Previews

Hunted: The Demon's Forge

Gears meets Diablo in Bethesda's latest

Bethesda wants to "bring back the dungeon crawler". Not the World of Warcraft style of dungeon crawler, but the ultra violent, goblin-decapitating, boob-bouncing kind we haven't seen in videogames for many a year.

And Hunted is definitely not World of Warcraft; our first look dug up feelings of Gears of War, God of War and plenty more games with 'War' in the title, with a far more cinematic, action-orientated approach than what we're used to seeing in the dungeon crawler genre. There's even a cover system.

Gears of Goblin
In the very first scene we're introduced to two protagonists, the Conan-esque Caddoc and his scantily clad female companion, Elara, as they bump into a goblin that's literally ripping a man's heart from his chest. It's a bloody start to a game that's more brutal, visceral and action-orientated than anything else we've seen from the dungeon crawler genre this generation.

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For all intents and purposes, Hunted is Gears of War with XP and goblins. With a drop-in, drop-out online system in full effect, the game lets you control either one of its two companions as they enter a murky underground goblin hive in search of magical crystals.

The slinky Elara is naturally the ranged expert, firing dangerous-looking (and sounding) arrows that rarely require a second shot to take down their target. Caddoc, meanwhile, is your typical bruiser, storming in sword-first to lop baddies' limbs off with great abandon.

Even at this early stage, Hunted is clearly a well-presented and great-looking game. Combat in particular is visceral and well animated; shields splinter, sword swipes send blood dynamically spraying in the correct direction and spell powers carry visible physical force. Without even picking up the pad, Hunted looks satisfying to play.

We're not used to seeing these qualities in a game of this style; while close cousins Diablo III and Neverwinter Nights go for scale, Hunted has clearly taken a far tighter approach which has allowed it to pull off beautiful environments, a cinematic narrative and combat with all the bells and whistles of an action game.

Our two heroes, with their full-on Eastenders accents, keep up the banter as they progress deeper into the dusty dungeon. Animation again is particularly noteworthy and the duo will brush cobwebs aside and squeeze their way through tight gaps.

We were also impressed by the mount of interactivity with the environment. In one scene Caddoc was able to push over a giant pillar, which kicked off a domino-like chain reaction as bricks and stone came showering down all around.

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From what we can see developer inXile is concentrating heavily on building the foundations of a solid co-op action game. As mentioned, both characters have their own unique skills and players can swap them mid-game via checkpoints. inXile was also keen to emphasise how it's streamlined the co-op experience, with tweaks such as being able to revive a downed team mate from a distance.

The combination of melee brute and hotshot archer seems to result in some interesting gameplay too. In one scene Elara froze the hordes into place using ice arrows, while Caddoc swung in close to smash them to bits.

World of Gorecraft
The RPG elements are definitely present in Hunted, however. As you progress through dungeons your characters collect magic crystals from downed foes, which can then be used to improve spells and abilities via branching skill trees. One move, 'Levitate', can be used to raise enemies into the sky, leaving you free to pick them off with a well-placed arrow. Once levelled up this power can be used to pick up multiple foes (or everyone in the surrounding area) in a visually spectacular burst of power.

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