More than meets the eye... if you want to get that close.
There are genres gamers just can't get enough of. Every year we'll drop cash on the latest Call of Duty or we'll continue to pay for that World of Warcraft subscription despite not having played the game in months. Hunted: The Demon's Forge attempts to capitalize on some of the most popular brands in gaming by mixing genres. You might be thinking a third-person action game with a fantasy RPG riff laid over it would be pretty cool. On paper the idea behind Hunted sounds great, but in practice it never really pans out.
Players control either Caddoc or E'lara, the former a typically brutish sword and shield guy, the latter an elf with a penchant for archery. Before you start saying "and my axe", know that player characters are limited to just these two. The world is populated with a bunch of forgettable NPCs. Even Hunted's plot will remain on the edge of oblivion in your mind. It's just unremarkable. Let's skip this cutscene and get to some gameplay.
While developer inXile's fantasy game manages to impress graphically, complete with some neat character designs, environments, and effects, it can be misleading. Until later in the game, players can only hold one weapon at a time. This can be particularly frustrating when you're playing as the archer. Several times I wanted to switch back and forth between the long-range, power-centric bow and the mid-range, rapid-fire bow. Unfortunately, no matter what weapon you pick, enemies will circle you with some horrifying mob-mentality AI.
It's not like Hunted isn't playable; there are passable elements in Bethesda's latest. With a good co-op partner, a poorly constructed mess of a game can become quite fun. Each character has certain powers that allow the other to rack up a ton of kills in quick succession. The uhhh... melee guy (I've forgotten their names again) can suspend enemies in the air so that the... elf girl can take them out from just outside the front lines of battle. Being able to chuckle with your buddy about some bad dialogue or poor voice acting will also help you make it through this slog.
Remember, though, every positive isn't without its negative in Hunted: The Demon's Forge. I'm going to make an example out of Hunted and I want the developers to pay attention: If you hack off a good 30% of the screen when creating your split-screen co-op experience and fill it with black, I'll hunt you down and hack off 30% of your limbs. We're already short on real estate as it is. You don't need to further limit mine and my partner's screen size just because you can't accommodate for the new proportions.
I complain at length about the nature of Hunted's split-screen because you will never, ever find a co-op partner online. It just won't happen. The same can be said of your use of the game's "Crucible" mode, a map making system that furthers the fantasy-RPG nature of Hunted, but comes up short because of the raw gameplay at hand. In the end, the developers couldn't fully cope with the decision to turn Hunted from what would have been a fully-fledged, dungeon-crawling, hacking-slashing, top-down RPG into a rough-and-tumble third-person action game.
Hunted has potential. It has the art design and spark, but the attempt at a genre hybrid ultimately falls short. Though the idea of a fantasy RPG with a third-person action mentality, from Gears of War or Resident Evil 5, is innovative, it just isn't polished enough to make it work. Segregation is never a good thing, but for now, third-person action games and fantasy RPGs should drink from separate water fountains. Hunted: The Demon's Forge is all the evidence you need to see for that.