PS3 Review – Hunted: The Demon’s Forge

When Hunted: The Demon’s Forge was announced by Bethesda Softworks, many looked forward to the complete co-op experience that it would bring to the table. Tie in a dungeon crawling experience, along with RPG elements sprinkled on top, and you have yourself a winner, right? Not always the issue when there are so many things to take into account when shelling out sixty bucks for a game nowadays. So is this co-op dungeon crawler worthy of you picking it up? Read on to find out.

The game itself follows the adventures of both E’lara and Caddoc. E’lara is an elf that focuses on range based attacks and covering her partner, but has the capability to defend herself in close quarters if need be. Caddoc, however, is a human warrior who focuses more on up close and personal attacks, but has a crossbow in his arsenal if needed.  His character attempts to come across as brave, yet has a serious fear of insects. The two characters can be interchanged at specific points in the game, at purple glowing stones known as “obelisks”, allowing you to choose the character that you prefer or that would be best for a specific scenario.

Hunted takes place during the Dark Ages, but there is something more sinister at work, and as you progress through the game you will find out what is really going on seeing as how townspeople are disappearing for some unknown reason. You will start off with Caddoc having a vision of himself in a cave and following a voice down a dark tunnel, equipped with only a torch. After reaching the end of the tunnel a huge monster appears and Caddoc awakes with E’lara sitting at a fire inside of a camp-site area. Things eventually start to resemble the dream when players meet a pale woman name Sariphine, who appears from a portal. She then directs you to complete a set of tasks, resulting in the real adventure beginning. The overall story of the game is quite entertaining because there is always a level of mystery as to what is truly going on in the game. You will find yourself coming back to find out what happens next in the story.

The biggest draw of Hunted is that it offers a complete co-op experience for players of the game – this includes split-screen, online, and LAN. Playing through this game cooperatively is definitely the best way to experience the title. This is not saying that your partner if A.I. controlled will be bad by any means, in fact they will act correctly most of the time, but to have a friend that you can communicate with whether in person or via chat takes things to the next level in Hunted. There is one issue that some players may have about the game when in the split-screen mode with a friend, and that is that the game is not in a full screen mode when playing, it instead places the annoying bars on the sides of the screen of your television set. This isn’t game breaking, but is definitely an annoyance to most players. Besides this, everything else works very well for the split screen mode, providing a fluid experience without any hiccups.

Besides the fairly engrossing storyline, Hunted gives players the opportunity to design their own levels in a mode known as Crucible. The map creator is actually very well done considering that you must first unlock things via ingame to use in your own created levels. This tier based system is tied to the amount of gold that you accumulate while playing the game, so be sure to pick up all that gold while playing the campaign. inXile Entertainment even launched the game with pre-made levels available to play right away, which will definitely allow you to get some great ideas on what to put in your own “dungeon”.

Other nice additions to the game include little things like the campaign tweaks that can be used. These tweaks alter the gameplay that is available by default and include things like: one shot kills, unlimited arrows, big head mode, etc. There are a total of ten different tweaks to unlock by beating the campaign, each having their own entertaining result.

Although Hunted is co-op dungeon crawler, the gameplay actually resembles the Gears of War franchise quite a bit, especially with the cover system. It is extremely important that you use cover system, or you will find yourself dying quite a bit. Which leads to another important plus in the game, the A.I. – to put it simply, they are smart, and many act differently than one another. So you will constantly have to make adjustments to what is going on with the game. Some enemies will be attacking from ranged areas, while others are attempting to surprise you with a melee attack while you are focused on your ranged enemies. All of this chaos can be quite confusing at first, so do not get angry when your character dies, a lot. It is by no means the difficulty of a game like Demon’s Souls, but it is still pretty difficult, with or without a player controlled partner.

The game should also not be thought of as just a hack-n-slash title either, it offers so much more than that packaged in. There are puzzles scattered throughout the game, some are required to progress, but others offer bonuses to your characters, such as weapons and gold. One thing to keep an eye out for is the Ancient Ones, these huge stone faces that talk will speak to you in riddles. By solving the riddle it will allow you to proceed past the Ancient One for your reward. Other nice additions include things reacting to your actions, such as you carrying a torch, the flames will clear out cobwebs in front of you and even having to attack shrubbery to open paths up to progress in a map. Tie in that you can save civilians that have been captured and use the death stone on bodies that are found, it leads to some interesting things to reveal about the story or just the world that the game revolves around. Both the civilians and death stone are not required to progress in the game, so you could end up missing out on some of the story and not even know it. By approaching and using the stone the soul will speak to you and reveal unknown things, and even lead to one of your characters finding treasure or other items.

Hunted also offers an RPG aspect to it as well, giving players an array of attacks that may be purchased from Sariphine by using crystals that are found in different maps, as well as on enemies. You may rarely find full crystals, but a lot of times you will find yourself running across fragments of them. These pieces must be added together to make one whole crystal. The more powerful the attack you want to purchase, the more crystals it will cost.

While the game will be spent protecting one another from attacks, you or your ally will end up dying on ocassion. As in most games, traditional potions are used to aid you on your quest. The more you are revived, the more vials can be carried. If you take to long to revive your ally it will result in a game over and you must then restart from a checkpoint. The system placed here actually works quite well, especially considering the more you die, the more vials you can carry. Potions wise though it is best to be smart with how quickly you use it, because you don’t want to leave yourself at a disadvantage.

The same can be said for your weapons in the game as well. Arrows can be found throughout the game, but if you use them too quickly you and your ally will find yourself at a disadvantage. So it is best to be smart with how you place your ranged attacks. Another positive with the game is how the ranged attacks work. The bows actually must take into account where your enemy is heading, rather than where he currently is, so quick mastery of the bow or crossbow is very important. Your weapons themselves will also become damaged over time, especially your shields considering how much blocking you will be doing. These replacement weapons will be scattered around the maps on the ground and in weapon racks.

One of the main complaints that will be found within the game is that the combat feels a bit sluggish at times. It’s not that it is a glitch or anything, but your character will feel as if he is reacting too slow against 4-5 enemies rushing at you all at once. Yes this adds tension to the game, but when you are using a melee character primarily, you will find yourself getting very frustrated when your blocks aren’t doing what they are supposed to do, and that is block. It doesn’t break or ruin the game by any means, but it does detract from the enjoyment somewhat, especially if you want to use melee based attacks most of the time with Caddoc.

Hunted has a dark gritty feel to it, and offers huge maps to explore as your progress through the levels. If you are going into a dark area, it will actually be scarily dark. The lighting effects from the torches, or a lit arrow are amazing. It reacts as if they would in real life, and doesn’t reveal too much of the environment from the lit flame. This adds a feeling of suspense, because you truly cannot see that far in front of you, but you can hear what is there.

Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is by no means a ground-breaking game. What Hunted does offer though is a fun co-op experience with an interesting storyline. Tie in a dungeon creator, and it can keep you coming back for more with a fresh new map to play on. You will find yourself playing through the story more than once to amass enough gold to unlock items in the crucible mode to create that perfect dungeon. If you are looking for a perfect game that changes the co-op experience, look elsewhere, but if you are looking for a decent game that offers a fun experience while playing online Hunted is where it’s at.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Offers fantastic co-op action, the game is perfect to play with a friend both online and local.

+ Interesting story with good characters, tie in a the creation mode with the crucible mode and you have a lot of content.

– The game overall just doesn’t do anything to set itself apart from the pack

7 out of 10