Today Bethesda has announced they are publishing a brand new RPG for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 called Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. VGChartz had the privilege of sitting down with the developers (studio inXile Entertainment) for an extensive first look at the game at GDC last week. Read below for a first look at this interesting new cooperative based RPG.
Co-op gameplay is quickly gaining momentum in the industry, as it seems to be almost a requirement for every shooter these days, but is often little more than a tacked-on afterthought rather than a conscious design decision. Bethesda’s new RPG, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, is looking to change that, with a game built from the ground up to be a true co-op dungeon crawler.
Hunted is a dark fantasy RPG following two mercenaries, Caddoc and E’lara, as they hunt the world for valuable crystals battling evil and uncovering a dark plot. If this sounds pretty conventional, that’s because it’s meant to be. The game is intended to be an update to the classic dungeon crawler. Caddoc and E’lara seem to be good characters, but early dialog between them has some super-cheesy lines. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they are actually pretty entertaining, but it does detract a bit from the very serious and dark environments and enemies.
Hunted uses a 3rd person action combat system. In combat you will pick one of the two characters to control. Caddoc and E’lara both have ranged, magic, and melee attacks, but each character has a specialty. The two characters have equal, but unique, abilities in magic, and each has magic spells capable of buffing the other. At any checkpoint you can switch which character you’re playing, as well as learn new abilities and upgrade your current abilities by turning in crystals. Your version of Caddoc and E’lara are unique to your account, and whatever gear/abilities you have will be equipped when you play online. This goes both ways; when someone else is playing online with you, their version of whatever character they are playing will be present.
Caddoc is a burly brawler and melee fighter. He’s the tank, and can take plenty of damage as well as dish it out at close range. His ranged crossbow is fairly weak, and offers minimal ranged support at best. Caddoc’s gameplay will be familiar to action gamers. E’lara is a powerful archer, and can shred enemies extremely effectively from a distance. She has very weak armor, and if melee enemies start wailing on her, she’ll need Caddoc’s help quickly to get them off. She also will struggle to damage enemies with thick armor unless Caddoc has already smashed it up. She utilizes third person shooter gameplay and must make effective use of the cover system.
To say this is a co-op game would be an understatement. It’s more that the game is completely designed around co-op. Every room in the dungeon we saw in the demo was built to encourage cooperation and support. The rooms were large, allowing players to separate while E’lara sought high ground to shoot from and Caddoc took the brunt of the enemy’s force. If a party member falls, they can be revived with a potion from anywhere in the dungeon as long as you have line of sight, allowing players to battle at great distance from each other while still able to support. Support spells can be cast from large distances as well. Matchmaking online is based on player ability as well as a number of parameters you can set, such as what characters your partner plays. Unfortunately local split-screen is not supported.
The combat was brutal and fluid, as Caddoc slashed through enemies and E’lara went for headshots and kinks in the armor of her foes. When there’s just a single enemy left in a room Caddoc and E’lara both are given the option to finish it off with a stylistic brutal kill, which is entertaining. The environment is often useful in combat as well. At one point Caddoc pushed down a large, ancient pillar, crushing many enemies. The game offers visual cues to let you know when things like this are possible.
Of course combat isn’t everything. Exploration and hidden secrets are a big part of the game. Secret paths and rooms will lead you to new plot information, captured civilians who need to be rescued (and may hold some useful information for you), alternate paths, and of course new awesome gear. The developers said the secrets you’ll discover are about 40% easy to solve, 40% hard, and 20% super -difficult. Other RPG conventions like towns are present as well. The developers said they have three primary environments in the game; towns, dungeons, and outdoor exploration environments.
The music of the game is a sort of dark/gothic rock, and very appropriate for the settings. Graphics are very pleasant, but not ground-breaking. The dungeon and ruined town we saw had some great environmental detail and variety. Voice acting was not very good, but the developers clarified that it was purely placeholder at the moment. Enemies are detailed as well, and lose armor and show damage as they take it.
The developers finished the demo with a massive demonic boss, who spawned armies of minions and was resistant to almost all of Caddoc’s and E’lara’s attacks. The demon was only felled when the correct combination of magic buffs and attacks were used, and died in a gory God of War – style finisher as his head was ripped off by Caddoc.
Hunted looks to be a great addition to the RPG genre and a strong new co-op experience for those looking to expand into something more complex than run-and-gun shooters. It’s nice to see some completely original experiences still being created in a genre with such a rich and lengthy history. It's unfortunate that there is no local multiplayer, but maybe they'll reconsider adding it later. The developers say they have been working on the game for two years; an impressive feat considering no information was leaked about it, despite the big-name publisher. No release date has been given yet, but we hope the wait won’t be too long.