Like Brink, Bethesda Softworksâ€™ third-person dungeon crawler Hunted: The Demonâ€™s Forge is skipping this holiday season for a more secure early 2011 release window and itâ€™s for the best given the fierce competition from returning triple-A franchises. While visiting their booth, the publisher let us go hands-on with an early level from the titleâ€™s story mode.
Hunted: The Demonâ€™s Forge was built from ground up with co-operative play in mind, a direction we noticed to be heavily integrated into gameplay and accentuated many times throughout our half an hour demo. Even the main characters themselves, Eâ€™lara, a skinny experienced archer and Cadoc, a brute highly skilled in melee combat, have been designed in such a way that reinforces the need for co-operation.
One example in our demo was when the characters were attacked by a horde of skeletons, in which case, Eâ€™lara proved out to be a deadly combatant when freezing enemies with her icy arrows and used as support fire from an elevated position, while Cadoc smashed away through the bones with a heavy sword. To speed things up sometimes, we used Eâ€™laraâ€™s beef up spell on Cadoc whose strength immensely increased as a consequence (this can be also done vice-versa). True to its nature, when slain, enemies left behind loot for us to pick up, ranging from potions and arrows to weapons and magic vials (these enable you to revive your partner when downed).
Of particular note in the demo was a pitch black dungeon which demonstrated one of many puzzles featured in the game. Since we werenâ€™t able to see a god damned thing, we had to light up Eâ€™laraâ€™s arrows with fire in order to be able to navigate through the tunnels at all. Thanks to a very helpful Bethesda representative, we simply followed directions to the objective. Things didnâ€™t go so easy, however, as the stairs which led to the hall we were headed to were flooded. Hence, we made our way back to where we came from and looked for a solution. Soon enough, following a few beheaded monsters, we came to a bridge which required Cadoc to turn a wheel and hold it tightly in place, while Eâ€™lara hastily bolted across, pulled a lever and ran back before the bridge disappeared again. This opened up a section which then, as we found out, contained another lever, but unlike the other one, happened to be the key to draining the lower part of the dungeon of water. If other puzzles in the game are anything like the one we tried, then gamers are in for some clever puzzle solving which requires a bit more thinking then following on-screen instructions to open a door.
Should players get bored of their respective characters during a mission, they can freely switch up roles at strategically placed checkpoints. Unfortunately for those who prefer to play their games offline, the game only supports co-operative play over Xbox Live and via System Link. Whether or not the AI is competent enough to handle all the puzzles and tight combat situations for those going in solo, we honestly have no idea, as we didnâ€™t get to test it outside of co-op, but the representative assured us the AI wouldnâ€™t be in the playerâ€™s way.
As a whole, the game turned out to be just the way we hoped â€“ a refreshing hack-and-slash adventure which shakes up the dungeon crawler formula by adding intriguing puzzles and making co-operative play integral to the experience.