The Call of the Demon's Forge

It's been a while since we've had a dark fantasy dungeon crawler, hack and slash was at the epitome with games like Diablo and Diablo II. A while ago when we first heard of the game - Hunted: The Demon's Forge we were initially quite sceptical...then we looked deeper into the game and followed up on various lines of inquiry. Now it's looking like this Bethesda Softworks published, inExile Entertainment developed game could be the answer to our hack and slash prayers.

It's powered by the Unreal 3 Engine and it's looking really great, it's a visceral action-adventure title in 3rd person that could be described as: Gears of Conan. A cover based shooter and slasher that combine the 2 separate character abilities of the game's protagonists. Set in a dark and grim world, Hunted chronicles the adventures of two unlikely allies, Caddoc, the barbarian-style warrior complete with rough accent and bald pate and E'lara the elf bad-girl with a bow. She's dressed a little on the skimpy side, but what sets her and her counterpart apart is that they're not quite what you might expect.

Caddoc at first glance is the Conan, he's the rough warrior with a muscled body, yet his personality is calmer than his companion, he's more likely to think and less likely to wade in. E'lara is a really bloodthirsty elf woman that has more in common with the elves of the Witcher than those traditionally portrayed in Lord of the Rings or other fantasy worlds. Caddoc is your melee warrior and E'lara is nimble and dangerous with a bow.

Developer inExile has been quick to point out that the game isn't just about cutting through swathes of bad guys; there are puzzles and fiendish dungeon traps to deal with as well as a twisting-turning story that has many hidden layers. The clues are scattered throughout the narrative b
ut things may not be as they first appear. What really sets Hunted apart from the rest of the fantasy genre is that it takes a dark approach, as well as mixing in some dark humour and black comedy to the mix.

It is also built for cooperative play with split-screen and online (yes it has System Link too) coop for 2 players. You can also play it single player with your AI buddy taking up the slack, but face it, it's going to be a blast to play alongside a friend and use the characters unique skills to put serious amounts of hurt on the hordes of enemies that stand between you and your ultimate goal.

We're not going to talk too much about the story in this spotlight; in fact we're probably only going to skim that part in the review as per usual. What has us really excited is that the cooperative play is cornerstone to the game, so you can use the skills of both characters to complement each other in battle. You can buff your partner with spells, heal them and revive them from afar as well as utilise powerful magical abilities that let Caddoc raise the enemy into the air and E'lara pepper them with shots from afar.

There's another reason we're looking forward to Hunted as well, not only will it offer bone-crunching visceral combat and battle, but it also offers you a chance to earn gold from the single player game which you can take into a nice feature known as the: Crucible

This mode is essentially a simple (but fiendishly customisable) level editor, which allows you to make your own dungeon crawls and play with unlocked weapons. Gold nets you unlockables in the Crucible mode that let you build a bigger and better mousetrap, er, dungeon. You can go this dungeon alone or with a friend, you can even share it online for other people to play. There are only a few spawns for monsters but you can put up to 100 waves in for those guys. Now imagine every room upon the 5x5 grid packed with those kinds of challenges.

Not up to making your own, well...hit randomise and let the game do it for you. Say hello to a near-infinite replay value and challenge that is sure to offer gamers a tonne of content for the price of admission. If you want to fight that Demon Lord from Chapter IV then feel free. This is the kind of level editor that we've been looking for. You can even put customisable bonuses or penalties in the game, so if you want a timed challenge where the timer can only be incremented by enemy kills, you can do that. Want a cool and neat look for your arenas, the game lets you pick the look you want, or leave it up to the randomiser.

Or perhaps you want to just kick back with a friend and slaughter bad guys till the zombie cows come home, you can do that too. You can put in extra potions or mess with any number of features in Crucible that let you play things the way you want them.

With a pair of interesting characters and an old-school dungeon crawler feel, where loot is the order of the day...Hunted is shaping up to be a sleeper hit of June and we can't wait to get our teeth into it when it finally retails in June. It seems that Bethesda has seriously managed to get their hands on a great concept and property, watch for our full review around the time of release and check out next week's spotlight on another RPG that hits this May.

A hint for you, it's got something to do with Geralt.