Hunted: The Demon’s Forge

I must say I enjoyed Hunted a lot (the full title is weird, since there was no demon who had a forge in this game). It’s fast-paced fantasy-action, powered by the now super-familiar Unreal Engine 3.x. This game could be bundled with Mass Effect 2. It’s probably a lot like what Dragon Age would have been, if they’d used the Unreal Engine again instead of their own brew. The similarities with Mass Effect 2 are abundant. The cover system, the 3rd person view, weapon-handling, no complex inventory… It’s easier to list what’s different. Apart from using the fantasy genre, it only “lacks” (in comparison) dialogs in which the players can select answers and thus experience resulting choices. There are only few characters and the game world, like in most shooters, only progresses, it’s not possible to return to earlier locations nor to choose from various destinations.
The game does allow, however, to find new weapons (bows, swords, shields…) and armor pieces with varying stats/looks and there is some character development through the spending of crystals, which can be collected in many places. Furthermore, regularly using certain feats will grant automatic upgrades to them, in several stages.
Instead of having a huge party, the entire game focuses on E’lara (bows) and Caddoc (melee) (although both can switch, e.g. if E’lara runs out of arrows she has a sword too and Caddoc can use a crossbow for enemies who are otherwise unreachable) – as single player it’s possible to switch between them at fixed locations in all levels and that’s cool, although the game is designed to make co-op more enticing.
A little more intrigue is introduced through (all optional) secrets and minor puzzles in most chapters. Leaving such an area right away (one character usually drops a line like “sure you don’t wanna look around some more?”), equals forfeiting all the eventual loot.
What else? Sometimes it’s possible to shoot a stationary ballista and some kind of steam-punk machine gun (fires wooden bolts, I think). Using a death stone on certain corpses grants fresh information and more background information in the form of lore, which is collected in some sort of timeline and can be accessed anytime (videos instead of text). The Wargar (bad guys who look like orcs) sometimes take prisoners and the protagonists can choose to free them.
Once someone’s got the hang of it, the game won’t deliver much surprises anymore, but IMHO the same could be said about most action games, so it’s not really a downer for me. All environments look actually different (if not completely) and I encountered only a single bug (a door that was supposed to open automatically after a big fight didn’t and I had to reload the last checkpoint). That still counts as “flawless” in my book.

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