Nick's Gaming Blog

What I’ve Been Playing 11-7-11

Anybody else notice how a couple days back it was 11-1-11?  Weird.  I mean, technically they’re not all “ones,” as you’d have to put in a zero to make it “11-01-11,” and it won’t be full of “ones” for a little over a week, but still…odd.  I mean, this sort of thing wont happen again until “2-22-22″ but after that, because no month has a thirty-three days (thus rendering “3-33-33″ impossible, we’ll have to wait until the “11-11-11″ of the next century.

Anybody follow that?  Sorry, just some rambling to start out my day.  Recently, I made the odd decision to pick up Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, as Best Buy had one copy left, and I figured that any game that drops from sixty to twenty dollars in less than half a year is quality material, right?  *Looks around and realizes that most movie/tie-in titles fall into this category*  Crap.

We all know that I have (and possibly you have, too) purchased games either on a whim, or on a reasoning that others may think is flimsy: I bought Halo: ODST because half of the cast of Firefly was in it, and Tron: Evolution because the box art was the shiniest thing I’d seen in days.  And Hunted: The Demon’s Forge?  Well, I kinda fell in love with inXile Entertainment’s last title, 2004′s The Bard’s Tale.  It was a funny and charming hack-and-slash fantasy romp, the likes of which I haven’t seen since.

Not even this shield can protect you from the vengeful wrath of mediocrity, Caddoc.

“But Nick,” you’re saying, “Didn’t Hunted strike you as a “dark fantasy” title, the sort of thing that would come from a conjugal visit between Marcus Fenix and Smeagol?”

First off, don’t be stealing my jokes, please, and secondly….yes, yes I was aware of that.  If you were to ask me if I’d be interested in playing a game consisting of linear level design accompanied by a color palette made up almost entirely of grays and browns and wrapped up with oodles of knee-high barriers and forced “not-so-witty” banter…I’d tell you that I’ve already had my fill of that “chainsaws and ‘high-fives’ brahfest” they call Gears of War…which is probably why I should have paid more attention when the back of the box said that it was a “Dungeon Crawler for the Gears of War age.”

Whoops.

Just what is the plot of this merry traipsing around the magical woods of Dyfed, Kala Moor, and several other stupid fictional cities that I have forgotten the names of that my brain has done me the kind service of eradicating from my brain wholesale?  Well, that’s an easy one. There’s a pair of assholes, a female elf asshole (she’s apparently the last of her kind, and from the way she talks to people, I think I’ve got a theory as to just why that is) and a male human asshole.  Technically, she’s more of an asshole than he is (I’d say 75-25) but she also has amply visible cleavage and a British accent, so allmost is forgiven.

A Bard's Tale spells out what you're getting, even in the box art: beer, tavern wenches, swordfighting and adventureness.

Said human has a vision where there’s some ancient artifact of some importance blah blah blah.  Then this iris-lacking pasty-skinned demon/undead/pigment-lacking lady stumbles out of a darkly-tinted portal that looks like something that would have come about had Aperture Science put several of The Cure’s albums on repeat.  She’s looking for certain lady, and instead of opting to file a “missing persons” report, she’s turned to you, likely because sporting facial tattoos alongside a “go fuck yourself” attitude will always get one hired.

Interested?  You still are?  Okay, well, how about being strung along from one environment to the next on the premise that “your princess is in another castle?”

“Oh, I don’t know where she is, but I do know someone who might…and that person lives in the next war-ravaged city level…which you’ll likely come upon after the obligatory ‘outdoorsy’ level.”  And, despite it being “out in the open,” it’ll have more invisible walls than a bad Nintendo 64 game.

So, weak and lazy plot?  You got it. Is such possibly not necessary in an  ogre-slayer’s wet dream?  Perhaps.  Yet when you’ve proven you’re capable of delivering a more than capable one, the let-down when you fail to is only intensified.

Perhaps you’re wondering if the combat bears mention?  Well, I can only speak to playing as Caddoc, the lesser of the two assholes, and can only address the single player aspect.  First off, you can’t upgrade your weapons, only “swap and drop” them, and the ability to actually carry a reserve “primary weapon” will only unlock halfway through the game for unusually attentive players, and likely 75% through the game for the rest of you.  Hunted also isn’t a game for the indecisive; if you pick up a weapon, only to decide that it’s not to your liking…you’re likely stuck with it, as the one you dropped in its place has now mysteriously dissolved.

On top of that, weapon selection is a fairly straightforward process, despite Hunted’s attempt to give the process a facade of complex, strategic choice: if the weapon you found is magically enchanted and deals more damage than yours, you take it.  If the weapon is magically enchanted, and yours is not, you take it.  If both weapons are not enchanted, and one has a “fast” attack speed (and presumably does more damage than the other) you take it.  Why?  Faster weapons fill up the “fury bar” quicker, allowing you to unleash a powerful strike.  Yes, “fast” weapons do less damage per blow, but filling the fury bar quicker easily trumps this once you’ve mastered landing the blow.

Yeah, Lucy Lawless is in this...but she's not even one of the main characters...and her voice is somewhat altered anyway.

That’s basically it.  These aren’t “tactics” for weapon selection, these are the rules, as there’s practically no “weighing of options” involved.  Things are even less convoluted for armor selection, as basically 95% of the shields you find only have one category: armor.  It’s reminiscent of early Final Fantasy games where every city has the next “bigger and better” weapon, except then you still had to weigh the cost of the weapon into the equation.

The gameplay itself is pretty “run of the mill.”  You enter an area, enemies enter the area, and you aren’t allowed to move on until all of said enemies are killed.  Some of you might point out that the game does have some upgradeable skill trees (both of the magic and the combat variety) and while this is indeed true many of the skills are utterly ineffective and others require an intelligent ally AI to be properly utilized.  Look sexy archer lady, when I levitate all of the enemies around me into the air, I do in fact expect you to riddle them with arrows, not look on like its some Criss Angel trick.  Sure, having a co-op partner works too, but I don’t expect a game to fall to pieces when there isn’t a second player, no excuses.

I’ll probably lodge a few more complaints later on, but let me end on a warning for those of you that are occasionally shallow (as I am) and can be swayed by bright/shiny things and/or eventful box art: It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Unreal Engine look this bad.  Granted, there are a lot of proprietary/in-house game engines that look better, and I’m not about to suggest that we all get down on our knees and collectively fellate  Cliffy B…but the Unreal 3 Engine has usually proven capable of making a game look good, if uninspired and filled with texture-pop.

Overall, Hunted is average, average, average, and from the people that brought you The Bard’s Tale I expected a hell of a lot more.  I expect you did too.

 

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