The head of Hunted: The Demon's Forge developer, inXile Entertainment, doesn't take comparisons of his dark dungeon crawler to Gears of War unkindly - even if you're labelling it Spears of War and Gears of Warcraft.
inXile CEO Brian Fargo takes that as a compliment, but when showing us the latest version of Hunted: The Demon's Forge, he stressed that the dark medieval fantasy game is more than just cover and combat. Hunted, Fargo says, is a game about getting lost in its dungeon crawler world.
Fargo, who says he was heavily influenced by the original Wizardry and later went on to help create The Bard's Tale, Baldur's Gate and Fallout, wanted to focus more on his latest game's depth, puzzles and its non-critical path of an adventure.
Like our previous eyes-on time with Hunted: The Demon's Forge at this year's Game Developers Conference, the game's cooperative stars Caddoc and E'lara set off on a mysterious quest. It kicked off with the elfin ranger E'lara, still as minimally clothed as ever, letting curiosity get the best of her. After E'lara touches a cursed skull - which looked suspect to begin with - day turns to night, the earth begins to shake and the world starts to crumble around our heroes, who make haste through crumbling spires and walls to safety.
By safety, I mean re-animated undead. Caddoc and E'lara engaged in some of the "co-op at a distance" combat that we'd seen previously. Caddoc entered the fray with sword and shield, showing off a new shield bash skill, while E'lara fired arrows from a safer distance. The combat here was puzzle-like in its progress, as inXile's Matt Findley and Michael "Maxx" Kaufman took out dozens of rank and file skeletons, working their way through the horde to take out a higher ranking undead manning a ballista. E'lara then took control of the ballista herself, firing massive bolts into a pair of stone gargoyles that were ultimately responsible for reanimating the undead.
Hunted: The Demon's Forge's blend of combat and puzzle-solving cooperative play was better illustrated moments later, when Findley and Kaufman encountered one of the stony Magic Mouths that inhabit the game world. These rocky sculptures sometimes offer hints about how to progress, typically with cryptic riddles that explain less cryptic puzzles. In one case, Caddoc and E'lara simply need to light a series of braziers in the correct order - while also dealing with a new horde of skeletal warriors.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the demo was spent in a dark tunnel, lit only by a handful of torches. E'lara's flaming arrows, when shot down corridors, lighted the path and revealed hidden braziers the player could ignite. It was an intimidating series of stumbling in the dark, with more skeletons and giant beasts popping out of walls.
Here, we also saw some of Hunted: The Demon's Forge cooperative puzzles that required Caddoc's strength to complete. The player was tasked with pushing a switch, keeping it held, while E'lara crossed a trap-laden bridge to light a fire. As one might expect, the preoccupied Caddoc was of little help when yet another batch of bony demons went after our heroes.
Call it Spears of War if you prefer, but Hunted: The Demon's Forge showed more promise during our latest eyes-on demo, in part thanks to the clever cooperative play mechanics required for more than just hacking, slashing and shooting scores of hellspawn.
Hunted: The Demon's Forge is planned for a release not this year, but hopefully the next, on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.