, but it’s not intended to be game breaking if you miss out on an upgrade or two.
Though not intimately familiar with the controller, playing the Xbox 360 version of the game went alright for me. It was enjoyable despite me being a little clumsy with it still. I definitely had the feeling I could get more out of the combat itself with just a little bit more practice.
Now the actual gameplay is one thing but looks definitely matter and the presentation of this game is quite appealing. It is set in a grim fantasy world, a paradise with a dark cloud hanging over it, undead crawling the once luscious lands, cities being ravaged by the forces of evil. For our deadly duo things start out as just another job and not long after they find themselves fighting for a worthy cause.
In terms of graphics Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is not standing out in either a good or a bad way; it is attractive and your run of the mill fantasy version of realistic models. It doesn’t feel all that unique in terms of style but it is executed pretty well. So in those terms the game is totally headed in an adequate direction and I do feel that the gameplay is going to be its main selling point. Action games are a dime a dozen but with the co-op style and the well-designed AI to go with it I do feel Inxile is bringing something fresh and worthy to the table.