moriveth's Hunted: The Demon's Forge (Xbox 360) review

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A seriously mixed bag

I finished Hunted: The Demon's Forge yesterday and, upon completion, was filled with a sort of... I don't know even how to describe it. I enjoyed it, certainly enough to finish it, and there was something that compelled me to play it, but by the same token, there were some utterly dumb and broken things about it.

But the game does have positive aspects. The game plays nicely enough, and the 'fantasy Gears of War' concept that it's been described as is apt. You'll find yourself dodging enemies, and when you manage to pull off a series of retaliatory attacks successfully, it's immensely satisfying. The two main characters play fairly differently, enough to make me think that if I played it again as E'lara instead of Caddoc, I'd find more use in ranged combat. Your main combat abilites are augmented by spells and powers, like Charge for Caddoc, which makes him (predictably) charge at the enemy, striking a mighty blow. I did find, however, that near the end of the game I equipped the Brimstone power and threw it at enemies indiscriminately, which worked for the majority of the time.

It's a real shame that there isn't a ton of enemy variety - the main enemies, with the stereotypical-fantasy name of 'Wargar', are palette swapped three times, and I couldn't really make out any significant differences between the enemy types other than appearance. Other enemies include skeletons, minotaur, and the requisite bosses, some of which you encounter multiple times. While I enjoyed the combat, I got particularly tired of it occasionally - particularly the battles where enemies are just thrown at you without end, or when they decide that you'd really enjoy fighting eight minotaurs at once, all of whom really love to charge at you.

Some of my favorite parts of the game are when you venture off the beaten path and are called upon to solve a puzzle to unlock better weapons and items. These areas typically have little to no enemies and are more focused on exploration, and the puzzles struck the right balance of challenge to make me look forward to the next one.

The story is interesting enough, and the interplay with Caddoc and E'lara is well-written. You get the sense that these two have been adventuring together for a long time. Unfortunately, some of the interplay repeats - a lot. I can't count the number of times I heard "I think I beat you that time!" "You can think whatever you like!" Still, the moments that aren't repeated dialogue are nicely done. It says something about the game that my interest in the story is one of the main things that kept me going - it's fairly stereotypical, yes, but still a fun romp through a fantasy world.

The game also seems to be a decent length, too - I didn't track my time, but I'd estimate around an 8-to-10 hour campaign mode for a single playthrough. Adding to that, you get different achievements/trophies for playing as the other character, and the Crucible mode adds even more time, and it seems like this game is actually a decent time investment.

Graphically, the game looks somewhere between a late-Xbox or early-360 game. I don't really mind too much, and there are a few sequences that look nice enough, but if you're looking for a game that's going to look incredible on your 40" HDTV, you'd best go looking for something else. Still, it's passable, though nothing more.

One thing that struck me about the game was remembering that it had a cover mechanic. I think I went through a full 75% of the game forgetting that there was one, and getting annoyed when I accidentally stuck myself to a wall. I played through the entire game as Caddoc, though, whose focus is melee combat, so I'm guessing if I played as E'lara I'd be using it signficantly more.

The game's length is augmented by the Crucible, an idea that I'm actually pretty fond of - it's basically what amounts to a 'make-your-own-horde-arenas' mode, where you make up to a 25-room map built from various parts of the main game. You unlock new parts for the mode by finding gold in single-player or (I believe) in Crucible maps themselves. It's a neat idea that adds more longevity to a game that otherwise might be traded back in for store credit after you beat it.

Overall, Hunted seems like a game that would best be bought cheaply. While I enjoyed my time through it, I couldn't help but think that the game would be more fun if the combat was a bit more streamlined and less focused on throwing enemies at you constantly. Still, if you're looking for a fairly enjoyable game that you can play cooperatively with a friend (though not split screen, as that is terrible), give Hunted a try.

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