Lightning never strikes the same place twice, right?
Hunted: The Demon's Forge is a dark fantasy hack-and-slash RPG developed by inXile entertainment. Although The Demon's Forge pays homage to third-person action RPGs like the Fallout and Baldur's Gate series, which inXile CEO Brian Fargo has been involved with, the online elements and intriguing characters don't quite match the same levels of quality.
The story concerns two mercenaries, a human warrior named Caddoc and an elven huntress named E'lara, on the hunt for an artifact that could tear the world asunder. Caddoc and E'lara are not your typical heroes however. As a matter of fact, they make it explicitly clear they would much rather be questing for coin. The two always stand together though, regardless of what evil lurks in unnamed dungeons, which means you may also join a friend on the adventure to save Kala Moor and its inhabitants.
The graphics were good but not outstanding. They are basically what you would expect from a game from this genre, including skimpy attire attire for women, enemies masquerading in Halloween-like costumes, and lots of leather. Dungeons exude a familiar abandoned feeling with cracked stonework slowly acceding to the reaches of moss and mildew. Likewise, bones line the rocky floors of caverns, hollowed out by mother nature or some slumbering creature.
Caddoc's power level is well over 9,000.
The soundtrack strikes me as being very uninspired. Music only amps up to signal the start of combat with a typical, final off-key note to tell players they won. However, the voice acting and dialogue is exceedingly sharp and witty. Throughout the game you can look forward to the friendly teasing banter between the two characters, as Caddoc scolds E'lara for rushing in without thinking and E'lara calls Caddoc old even though she is twice his age. E'lara constantly talks to herself when she has to cross a high ledges and beams, as well, while Caddoc reassures her that she will not end up like her people: dead. I enjoyed the two's keen just-friends chemistry, but gamers learn too little of the titillating history I assume the duo share.
They aren’t interested in saving the world after all; this is just another job to them. Overall, inXile Entertainment's investment in natural, companionate dialogue was well worth the effort. Sadly, the characters end up acting more like heroes than mercenaries nearing final curtains. Personally, I would have liked to see some choices, like E'lara and Caddoc deciding to rescue abducted townspeople or keep the artifact for themselves. With the amount of dark, stygian imagery in the game it would have been refreshing to follow a less virtuous path.
I wormed through The Demon's Forge in single-player mode without access to PSN, so I can tell you that the game provided average entertainment. This atmosphere has a very medieval Halo feel about it, but not being able to connect online prevents me from commenting in this regard. Solo players may freely swap between Caddoc and E'lara any point in-game, though, as several juvenile puzzles require the anti-heroes to locate pressure plates or light torches.
If you can tell me what the gaudy craftsmanship adds to E'lara's bow, you receive one Internet point.
You wouldn't be able to tell it by the Gears of War-inspired combat and over-the-shoulder, but Hunted: The Demon's Forge is a linear game with short side quests that are generally not far from the main path. The quests themselves seemed ridiculous and tedious with the impression that the developers gave no real thought from one to the next. It was not so much the objectives so much as the presentation of how to accomplish these tasks. For example, there are areas of the game that seem like they should be accessible, yet an invisible manifests itself to steer you back to the straight and narrow. Also, you can't change characters except at an obelisk.
However, if you’re craving some hack-and-slash action, you will not be disappointed in this game. The enemies are challenging and without strategic maneuvering you can easily find yourself overwhelmed. Besides the rare miniboss, you will be slaying many run-of-the-mill goblins and skeletons. Unfortunately, all the enemies looked similar. The demons should have had some distinguishing features to separate one from its 37 twins.
The menus are exceptionally easy to access and use at least. Skills are broken down into two groups: melee and magic. You can improve skills like accuracy and damage or add elemental flavor to your attacks like fire and lightning using shards of crystals at various portals. The upgrades may not convince you to scrounge every last corner of the environment, but taking every advantage you can get against tougher antagonists will lead to fewer checkpoint restarts.
If you need an excuse to play an average hack-and-slash RPG, The Demon's Forge will be right up your alley. The rich fantasy world shadowed by the heinous creatures it births is worth playing through cooperatively, assuming you can wrangle together someone else with low expectations. The cheeky dialogue delivers several fourth-wall-breaking laughs, but without the PS3's ability to connect players worldwide right now, you'll only be laughing by (at) yourself.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Number of Players: 1-2 (Cooperative)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), PC