Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hunted: The Demon's Forge

I suppose I bought Hunted: The Demon's Forge for the same reason as Blades of Time -- for fun third-person hack and slash. It did not turn out quite as fun as BoT, however -- melee combat seemed to involve being stagger-locked a lot. And so I played through the game using E'lara (an apostrophe because fantasy) who focuses on ranged combat. As the elf, the game is more of a third-person cover-based shooter.

Co-op game that works in solo

Hunted is aimed for cooperative play with its two player characters but the AI is quite competent at controlling the other one. Playing the game solo thus works mostly fine. Few times, when going for a weapon rack, Caddoc did get stuck on an obstacle but you can get around that by breaking the weapon rack yourself (no ninja-looting!) and he gets moving normally again.

I think in solo play, the AI-controlled character is more durable. At least I seemed get knocked out a lot faster when I tried Caddoc myself at the beginning. But maybe I was just bad. I think the puzzles of the game also lose something as you kind of need to figure them only halfway out to get the toggle to tell the AI controlled character what to do.

But at least your character has someone to actually talk to; there are no monologues in style of BoT and Tomb Raider. The characters' banter is reasonably amusing. Couple times I even laughed a bit. In one puzzle, Caddoc stepped off a pressure plate on purpose to have flames sprout out on an item I was going for. I definitely did not expect that from an AI partner, and E'lara did not consider it very amusing. I also liked when E'lara described Seraphine's outfit as slutty to an NPC, to which Caddoc commented to look who is talking.

Standard hack and slash content

The story offers no surprises and the world seems to have been greatly influenced by Lord of the Rings. There are different endings, however, depending on if you drank sleg or not. (The sleg is people!) I did not and it was fairly rewarding to get the good ending thanks to that because the battles with sleg available were quite hectic and challenging, albeit enjoyable as well.

Neither are Hunted's straightforward mechanics unexpected. Things upgrade in linear, boring fashion but at least you get some skill interaction when Caddoc lifts enemies into the air and E'lara can then attack them for increased damage. Shields losing durability when blocking is kind of an uneasy mechanic. But as I did not really use my shield, it did not bother me that much. Unlike magic weapons that have charges and then lose their enchantment, becoming worse than a standard weapon of the tier. In my opinion it was unnecessary to put such annoyances in a straightforward game like this.

A shooter of sorts

I started playing Hunted with a gamepad and continued doing so even though shooting became the primary way of doing combat. I tried mouse for a bit but it did not feel that great. The elf's bow does not have the hold-to-draw-and-release controls bows in other games tend to have. Instead you can shoot as fast as you want but your shot will go wide due to the reticle not having closed (the bows have different "rates of fire"). I think over the course of the game I got the hang of aiming with a controller, or rather should I say, I learned how to use aim assist. Hitting a strafing target was still difficult even at the end of the game, though.

The game was also sometimes bit confused for which setup it should show button prompts for, at times even having both keyboard and gamepad buttons on the screen. If you cannot make a game stay with the buttons of the last input method, I think a simple toggle in the options menu (like in BoT) would be the easiest solution.

Few minor issues

Hunted also had some other technical issues. For instance, the game uses GameSpy servers for multiplayer. Or tries to, since that thing has been shut down. That makes the game sometimes freak out and crash when launched. (Blocking it on your firewall might help.) Then there was screen tearing, with and without vsync on. (The game seemed to be locked to 60 fps regardless.) Running the game in Win 7 compatibility mode fixed that, however. I also had world detail setting reseting to lowest every time the game was launched, which was somewhat annoying. There was no option to turn off motion blur again either but Unreal Engine 3's .ini files helped in that, as they often do.


The most "recent" news the game has on Steam is an interview of InXile's CEO, Brian Fargo, about their darkest, publisher-driven days. According to him, Hunted: The Demon's Forge became not quite what was originally intended thanks to the publisher, Bethesda.

Apparently they did not get to have any say in the voice-work of the game, for instance. So I guess it was Bethesda's idea to have Lucy Lawless as Seraphine. She was also listed as the very first thing in the credits. I wonder how much of the game's budget went to her. E'lara's voice, Laura Bailey, appears to be an accomplished voice-actress veteran as well.

I am interested of InXile's own capabilities to make a good game mostly because they are currently developing Torment: Tides of Numenera, the spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment. And I kind of want it to be good. As it was crowd-funded, there is no publisher to give marching orders.

I also got a thirst for even more third-person hack and slash and bought the Darksiders games from a sale, as well as fetching War in the North into my backlog from my hidden Steam games.

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