Hunted: The Demon's Forge Hands On Impressions

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I visited the Bethesda booth at E3 today, and took Hunted: The Demon’s Forge for a spin. Developed by InXile Entertainment, the game is basically a souped up, co-op dungeon crawler with some pretty impressive production values. It’s not trying to invent a whole new genre, which is totally fine. HTDF (I can’t write that out more than once) is instead attempting to update the hack n’ slash games of old–like Diablo, or even Gauntlet–with a shiny new face thanks to Unreal Engine 3, and some modern action. Does it work? So far, so good. Hit the jump to find out why.

You can play as either E’lara, a hot female elf specializing in ranged combat and magic, or Caddoc, a brawny warrior dude. During most of the demo, I played as E’lara. We started out in an outdoor environment, and were immediately overrun by skeletons.

For ranged combat, E’lara can use her bow and arrow, and to good effect. You use LT to raise the bow and aim, and RT to fire. It only takes a couple of hits for the skeletons shatter. You can also expend some manna and charge her arrows with ice, which was pretty cool.

Also, at any time you can switch E’lara’s weaponry over to a standard melee sword-and-shield combination. The Bethesda rep informed me that since E’lara is a ranged magic user, she can use melee weapons, but she cannot level up and gain new melee abilities. She can only proceed up the ranged/magic skill tree. Still, melee is a good option to have for a mage, especially if things get sticky.

When E’lara switches over to magic attacks, her stance changes and her hand glows. She can emit these powerful bursts of energy that destroy skeletons pretty fast. And they should, because her mana drained pretty rapidly. When you’re out of mana, your best bet is to make your way over to a special blue bulbous plant, which replenishes your mana when you smash it open. Then you’re right back in the action.

As you progress through the game, you’re bound to find potions, and also scattered weapons and armor like shields, axes and spears. I was told there is actually no inventory management in the game, so if you find something, it’s hand-to-mouth. This seemed pretty cool actually, and helped keep the pace and sense of urgency up.

We made it to a character switching station, which will allow both players to swap characters if they choose. I swapped over to Caddoc and gave him a shot. Melee attacks are executed with the X and Y buttons. X is for weak combos, and Y if for strong combos. You can mash either one down to pretty good effect, or you can alternate them to string together more fluid motions. It was pretty intuitive and felt good to smash through skeletons this way.

In addition to normal hack n’ slash kills, you can also trigger “executions” if timed properly. If you see a “B” button prompt come up, press it and you’ll be treated to a brutal fatality. For instance, I triggered one of Caddoc’s executions while he was carrying an ax. It was a gruesome closeup pull-in impalement.

The one definite rough spot I found in the game was the running mechanic. You tap “A” to run. Oddly, if you start running, you’ll be locked running in that direction and can’t steer. This wasn’t too big of a deal though, and it’s very early.

So far, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is definitely accomplishing its goal. It’s a fun, fast paced action game that looks great and will remind you of classic dungeon crawlers. It definitely has my attention, and we’ll keep you up to date with it as we hear more.

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