Hunted: The Demon’s Forge Co-op Bits

In The Gaming Community, Video Games on June 9, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Hunted (or as the internet is insistent on naming it, Huanted’s Demon Forge) boldly claimed throughout its quiet development and preview cycle that it would redefine co-op gaming.  When prompted, inXile explained that they were tired of co-op games that only let you “just” play together, waxing philosphical for some unseen golden age where co-op gaming meant working. cooperatively, to succeed, rather than just making the game easier with twice the players.  It does and doesn’t succeed at this

Your interactions with your partner are somewhat limited; you come across the odd puzzle (it is an action game first and foremost), which is limited to requiring E’lara to grab some fire with her arrows for strategic lantern lighting combat.  You’ll also have Caddoc use his muscles to move heavy things and open stubborn jars, and there are’s the rare puzzle that just requires one or the other to stand on a button for a protracted period.

So obviously nothing fantastic is happening on that front, like say E’lara setting Caddoc on fire so he can run around comedically while on fire.

For checkpoints, you’re required to do some variety of “co-op” move to proceed; this takes a page from Army of Two by having the protagonists occasionally come across doors that require one burly man and one less burly elf to lift at the same time to proceed; the devs get kind of lazy with this, as you do these co-op moves when going down narrow passages or balancing on narrow beams (with Caddoc humorously ridiculing E’lara’s fear of heights).  On a technical side I realize the game is funneling you on a certain path that does not allow backtracking, but it descends into sheer madness when E’lara prompts for a co-op “duck under this branch that is a foot higher than either character.”  They could have had some fun with this, and they didn’t.  But hey, it’s just for checkpoints, so it’s kind of minor.

Just a note: the characters quickly lower themselves into making jokes about “all these heavy doors everywhere.”  I’ll just say that if you have to make your characters make fun of your poorly managed features, you’re probably doing it wrong.

As far as actual gameplay, and by that I mean killing more “wargar” than there were orcs at Helm’s deep (and by the way, every game journalist seems to have taken it upon themselves to make a joke about how they liked wargar better when Tolkin called them orcs; I imagine these are the same people that say “Surely you jest!” to all the Shirley’s they’ve met).  On this front it does fare much better because combat is much more well-defined than some bizarre idea of “working together to make the world a better place.”

Caddoc and E’lara get “weapon spells” which I’ll just call skills, and “magical spells” which I’ll just call magic or spells.  Their skillsare unique among them, but they both get access to the same lightning, sigil and fire bomb spells.  As for the skills, each character gets three, which I’ve broken down as one “group” skill, one “single target” skill, and one “this makes things easier for my partner” skill.  That last one is obviously going to get you a lot of mileage where co-op gameplay is concerned, but all they really amount to is killing enemies faster — precisely the kind of standard co-op play that this game was going to distinguish itself from.  As E’lara, you can use a freezing arrow to slow enemies, freeze their shield (to make it easier to break) or freeze the enemy themselves solid, obviously making them an easier target for Caddoc.  On the flip side, Caddoc can levitate enemies around him, preventing them from attacking and presenting them like unto fish in a barrel for E’lara.  The spells, lacking these applications, instead may be deployed as a “battle charge,” which basically imbues your partner with magical energy for the duration; if both players do this at once, it’s called a spell link, which has additional benefits.

All this is well and good, because you really feel like you’re boosting your partner up, and when done strategically can really make a difference as to how easily you cleave through hordes of enemies (notice I said “how easily” and not “whether or not you’ll survive”).  On the other hand, the game seems predisposed towards E’lara’s success, which kind of makes sense given the Gears inspiration.  Caddoc is very limited in battling groups or those at a distance; E’lara has explosive arrows, which quickly begin annihilating large groups of foes when it doesn’t throw them to the ground in a vulnerable state.  She can zoom in and snipe with the “slow” speed bows, switching to a faster bow for mid to close range combat.  Caddoc lacks this versitility and destructive capability; he also seems to go down just as easily as E’lara, especially when there are lots of arrows zipping about.

In an ideal world, E’lara would provide covering fire and take care of snipers and other ranged attackers, while Caddoc gets stuck in with the wargar and shows them what for.  In reality, E’lara blows up the first couple of groups of melee attackers then snipes the rest from a distance while Caddoc takes care of stragglers.  It’s a bit unbalanced.

Oh, and as the opening screenshot shows, split-screen went full retard with a horizontal split that chops your screen width down by 20%.

All that said, there really isn’t anything quite like Hunted, and it is fun just to run around and hack things up with a friend, casting spells and setting things on fire while exploring the vistas that range from dank to gorgeous.  After you’re finished with the campaign you can go for a new game plus with mutators adjusting things, or you can make your own dungeon crawls with the crucible level editor, or download and play maps from inXile and the community.  This just extends the gameplay, as the character progression in this isn’t added to your campaign save.  Were this coming in the same month as Gears, however, or any number of other co-op titles I’d have probably ignored it though.


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