Trodamus

I Just Bought Hunted: Demon’s Forge (And Obviously Haven’t Finished It)

In My Girlfriend Does Not Play Video Games, Video Games on June 2, 2011 at 2:51 pm

This game seems to be struggling against itself where the generous (read: overly long) tutorial level is concerned.  It struggles despite itself, being that it’s actually a very pretty game founded on some very solid, old school tried and true fun, and if it had a little more confidence in its abilities, and in those of its players, at least our introduction to the game wouldn’t be so problematic.

The first dichotomy, the paradoxical juxtiposition, is that the game very much wants to be taken in the same vein as old hack and slash games and even older are pee gees.  As in these old games, you are tasked with growing your character along a limited tract while filtching around boxed areas for one of the dozens of collectables for which the game will assuredly grant you delicious unlockables, power and glory.  That’s the hack and slash.  Think Dark Alliance and its ilk.  Along the way, I’m given the clear impression that the game doesn’t really want to hold my hand; gameplay concepts are seemingly there for me to find, and it’s certainly not shy about knocking you about with hordes of enemies or a dodge mechanic that doesn’t make you invulnerable or slow down time or otherwise hand you the game on a platter (the first in years!).  So it’s deadlier and somewhat less friendly than your standard game today, kind of like the RPGs of yesteryear, provided you’re playing on hard rather than normal.

Yet you’re given a tutorial, and a lousy one at that.  It’s odd, poorly paced, there’s not much to look at, and the overall aesthetic doesn’t seem to mesh with the gritty fantasy that they’re presenting.

It’s not as though I’m against tutorials, but this one seemed really tacked on.  The tutorial flat out disallows any manoever that it hasn’t taught you yet, so you run ineffectually at waist-high walls until the game tells you how to actually take cover (actually, you’ll walk innefectually at the walls as you don’t learn to run until later in the tutorial).  This with the back of the box proudly proclaiming Kotaku’s “RPG for the Gears age” quote.  So yes, Hunted, I think I’m familiar with the concept, thanks.  Bizarrely, you can only take cover or “hug” certain designated “cover” walls in the tutorial, which was also particularly jarring.   When I play Gears — founder of this game’s concepts — I can barely stop Marcus or Dom from hugging the surroundings (or each other dohohoho).  But again, this seems to only be a problem in the game’s introduction.

But then, while the game is hassling me with this tutorial, it doesn’t bother to explain the more advanced concepts within its mechanics, for example that taking cover increases ranged weapon accuracy (for what reason I don’t know; is E’lara bracing her bow or something?).  This I had to learn in the loading screen, which didn’t tell me what it means by “accuracy” — is it autoaim’s generousity, rapid-fire recoil, crosshair tightness, or what?  The game also doesn’t tell you that “aiming” snaps the crosshairs to enemies, or that dodges can be interrupted by damage, or when some spells may be “readied” with a tap while others are just cast immediately, among other things.  All of that isn’t bad in and of itself, but if I’m going to be forced down a tutorial, they may as well use that opportunity to tell me, rather than through random discovery.  Not to mention that the tutorial is basically a dolled up narrow corridor with no opportunity for exploration with possibly the worst skeletons I’ve ever seen in in a game.  I mean seriously, you can’t even laterally dodge without stopping at the invisible walls of the narrow tutorial level.

I’m really convinced that this was added fairly late in the development.  I was going to say the game had pacing problems, but those vanished when I got to the first chapter.  It’s literally just the tutorial that has these problems so far.  The first town is under siege and immediately I’m thrown to wide-open areas, plenty of cover, and I can run about using magic while killing a generous supply of much more interesting and well-designed enemies.

The game begins by zooming you through the game’s panoramic vistas while an unknown person promises power and wealth in an overly coquettish manner.  This character appears “in-person” as it were shortly thereafter during the tutorial and awkwardly explains the game’s level up mechanic (collecting crystals and buying powers from her basically).  Apart from this not really needing that much explanation, Seriphime’s — as she’s known — character design is a bizarre representation of the sluttiest leather pants losing an epic battle against her generous proportions and medieval whale-tailed thong.  Her animations go on to emphasize the top half of her problems, as it were, and you get the feeling the animators never really got tired daring girls to touch their elbows to each other behind their backs.

Now, I’m as much a fan of a reasonable helping of “fantasy sexy” as the next guy, but this is ridiculous to where I don’t want her on the screen, least of all where my girlfriend can see (to her credit, she chortled appropriately when E’lara mocked Seriphime’s for being too pale).  She’s apparently voiced by Lucy Lawless, which disappionted me as I thought she’d be doing E’lara.

Apart from that, the game seems promising so far.  Great voice acting deploys E’lara as a brusque and witty foil to Caddoc’s more down to earth and low-spoken demeanor and the action is pretty promising.  Cooperatively, the game has promised quite a bit, though I’ll only get to test that when Amazon sees fit to deliver my brother’s copy, so we’ll see.  Allegedly, the developers said they wanted to build the co-op game they’d like to play themselves from the ground up, holding in disdain that todays co-op games are simply games that you just play together, rather than cooperatively.  But hey, I don’t think I’ve seen a decent hack and slash game in a while, leastwise on this generation of consoles, so here’s to some high hopes.

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  1. I was curious about this game mainly for the co-op element, since the last good console co-op the wife and I had was Resident Evil 5. Admittedly, she has particular tastes, but sometimes something in the DLC market (such as the recent Moon Diver) serves us well, but we haven’t really had something more substantial that demanded a disc to be popped in for some time.

    Still, I hadn’t heard much hype for this game otherwise, so I’ve wanted to wait until I hear a bit more about it before bothering to sink the $60 for it. I expect an in-depth review where you nitpick every tiny flaw in the coming weeks. ;)

  2. Most of the hype has been on the co-op circuit; this article on Co-Optimus gives a glance at the developers’ stance on co-op features and gives a few examples that show their intent as “work together” and not just “kill things faster with two people.” We’ll see!

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