Hunted: The Demon's Forge Review
publisher: Bethesda Softworks
developer: InXile Entertainment
|ESRB rating: M
release date: May 31, 11
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Have you ever thought that Gears of War would be better as a semi-cooperative dungeon crawl? No? That's great, because that's a horrible idea. Personally, I thought Gears of War was an overrated piece of shit to begin with, but that's just me. Hunted is basically what would happen if someone attempted to make Gears of War into a shallow role-playing game. To make matters worse, the execution is about as inspired as the concept.
I have no idea what the hell is going on in the story. When I started a new game, this crazy movie was playing, and the character that I assume Lucy Lawless is providing the voice for was talking, but I dropped the controller and it skipped the movie. Then I was suddenly playing as this dude staggering around a dark dungeon. I thought it might have made sense if I watched the whole opening movie sequence, so I quit back to the menu and tried to start a new game so I could watch the movie, but it wouldn't let me. I couldn't even go back to the dungeon sequence; instead it just pushed me to the first level, and the main characters don't really do a good job of explaining anything of interest with their "banter." I put banter in asshole quotes like that because banter is supposed to be funny and this "banter" isn't. I tried to delete my save game to see if that would help and let me start fresh, but the delete save game function doesn't work, or it doesn't reset it back far enough that you can see the opening movie. This was an inauspicious start for my Hunted experience, and it only got worse from there.
You get to play as one of two characters, Caddoc or E'lara. Caddoc is the tank, which is what you would expect for a character named after the Welsh word for battle. E'lara is an elf and an archer, which is what you would expect from an elf, and someone who has an apostrophe in her name. Both characters can perform melee attacks as well as ranged attacks, the difference being that E'lara may as well be using a flyswatter instead of a sword and Caddoc would be more effective throwing rocks or just throwing his crossbow. Melee attacks consist of hitting two buttons, X and Y. X is the light attack, and Y is the heavy attack. You can hold right trigger to shield. Sometimes you'll have a magic weapon that will release special attacks. If you press the right bumper you can release one of four different magical abilities selected by the D-pad. The game doesn't have a tutorial of any kind or at least not that I got to experience, so I had to look all of this up in the manual.
Wow, big bones.
Hey, let's smash some bones.
Ranged attacks consist of hiding behind something (or not) and shooting arrows or bolts at people, basically just Gears of War with really crappy guns. With Caddoc his crossbow is so slow to reload that you remember why games with a lot of shooting generally give the player something more useful than a crossbow. With E'lara who has the much more useful longbow, even on the easiest difficulty setting, the first enemies you fight may take up to three arrows in the chest to drop, so you'll just be firing away, strumming that bow string like some kind of vaguely harp shaped machine gun. The game counts the number of arrows you have, but gives them so often it largely doesn't matter.
Ranged weapons on the whole are inaccurate, thanks to comically oversized and absurdly shaped targeting reticules that have to narrow down before you can fire and hope to hit anything and you can only zoom in sometimes, for no explicit reason. I guess having the player have to take a moment to take aim is some small degree of real world accuracy, but this is kind of inexplicable in a game that is otherwise entirely unrealistic.
There are magic attacks. Three for E'lara's longbow, three for Caddoc's sword, and three actual magic attacks available to both characters. These magic abilities are where you invest the crystals you collect that serve as experience points. You can further invest these crystal skill points in little subcategories to make them more powerful, cost less, et cetera, but that's about the extent of the depth. You can only bind four abilities at one time, but each character only has access to maximum of six. All of these abilities are things you've seen in other games.
As you can imagine, combat is neither particularly deep nor tremendously entertaining. In fact, it's kind of boring when it isn't frustrating. None of this is new, and other games have all done this sort of thing better. The core gameplay just isn't very good, or well-thought-out. It's basically a bad version of Gears of War, only your gun sucks, and you can play a two-button fighting game when you run out of ammo.
Since ranged combat is at least marginally more interesting than running at enemies and hitting them with your sword, it is even more boring to play as Caddoc than E'lara. Caddoc also cannot solve any of the puzzles that require flaming arrows to be fired, while E'lara can direct Caddoc to solve any of the moving large object puzzles, so if you're playing single player, you miss content playing with Caddoc.
The rest of the game falls equally flat. The characters are uninteresting, and they talk a lot and I know that some of what they're saying is supposed to be funny, but it isn't funny. It's just annoying. Many of these things are clich's anyways, or totally needless. I understand most people like gold; you do not need to make it clear that the characters also like gold whenever they pick it up. On that note, why the hell do I have to press a button to pick up the gold? When am I ever going to not want to pick up the gold? So my partner can have it? Screw that chump, he's playing as Caddoc, the sucker.
Can provide mind-numbing entertainment for about a half hour at a time;
The game is uninspiring, boring, frustrating, and shallow.