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inXile Back From, Uh, Exile With Hunted: The Demon's Forge

How come there aren't more third-person fantasy action games, anyway?


 Barbarians! Elves!
It's been about five years since we heard anything out of inXile Entertainment. That's the Southern California developer started by Interplay founder Brian Fargo, a guy whose resume is impressive enough that anything he does for the rest of his career will probably warrant some level of attention from sites like ours, even if his company gets into web-based casual games or something (which it has). But I've been curious for a while when the company would follow up its sole traditional release to date, The Bard's Tale (the remake, not the hallowed original) with a proper disc-based game for consoles.

Fargo and new publisher Bethesda came through GDC last week with the answer, Hunted: The Demon's Forge. The pitch prior to the demo I saw referred to Hunted as a "reimagined dungeon crawler," a concept that about five minutes later I assumed must include "Gears of War-style cover-based action in a dark fantasy milieu." Because there was a whole lot of that in the 20 or so minutes I got to see. Your characters can snap to cover and fire over it. When your partner is hurt, they hit the dirt and have to crawl around while they slowly bleed out until you revive them. The game even makes a "bwooong!" sort of sound when you've cleared all the enemies from an area. The general Gears framework is in full effect here.

 Oh yeah, Unreal Engine!
Hunted looks like it's being built even more with co-op play in mind than Gears, though. Unlike in that game--where Marcus and Dom play identically to each other and are only differentiated by the ways they growl "Aw, c'mon"--Hunted's hero and heroine Caddoc and Elara will offer significantly different sorts of action. He's a burly barbarian type with a predilection for melee combat, and she's an elven mynx who prefers to use the bow at range. Neither one wears a lot of clothing, but they're certainly armed to the teeth. As a primarily ranged fighter, Elara will take cover and attack from a distance, though Caddoc breaks from the stop-and-pop tradition by charging in and cutting up skeletons, ghouls, orcs, and whatever else directly with his blade.

When I hear "dungeon crawler" I think oodles of loot, but as a third-person action game, Hunted doesn't look like it will provide mountains of weapons and armor from the green-blue-purple school of RPG gear. There is room for developing your characters, though. Each one focuses on their specific area of combat expertise (Caddoc on the sword, Elara on the bow), but each one also has some form of ranged and melee combat as backup, and they can both use magic spells. I'm hoping the complimentary nature of the melee/ranged options will lead to to some interesting tandem combat scenarios, but of course that's up to the game's designers to assemble the levels in a way that provides for complex enemy encounters.

 Gears-style co-op action in a fantasy setting sounds alright by me.
One of the ways Hunted looks like it's layering complexity on top of the Gears formula is by offering you a branching skill tree that lets you unlock abilities related to both forms of combat and various types of magic as you build experience throughout the game. And there will be a defensive aspect to your skill choices as well, since you can use the magic you've unlocked on the other character to buff them for combat. For instance, Elara could use a flame spell on Caddoc to give him a fire sword for a short period of time. The game has open drop-in-drop-out co-op play online, and you'll be able to take the experience you earn as the second player in a co-op game back into your own campaign to develop your characters further. When you're playing alone, you can swap characters at checkpoints when you want to change up your play style.

To be clear, I don't mean all these Gears comparisons to sound derisive. That franchise has carved a formula out of the gaming bedrock that plenty of other developers have been more than willing to crib from. Hunted may pull from the Gears playbook a little more strongly than some, but there aren't any other recent games I can think of that do this kind of action in a traditional fantasy setting. You can't help wondering why nobody has done it before now, and consequently you can't fault inXile for doing it first. 

Since Hunted is still pre-alpha and I didn't get to play it myself, I'll reserve making any qualitative judgements--some aspects like the character animation visibly have a ways to go before they're finalized--but the game's unique take on this genre looks like it could fill the cooperative shooter void in the offseason while Gears fans wait for Epic to cough up a third game. 
  


 
Hey, watch an interview!
 
 
Brad Shoemaker on Google+
21 Comments
Posted by Brad

 Barbarians! Elves!
It's been about five years since we heard anything out of inXile Entertainment. That's the Southern California developer started by Interplay founder Brian Fargo, a guy whose resume is impressive enough that anything he does for the rest of his career will probably warrant some level of attention from sites like ours, even if his company gets into web-based casual games or something (which it has). But I've been curious for a while when the company would follow up its sole traditional release to date, The Bard's Tale (the remake, not the hallowed original) with a proper disc-based game for consoles.

Fargo and new publisher Bethesda came through GDC last week with the answer, Hunted: The Demon's Forge. The pitch prior to the demo I saw referred to Hunted as a "reimagined dungeon crawler," a concept that about five minutes later I assumed must include "Gears of War-style cover-based action in a dark fantasy milieu." Because there was a whole lot of that in the 20 or so minutes I got to see. Your characters can snap to cover and fire over it. When your partner is hurt, they hit the dirt and have to crawl around while they slowly bleed out until you revive them. The game even makes a "bwooong!" sort of sound when you've cleared all the enemies from an area. The general Gears framework is in full effect here.

 Oh yeah, Unreal Engine!
Hunted looks like it's being built even more with co-op play in mind than Gears, though. Unlike in that game--where Marcus and Dom play identically to each other and are only differentiated by the ways they growl "Aw, c'mon"--Hunted's hero and heroine Caddoc and Elara will offer significantly different sorts of action. He's a burly barbarian type with a predilection for melee combat, and she's an elven mynx who prefers to use the bow at range. Neither one wears a lot of clothing, but they're certainly armed to the teeth. As a primarily ranged fighter, Elara will take cover and attack from a distance, though Caddoc breaks from the stop-and-pop tradition by charging in and cutting up skeletons, ghouls, orcs, and whatever else directly with his blade.

When I hear "dungeon crawler" I think oodles of loot, but as a third-person action game, Hunted doesn't look like it will provide mountains of weapons and armor from the green-blue-purple school of RPG gear. There is room for developing your characters, though. Each one focuses on their specific area of combat expertise (Caddoc on the sword, Elara on the bow), but each one also has some form of ranged and melee combat as backup, and they can both use magic spells. I'm hoping the complimentary nature of the melee/ranged options will lead to to some interesting tandem combat scenarios, but of course that's up to the game's designers to assemble the levels in a way that provides for complex enemy encounters.

 Gears-style co-op action in a fantasy setting sounds alright by me.
One of the ways Hunted looks like it's layering complexity on top of the Gears formula is by offering you a branching skill tree that lets you unlock abilities related to both forms of combat and various types of magic as you build experience throughout the game. And there will be a defensive aspect to your skill choices as well, since you can use the magic you've unlocked on the other character to buff them for combat. For instance, Elara could use a flame spell on Caddoc to give him a fire sword for a short period of time. The game has open drop-in-drop-out co-op play online, and you'll be able to take the experience you earn as the second player in a co-op game back into your own campaign to develop your characters further. When you're playing alone, you can swap characters at checkpoints when you want to change up your play style.

To be clear, I don't mean all these Gears comparisons to sound derisive. That franchise has carved a formula out of the gaming bedrock that plenty of other developers have been more than willing to crib from. Hunted may pull from the Gears playbook a little more strongly than some, but there aren't any other recent games I can think of that do this kind of action in a traditional fantasy setting. You can't help wondering why nobody has done it before now, and consequently you can't fault inXile for doing it first. 

Since Hunted is still pre-alpha and I didn't get to play it myself, I'll reserve making any qualitative judgements--some aspects like the character animation visibly have a ways to go before they're finalized--but the game's unique take on this genre looks like it could fill the cooperative shooter void in the offseason while Gears fans wait for Epic to cough up a third game. 
  


 
Hey, watch an interview!
 
 
Staff
Posted by Ishatawk

I still don't get how this is going to feel...right. 
 
I'm sort of excited though. That's quite a legacy.

Posted by VoshiNova

Eh

Posted by Milkman

I don't know. Doesn't really look particularly interesting at all.

Posted by XenoZak

my initial thought was Diablo... Then i saw it plays like Gears of War and turned off.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

So... it's not actually a dungeon crawler. It's a brawler/shooter hybrid built for Co-Op. Dang. Interest level has dropped.

Posted by Savage

So it's kind of like Gears of War meets Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance.

Edited by RandomInternetUser

Hrm... I guess it could be pretty cool if handled correctly.

Posted by august

I will listen to what Brian Fargo has to say.

Posted by Drummerlp2000

Non open world? Pass.

Edited by MrKlorox

We'll see once it gets closer to release. Might end up pretty fun and might be boring as hell.

Edited by jakob187

This seems a lot like Demon Stone, except it won't suck. 
 
I'm sold. 
 
Also, that was a fantastic interview.  Very humble guy, and it's great to see the former head of the company that brought us Fallout in the arms of the current company that brings us Fallout.  It really does put a little warmth in my heart, and that ALSO gives me a lot of confidence that this product will be a legit-ass experience.

Posted by Brontes_Muse

I really liked the Bard's Tale (remake.) I'm eager to see the game moving.  

Edited by l3illyl3ob

 I don't know, I'm not dismissing it outright like some people are.  It seems like it could be pretty cool.  Fargo was wrong about one thing, there ARE some people keeping the dungeon crawlers around though, mostly the Japanese.  See: Etrian Odyssey, Dark Spire, and Strange Journey. Dark Spire especially was designed to be a spiritual successor to Wizardry.  I can't really see how this game will be anything like those games. 
 
Oh, and can you imagine, if The Hunted turns out to be the real deal, Bethesda handing off a piece of the Fallout pie to Fargo as well?  Maybe even a more action oriented shooter/brawler based on the same The Hunted engine, set in the Fallout universe.  
 
But you also have to remember that Fargo doesn't have as much history with the Fallout universe as the obsidian guys do, but he DID make Wasteland, which was like the proto-Fallout, so he knows his post-apocalypse.

Edited by TheHT

That duder's pretty cool. Games got my interest.

Posted by buzz_killington

I think Fargo and Kaufman (the director of Hunted, dude worked on Kingpin, Redneck Rampage, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein) know what they're doing. They're improving the Gears formula by some small innovations in the right places, but the only question is if they can execute to the level of quality Epic is capable of.    

Posted by Winternet

I believe that 99,9% of GiantBomb users, myself included, have zero interest in this game.

Posted by Napalm

Oh yay. More brown, gray and deconstructed worlds. I'm totally not sick of that yet.

Posted by sandwich_adjustment

is this like a actiony bard's tale? or a glorified Rune? a bit dissapointed so far but it seems to be in very early stages. hope they focus on what really matters

Posted by RobJ

Brian Fargo = God. The man is a legend.

Posted by Linkyshinks

 
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