I’m always on the lookout for new co-op games that can be played on one screen. That’s why I have games like Resident Evil 5 and Castle Crashers. Online gaming is cool and all, but there’s something to be said about playing a game with someone else in the same room, and most game companies just don’t make enough games to take advantage of that. That’s why Hunted: The Demon’s Forge caught my eye. Based on the little bit of gameplay footage I saw before playing it, it didn’t look like the best game, but I needed something new to play with the girlfriend, and it certainly didn’t look bad.
I was right about it not being the best game. What I ended up with was a game that frustrated me to no end, but I couldn’t help but defend.
Hunted seems to start in the middle of a story of which no one told the beginning. As a result, it’s a little jarring when the game starts and your expected to sympathize with these characters in this world with no context. You find out certain things as you play, such as elves being all but extinct because of minotaurs. But without any real exposition at the beginning of the game, it takes a while to get into the characters’ shoes.
But once you do, you find that their interaction is actually believable and entertaining. I liked them by the end of the game.
What’s cool about Hunted, however is how you play. There are two playable characters: Caddoc, the overly cautious, slightly Australian melee expert, and E’lara, the brazen, elven bow user. Depending on which one you control, you play the game in radically different ways. When you control E’lara, the game plays a lot like Gears of War with its cover system, but with its auto-lock system, it allows you to run-and-gun (so to speak) easily. When you control Caddoc, you whack things with a sword. There’s a little more strategy involved than that involving a shield, but it boils down to a hack-n-slash type game. E’lara has a melee weapon and Caddoc has a crossbow, but those tend to be very situational and are hardly ever used. That, along with the variety of magic and abilities you can learn, give the game some good replay value.
Hunted is very linear in its gameplay. You just go from chapter to chapter, act to act, killing enemies and solving puzzles. But sometimes, you can find little side areas to explore. These little tangents are good for taking your mind off of the fact that the story isn’t really any good. They’re normally pretty combat-light and have some creative puzzles for you to solve. And it’s usually these areas in which Caddoc and E’lara tend to have their best banter. And you’re always rewarded with some kick-ass equipment. You feel good about yourself.
It also looks good. Yeah, sometimes the environments are really gray-brown and boring. And occasionally, things become blurry or difficult to discern. But otherwise, the characters look good, the weapons look good, the environments look good, the magic effects look good. It’s nothing great, but it’s an overall good-looking game.
Now, if I were to end the review here, I could easily give Hunted: The Demon’s Forge a good 7 or 8. But…
It has so many itty-bitty problems that drag the whole experience down.
There’s no regenerating health or magic. And though that’s not inherently a problem, it is when there are almost no healing items. Health potions are very few and very far-between. There are usually little item caches in between action sequences, but sometimes, those action sequences last a long while. And when at maximum, you can only carry three health potions, you tend to run out pretty quickly. Even this wouldn’t be a big problem if you were guaranteed health potions at each item cache. But, I swear, the game seems to pay attention to what you need the most and give you everything else. The item drops are random, so there were times that we were completely out of health potions and we got six magic potions are the item cache. Otherwise, during the few times that we were really hurting for magic potions, suddenly there were health potions everywhere and we had to leave them behind. They were completely unusable. And even this would have been acceptable if every enemy didn’t have perfect aim with its arrows or the ability to completely wipe out your life bar in a second in melee.
Like I briefly mentioned, the action sequences were very hit or miss. Sometimes, they’d be great fun. Challenging, but in a good way. Other times, I felt like the game was stomping on my crotch while force-feeding me ammonia. It could be the sheer number of enemies, enemies spawning behind you for no discernible reason or from areas that you can’t see. It could be the enemies are in a position where it’s near impossible to hit them, but they hit you no problem. It could be one enemy that can destroy you in a second in a cramped hallway with no room to maneuver. Or it could be some situational thing. Example: There’s one area where you are being fired upon by catapults. There are a ton of fucking enemies littered about between you and the catapults. The catapults can hit you no matter where you are, so you need to keep moving, but there are enemies everywhere that murder you if you go too far forward, so you need to kill them, but then the catapult hits you for a ton of damage and you fall down, then you take about five seconds to get up (that’s an awful long wait in video game time), and by the time you get up again, the catapult is ready to fire again, so you have to move, but there are enemies in the way, and so on. And this is made even worse if you don’t have any healing items (which is pretty likely).
Because of situations like this, the game loses a great deal of its appeal. During these sequences, we found ourselves going from reactive, action-based combat to dying several times and just memorizing where the enemies spawned and changing our actions based on that. And that’s no fun. But that wouldn’t have been a big problem if there were only a couple parts like that. But they came up far more than they should have.
And no matter how well the action sequences were done, they still would have gotten extremely boring. There’s almost no enemy variety. It’s been a while since I’ve actually played, but I think there are only four enemy types and a couple bosses. There are the wargar (orcs, basically) which comprise the vast majority of the enemies. Arachlings, which are bug-like creatures that attack in swarms maybe three or four times throughout the whole game. Skeletons, which only appear in the tangential areas I mentioned previously and during the final boss fight. And minotaurs, which are annoying as shit.
Reviving a fallen ally is a joke, too. I think I could have forgiven every one of the above problems if this wasn’t so bad. It can only be done with revival potions (completely different than health potions). If one person is downed, the other has to toss them a potion. Only three of these can be carried at one time (at maximum). And if you run out, good fucking luck. It was like fucking Christmakwanzukkah whenever we found just one of those fuckers. If you’re out of revival potions and one person is down, you both lose. They’ll crawl around helplessly for a few seconds and then die while the other person watches, equally helpless. And since the damn potions are so rare, it’s going to happen a lot! I’m sorry, but in a game like this with no health regeneration, an item should not be required to revive a fallen ally. And if it is, you should be able to carry more than three. Or they should be more common. Or you should be able to do something without them.
Let’s look at Resident Evil 5 for a second here. They did it right. If one person runs out of health, they enter the DYING state. In this state, they limp around, unable to fight. And one more hit will kill them, thus ending the game. They will also bleed out after a few moments and die, thus ending the game. But if the other person can get to them in time, they can use one of their healing items to bring them back with some health. But if they are out of healing items, the game isn’t over. They can still bring them back to fighting condition, only in a weakened state where one more hit will automatically bring them back to DYING. That’s fair. But in Hunted, you can have one person with three health potions and a full life bar and the game is over the second the other person falls down. That’s not fair. That’s bullshit.
Without even trying, I can come up with a better system that even incorporates the revival potions: Revival potions can be used from a distance and behind cover. They bring the fallen ally back to fighting condition with full health. If you are out of potions, or want to save them for later, you can run up to your ally, potentially exposing yourself to damage, and revive them with a small amount of health. As you can see, it’s very similar to Resident Evil, but with the inclusion of the revival potions, it adds another level of thought to it.
Though the revival potions are the biggest problem, had they fixed any one of the problems listed above, I would have really enjoyed the game. Instead, what I got was a big pile of unfulfilled potential.
Gameplay: 5/10: It would have been much higher, but the little problems ruined the whole score, bringing it from very good to perfectly average.
Music: 5/10: I don’t remember the music, really. So, it couldn’t have been very good or very bad.
Graphics: 8/10: Far from perfect, but besides a few dark and muddy environments, they’re still pretty good.
Story: 5/10: I certainly didn’t hate it, but it definitely wasn’t the most creative or compelling.
Those who have played the game will notice that I left something kind of important out. Included in Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is something called The Crucible. From what I’ve gathered, The Crucible is some kind of map creating tool where you can build your own customized maps. And you unlock more stuff for it by collecting gold in Story Mode. The reason I leave it out is that I did not try it, so I cannot say anything about it one way or the other. It seems like a cool idea, but I can’t imagine that it’s so good that it would change my rating of the whole game.