3 Hours with Hunted: The Demon’s Forge

As a general rule of thumb, most weeks I spend time in email threads with a group of people discussing video games.  In response to questions about my impressions of Bethesda’s newly published title, developed by inXile, I had written the following content.  It seems silly not to open that up to the public, so hit the jump to see a slightly edited version of my impressions from roughly 3 hours of time spent with Hunted: The Demon’s Forge:

From a technical perspective, the game’s only so-so.  It suffers from the same sorts of things that plague other Unreal Engine games.  Things have a glossy look, there’s some texture pop-in, occasionally some clipping,  and the like.  The textures themselves are not really on par with a lot of other stuff from 2009-on, which gives it a bit more of a dated look, but it’s still better than PS2-era looks.  I will say though, that the sound design is pretty good.  It’s not Mortal Kombat good, but there’s definitely enough quality there for it to be noticeable.  The music?  Well, to be honest I didn’t really notice it so I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

From a dungeon crawler perspective, it’s quite competent.  The looting actually feels much better than I thought it would.  Enemies do drop some loot, but it’s no where near the volume of the traditional isometric dungeon crawler.  You are constantly picking up new weapons to swap in and out, though the items themselves don’t have the stat overload you might expect.  It really boils down to attack speed, attack damage, and whether or not it has any magical charges on it (i.e. a bow might add a poison cloud effect randomly for X number of charges).  There’s only one armor slot to upgrade, and you also upgrade/swap shields.  From the best I can tell, shields degrade through use, so you are looking for new shields off of dead bodies to “recharge” your ability to block.

The part where the looting really succeeds is collectibles.  Enemies randomly drop gold, which is used as a point threshold system that unlocks content for the Crucible (the dungeon creation tool).  There are Dragon Tears that unlock various talents as you collect a certain number of them.  There are crystals that you collect and randomly pick off of enemies in shards (kind of like heart container pieces from Zelda) and those are used to unlock and upgrade battle and weapon magics.  Even though you aren’t constantly swapping one of a dozen pieces of gear like a traditional dungeon crawl, it does feel like you are constantly progressing your character, which is nice.

From a gameplay perspective, I’ve spent most of my time with E’lara, the archer.  The shooting feels competent, though I have noticed one or two spots where I thought I should be able to thread an arrow through an opening and wasn’t able to.  The aim-assist, on by default, makes it considerably easier than a traditional shooter, which is doubly noticeable when you’re not “looking down the iron sights” and just firing from the hip.  Though that technique only seems useful when you’re trying to shoot at things close range.  The up-close action is pretty stock for any other action-RPG.  It’s no where near as complex as Ninja Gaide, Devil May Cry, or God of War – but it includes the stock light and hard attacks, as well as a block and roll.  Combat feels pretty good, but I honestly haven’t played that side of it very much.  Puzzles & hidden areas have been a bit of a joke thus far, but it’s also early on so that’s hard to judge.  It does provide a nice ability to queue the other person to do something to help, so all of those co-op-only style puzzles you get in other games are easily doable from solo play.

Speaking to the teammate aspect – there are some combined attacks that your partner AI will help you execute quite well.  For example, I have an arrow ability that will freeze enemies, and once they’re sufficiently frozen, they become brittle and can be shattered.  Well when I freeze an enemy with an arrow, Caddoc (the up-close fighter) automatically goes out of his way to run over and deal a shattering blow.  I haven’t noticed anything too weird or out of the ordinary in terms of enemy AI, and they seem fairly stock for the style of game.

I’m a bit too early to really know or care about the story – but truth is, for dungeon crawlers I very rarely pay any attention to the story anyway.

I guess overall I’d go with essentially what I said previously on Twitter:  It’s a good game, probably not great or fantastic, but it’s fun and there used to be a time when gamers thought that “fun” was good enough.

The author Scott, spends too much time talking about games, and not enough time playing them.

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