11th June 2011 - When Bethesda’s great name is attached to a game, it can either be a blessing or a curse. inXile Entertainments’ Hunted: The Demons forge is published by Bethesda, and marketed as an ‘Action-RPG’. With Bethesda slapped right up on its cover, consumers will most likely see it as a seal of approval and faithfully dive head first into its grasps. Whether or not this would be a big mistake or faith well kept is something you may be surprised to learn...
Hunted: The Demons Forge is a fairly straight forward title. At its core, the game is your standard hack’n’slash title; you rummage through the missions killing vast amounts of enemies while looting here and there and solving the odd puzzle. In what is one of the biggest paradox’s in recent gaming, is that where this game manages to stand out from the crowd is by simply trying to not. Hunted plays as a throwback to classic dungeon-crawlers and hack’n’slash titles and doesn’t try to change things up enough by diluting the formula. After all, why fix what’s only broken by others trying to fix it? Yes, just like the classic tale of that local mechanic who charges a little too much for nothing.
Players take the role of both Caddoc – the hulking prime of masculinity – and E’Lara – the skilled albeit weak and petit Elf – who together deliver equal amounts of strength, character and sexuality that seems all too standard in type of game (again, I make note of the titles blunt classic style). Alone, you can play as either Caddoc of E’Lara, switching between the two as you please at certain points in each mission. Both play differently, with Caddoc favouring heavy melee weapons and blunt force trauma over E’Laras’ quick swift Bow & Arrow action, with each character having access to the same magic abilities.
Truth be told, Hunted is best enjoyed with a friend in co-operative play. That said, I would personally only recommend enjoying it with a friend, as alone, Hunted losses a lot of the its charm and can become seriously repetitive. Each mission has you doing the same things over and over, with only the odd puzzle changing from level to level. Co-operative play on the harder difficulties though is extremely satisfying; the combat is fast and fun and has enough playability to have you ploughing through the entire game regardless of anything other than for just the pure enjoyment of play. It’s a little more difficult to that alone I might add.
Something new that Hunted: The Demons Forge brings to the table is The Crucible. This is a completely unique mode and is a big breath of fresh air for the genre, allowing gamers to create their own dungeons just like the main games levels. Through looting vigorously in the Adventure mode, players unlock all ranges of areas, enemies, items and weapons to create and edit your own dungeons with. You can make levels as small as you want, or with up to 25 ‘areas’, which can take a good few hours to complete if designed intelligently. Furthermore, maps can be uploaded and shared with your community and your friends over Xbox LIVE for prosperity and bragging rights. Most of the early maps are pretty average, but some players have already started creating some brilliantly designed dungeons that will give the game some serious longevity and replayability. Definitely a highlight of the title, and something Dungeon Crawlers everywhere will want a piece of.
Powered by the Unreal 3 engine, The Demons Forge is certainly no ugly duckling. I warrant the general look of the game to the gameplay too, coming across very old school. In both the environmental design and character modelling, Hunted is a fine modern example of a classic dungeon crawler. But this doubles up as a negative, too, essentially limiting greatly what the title could have delivered with some more open, RPG elements or exploration. Put simply, it’s got a good deal under the hood, and it’s all working as well as it should, but it isn’t doing much to provide any more that the very minimum.
We all love a good music score. Especially in a fantasy game. More so in a very dark fantasy game. The possibilities are limitless, with so much potential to create eerie music to complement eerie environments to complement well designed combat. So then why, when there is such a calling for an element which helps to improve every other element, does Hunted lack such a characteristic as a decent musical score? While the answer escapes me, I can assure you it’s yet another blow to what this game could have been.
Effects wise, though, Hunted is pretty top notch. It does sounds and voices very well, with suitable actors and a lightly humours script to tie it all together. Slashes, clashes and clings are all meaty and make breaking a hammer over a skeletons head all the more satisfying.
Before buying Hunted: The Demons Forge, you should ask yourself if you what you want out of it. As I said way back at the start, and im sure is a thought on many potential buyers’ minds, one look at Hunted, and a hundred thoughts of what this game is will rush through your head and barely any of them would be close to right. It’s nothing like what you may expect. The game lacks much single-player value, instead relying on co-operative (either online or Splitscreen, which is a great addition) play to make ends meet. But after the standard length of the Adventure, the longevity will come from the brilliant Crucible map-designed mode, which assuming you like the gameplay can give countless hours of fun and life.
Im not going to lie; with Bethesda backing it, and being powered by Unreal Engine, I was expecting a lot more out of Hunted: The Demons Forge than I was delivered. It’s a very old-school, repetitive and straightforward game with little-to-no secrets within its halls. That’s its charm though; it is for all intents and purposes a simple throwback to what gaming used to be about; pure enjoyment of play – even if it could have greatly benefited from some simple RPG elements. While it may not be completely sellable as a single-player game, the co-op action more than makes up for it, and with the great Crucible mode to keep you playing for weeks, it’s certainly a game worth looking into for gamers wanting an experience like they used to get; pure and simple fun.
AAG SCORE: 7/10
+ Great co-op action
+ Classic Dungeon Crawler style
+ Awesome environments
- Lack of Single-Player value
- Lackluster musical score
- Lost potential
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott