Top critical review
22 people found this helpful
Hunted The Demons Forge
on 4 June 2011
Hunted is a curious beast, it provides a strange mix of traditional fantasy RPG and first person shooter style action. While it is enjoyable to play I found there is room for improvement.
Hunted The Demons Forge as I understand it is the latest part of a series but I have to admit that I have not played any earlier incarnation. The game follows the adventures of two mercenary type heroes, Caddoc a tough male warrior type, and E'lara a sassy female elf archer. You can choose to play either of these characters and can swap between them at certain checkpoints in the game. Whichever character you choose the other will carry on with you as an NPC. Under the control of the AI the NPC hero will follow you around and join in the fighting but is of limited intelligence. If you play as E'lara you will often have to lead while exploring only to run back behind Caddoc to use your bow.
Hunted does allow you to play two player co-op either online or via LAN, a mode which promises to be the most entertaining in the long term. However the two player hotseat mode, using split screen, is next to useless. Part of the screen is taken up by an unnecessary border making the picture so small it is impossible to see what you are doing, especially when using a bow.
The graphics in the game are very dark and grainy. This is obviously a deliberate choice in style but I was not particularly impressed. There are times when the quality of the graphics makes it hard to make out treasures and clues as you wander around. Monsters are also difficult to spot sometimes when firing from range, and may be obscured by background details. Caddoc and E'lara as you might imagine are the most detailed characters, wearing all leather and strapping they match the dark gothic mood of the game admirably. Their movement is not particularly naturalistic though, and the third person view from behind the right shoulder sometimes makes it difficult to see where you are going. Where the game does excel is the use of lighting and when you get to see flames or magic lighting an otherwise pitch black dungeon it really is impressive. Both characters have the option to light their weapons from braziers to use as a torch for short durations, a unique and very useful feature. E'lara can also use this to fire flaming arrows to set fire to things, which she seems to enjoy.
The game follows a very linear story but one which is well written and quite involving. Much of the game involves exploration of various dungeons and some effort has been made to make these dungeons as varied as possible. There are many hidden rooms and passages that can be discovered, although the main route through the dungeon is decided for you by a "spirit guide". This shows you which way to go if you ever get lost, and its clear that most dungeons allow little freedom of movement to explore. There are however many riddles and other puzzles to be found in the dungeons and these offer a nice variation from the combat.
As you explore Caddoc and E'lara do a nice line in banter. Obviously they are very close but they argue and snipe at each other with some very witty dialogue. Some of this is quite funny to listen to and the characters in general are quite likeable, being mercenary rogues rather than out and out heroes. By the way I'm not sure whether the name E'lara is supposed to an in joke as her voice certainly sounds like another well known Lara. The voice acting is of reasonable quality ( E'lara is much better acted than Caddoc ) although some of the NPC's you meet could do with some acting lessons. When you do meet an NPC there are no dialogue options and its just a matter of sitting back and listening to what they have to say. In some cases you can use magic to speak to the dead and they might give you clues and other information to help your quest. Unfortunately a lot of the background detail is wasted in what is essentially an action game. There was something about being in the land of Dyfed, which I am sure is in Wales, but really there is not enough to make me care about the background to the world.
The main part of the game as you might expect is the combat. Both characters have the option of melee or ranged weapons, although each specialises in one or the other. Melee is simply a matter of mixing light or heavy attacks with some well timed shield blocks, and is similar to a lot of other games. Ranged combat is slightly more interesting and feels a lot like a first person shooter, only you are using a bow rather than an M16. You have crosshairs to aim at a target and can even zoom in ( somehow ) for more accurate shooting. Although I like the sound effects of the arrows there is something surreal and unrealistic in the way E'lara fires. She draws and knocks arrows so fast you can't really see it and the difference between bows comes only in the time it takes to aim. Just like a lot of first person shooters you can duck behind walls and pop up from cover to fire at approaching enemies. With the faster bows this is almost semi-automatic, you fire as fast as you can press the button ( anyone remember the film "Hawk The Slayer" ?). As you start only able to carry 100 arrows at a time this burns up your ammunition very quickly, although there are often lots of arrows around that the monsters have dropped.
Treasure seems to depend on which character you are controlling, as when you search a weapons rack you will only find items that your current character can use. Weapons and shields are the main drops, and its useful to see it compare on screen the stats of your currently equipped items with anything new you find. Potions are another fantasy standard, as well as regen vials that allow you to revive your partner. One annoying feature is that sometimes the game moves to a cut scene straight after a fight and before you have a chance to pick up the loot you are moved forward into another location. All that lovely loot going to waste, shocking...
As you explore you pick up crystals which you can use to upgrade your characters abilities. There are two types of magic in the game - weapon enhancing magic and direct combat spells. Unfortunately there is a very limited amount of choice and I imagine by the end of the game ( I havn't got there yet ) you will probably have learned them all. Weapon magic gives you some extra moves you can use in combat and the more direct spells are things like fireball which you can use to blast your opponents. One problem with the direct magic though is that casting a spell like fireball involves putting your weapons away so you have to remember to re-equip them afterwards.
Another type of treasure you can find is gold, which doesn't allow you to buy equipment as you might expect. Instead you can use the gold to unlock special features in the game. This includes the ability to create your own dungeons ! This is one of the hidden gems of the game and one which gives it a lot of replayability. Even from the start there are a lot of ready made maps to try out, other maps you can download, as well as the ones you can create yourself. This is all seperate from the main campaign game, although you are still restricted to playing the two main characters. This added feature opens a whole new dimension to the game, allowing players to compete online or against their own score. At best this could be like a fantasy version of Little Big Planet, but whether it takes off remains to be seen.
Despite a lot of minor flaws this is still a fun and enjoyable game to play with a lot of unique features. It is another example of a dark fantasy world that does very well in creating an oppressive and haunting atmosphere. While the main characters look nice I do think the graphics could have been better ( or at least clearer ) although the style may just be a matter of taste. What I would like to have seen is more freedom in exploration and character development, which would have made it more of an RPG. Its certainly worth buying though if you want to see what a dungeon looks like from an adventurers point of view as the combat really does feel up close and personal. Being attacked by demons in the dark once your torch goes out is certainly an experience to remember.