Hunted: The Demon’s Forge Hands-On Preview [PAX 2011]

Hunted: The Demon’s Forge has gotten a bad rap. Being an action-RPG with a Resident Evil 4-esque over-the-shoulder camera, the game was type-cast as a medieval Gears of War clone based on early screenshots. Developer InXile knows about the rep, and they aren’t happy about. “Players {here at PAX} start playing as E’lara and immediately start using the reticule, says Bethesda senior producer Darren Chukitus. It’s not that kind of game, there’s a lot more fast-paced hack-n-slashing, rapid-shooting action going on.” And rightfully so, Hunted is a lot of things, but a Gears of War clone, it is not.

The plot and controls are straight out of the action game textbook. The game follows the story of a pair of warriors, Caddoc, the large, bald swordsman, and E’lara, the scantily-clad elven archer, as they investigate a series of disappearances in the region.  Each character has a short-ranged weapon and a long-ranged weapon, plus a set of magic/abilities.  Players can help their fallen partners and support each other using stat-boosting “Battle Charges.”  Players set out on their path, killing enemies while scouring for hidden paths leading to loot and equipment. The game puts a heavy emphasis on combat, pairing down RPG elements to a low-effort God of War style experience system. Puzzles are considered extra credit for the most part, protecting the best prizes, so only perfectionist players will really be asked to think outside of the box.

Hunted’s gameplay, on the other hand, does set itself apart from the pack.  The enemies don’t have obvious weaknesses – guys with big shields who should obviously be attacked from the rear or elemental baddies who will be easily killed with hit with their counter element. Each encounter is simply a test of your skills against your opponents. That might sound kind of bland to be a selling point, but it’s far more rare in gaming than you’d think. The bottom line is Hunted: The Demon’s Forge isn’t going to break the bank with originality, but it knows what it is and how to get the job done. If you love to kill things without extraneous non-combat gameplay sequences, then Hunted is going to be right up your alley.

Hunted: The Demon’s Forge will chop your head off on June 1st.