E’lara might be the name inXile have given to the elf temptress you’ll get to control in Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, but I prefer to call her Sexy Flaps. She’s got these leather flap things that hang between her legs and I’m certain she’s got nowt on behind them. It’s fashion before function in Hunted, for sure.
She’s just half of the dynamic duo that you and, inXile hope, a buddy will be controlling in your quest to find loot, kill monsters and generally save the world from great peril. The other, less sultry side of the team is Caddoc, a burly bruiser of a man with less hair than Telly Savalas but far more arcane tattoos.
Both of them are starring in a game that features the acting talents of Lucy Lawless and some guy called Graham McTavish, who’s apparently going to be in the Hobbit film soon. Lawless isn’t playing Sexy Flaps though, she’s Leather Straps or Seraphine to give her her proper name.
Seraphine appears during the prologue, which is handily where we start our short hands-on in the basement of a London hotel. It becomes apparent early on that we’re not going to see anything remarkable or groundbreaking from Hunted. The action is very much in the traditional hack-and-slash mode, with E’lara generally performing ranged duties with a bow and Caddoc diving in with his melee weapon.
Inxile are really pushing the co-op element of Hunted above all the other features, claiming it’ll be more than just two people playing together, but more like two players working together as one with mutually helpful abilities. The spell system is built to be used in co-operation with the other player, so E’lara could buff Caddoc with an electricity spell, which would cause his attacks to be more damaging and so on.
That’s the theory, as our hands-on time didn’t really allow us enough scope for exploring in-depth. What we did get to do was to work together in pairs to rescue a town from a siege and get a look at something else inXile want to push, which is exploring and solving puzzles together outside of the main storyline.
Saving the town was tough, a huge siege tower needing to be downed via catapult while the mayor squealed and pouted from his balcony. Achieving this required some coordinated efforts to get through the multitudinous enemies that kept swarming us, but with some generous use of the remote revive ability, we made it to the end. By the time we descended into the dungeons for the second part of our challenge, we were a well-oiled machine.
One of the problems that became evident in this next section was the lack of checkpoints, something that could be the difference between Hunted being a success or a failure in the eyes of buyers. Simply put, it seems that potentially the focus on exploration, solving puzzles together and things like that could be undermined by sending players back too far if a mistake is made.
Twice we were returned to the beginning of the level are some extensive exploration ended with our untimely deaths. Naturally, later checkpoints might be better, more forgiving to those willing to solve the puzzles, but if they’re not, there’s a chance a massive chunk of the game will be cut off for all but the dedicated few.
And this would be a shame, because the puzzles are one of the most interesting elements. Take them out and it’s a fairly standard loot-based arcade RPG, but with them there’s more depth and the co-op dynamic works at its best. Only more extensive play time will tell us whether or not it’s a crippling problem or a merely irksome one.
Other than that, arcade RPG fans should find a lot to look forward to. One quick glance at a huge demon tells us there could well be some epic boss battles for those who like that sort of thing, plus those who enjoy collecting loot will be in their element.
The magic system is relatively unknown even now, but there’s definite potential for some spectacular effects and some interesting co-op possibilities. There are also some nods to other games that were spotted, like the blood splattering over characters during cut-scenes (Dragon Age) and an objective trail path (Dead Space).
With all these references for eagle-eyed players to spot, there’s certainly going to be plenty of reasons to play Hunted, and co-op games are always good fun to a certain degree. We’d have wanted more time to really see what the game was all about, but we have seen has been enough to at least give us hope there’s more than just a generic hack-and-slash game here.