Fantasy RPG’s are a rare breed these days. There are a few of note such as: Fable, Dragon Age and Oblivion. However, more and more developers seem to be taking the shooter route, leaving the once celebrated world of swords and sorcery behind.
One developer, inXile Entertainment, not only plans to change all this, but is hoping to merge the action of the latest and greatest shooters with what works well in the fantasy genre.
During the Eurogamer Expo, we spoke with inXile’s Maxx Kaufman about the studio’s latest title, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, and how the studio hopes the game will change the way we look at the fantasy genre forever.
[Interview and text by Joe Anderson]
Could you just explain about the story behind the game for us?
Maxx Kaufman: The game is mainly focused on two characters named Allora and Kadic. Hunted really touches on some pretty serious topics. Throughout the land there is this addiction to this liquid called sleg, and the addiction is a pretty big part of the game.
Another part of the game is sacrifice. Human sacrifice. Early in the game you get into this dungeon area and find out that the people have been taken, and are being sacrificed to the Queen of Darkness. Basically you are trying to find out what that is.
So these two themes are very unique to a fantasy game and it’s a really good spin, really unique.
Is there any character creation involved?
Maxx Kaufman: It’s a linear story driven game, in the vain of many modern shooters, if you want to look at it that way. Hunted is a mixture of a shooter and action, which was kind of the genesis behind the creation of the game.
So in answer to your question no, Hunted is about the two characters and what happens to them.
Do the characters evolve?
Maxx Kaufman: They do evolve. Both characters gain skills and abilities as they go on. There is also a skill tree that they evolve on, and also 20 different characteristics which you can level up throughout the game.
There are actually quite a lot of things you are doing to evolve your character, but your character is going to look somewhat similar from the beginning to the end.
There is armour you can find, shields you can find and weapons, but that’s about the extent. It’s not really a full on RPG, more of a light RPG or a game with light RPG elements.
But its Fantasy based.
Kaufman:Yeah, fantasy based action, fast action. It’s actually the first fantasy game to include a cover system. We use cover as a major gameplay element. So both characters can take cover and use cover. In fact they have to in order to get through some elements of the game.
Can you explain how combat and magic work together within the game?
Kaufman: The characters actually have three stances. They have magic, melee and ranged. Kadic is special in melee and Allora is special in range. So she has special skills and abilities, such as frost and shield breaker, which is really important for her.
The way the gameplay works, the enemy actually rushes her with their shields, so it’s important for her, because she specialises in ranged attacks, to be able to break enemy shields. Your own shields also degrade, so you will need to find shields throughout the land.
The fantasy genre seems to be a dying breed, with most games being pushed towards shooters. So why have you decided to use this genre and why do you feel not many developers make fantasy games any more?
Kaufman: I don’t know, I mean so many people do love it, but the thing about the shooter / fast action category is, that it hasn’t been looked at for a long time.I think this is why we looked at it, we wanted to do something different; we wanted to add depth, detail and a complex story but dole it out as a mystery, slowly in pieces.
One of the driving forces in Hunted was to give the public something different, though in things they are familiar with. Like you say, a lot of people love fantasy, so why not give them some fast paced action, but still provide the ability to do the things they love, such as being able to upgrade their weapons and armour.
I think this is what we provide, but we just do it in a different way.
Does the game include any elements outside of the action, such as puzzles?
Kaufman:Good Question. You know, the game is broken up into action, story and then puzzles are a huge part of the exploration.
We think we have some of the most complex puzzles for a game of this time. One of the cool things about our puzzles is, no matter how complex they are, they’re on a different branch.
If you go down this branch and get frustrated, you can get back on the main path and not miss anything, but if you do go through with it you will be rewarded with great weapon upgrades, armour or some significant things which are fun and exciting to get.
We think the game is around ten hours, however, if you do some of the puzzles, dungeons and things that offshoot out of that, then realistically you could be adding another 10 hours to your gameplay experience. If you are into that challenge one of the other ideas we had was old school mode, were you have to do it.
In the old days when you had a game that had really tough puzzles you had to complete them, now and days if you can’t get past a puzzle you blame the developer and say, “oh that’s lame,” though I’m talking really old days.
If you play in old school mode, it’s going to be really tough to play, but you are going to have to do it, you are going to have to play through all these puzzles.
Can you explain more about the multiplayer. We know a big element is the online/Lan co-operative gameplay, but will the final product include split-screen?
Kaufman: The game doesn’t have spilt screen at this moment. When we first started we went for visually fidelity, and since then we have been looking at it. I would love to bring split screen to the final product, but we are still working on it.
We are still looking at it, working on it, I’m not going to say we are not going to do it yet, it’s a possibility but nothings decided.
Can you explain more about how the co-op will work?
Kaufman: You can basically play online or via LAN, and if you don’t want to play in this way then you will be able to play the game with an AI character.
The other thing about this too is, because there are these checkpoints throughout the world, where you can swap characters, if you are playing with an AI character you can swap and if you are playing with your online buddy you can swap too. This is great as it gives you a chance to experience their different abilities.
Are there any other online modes included within the game?
Kaufman: There is another multiplayer mode we are working on which hasn’t been announced yet. There was a little bit announced through the pre-order part. We are going to do a big announcement on this soon, around January.
What about future support? Will you be providing DLC for the game?
Kaufman: Yeah, we definitely have DLC plans and we have been working on some interesting ideas for this. We want to support the game and extend the game as much as possible, keeping people really excited about the world and the characters.
Does the game support 3D?
Kaufman: We haven’t investigated this too much. I think if we were to do it then we would do it in a very simple way. I’m not sure how other products do this, but it’s definitely a cool effect and I think if it’s possible we will do it, I‘m just not sure yet.
Will you be releasing a demo?
Kaufman: At this moment we are not announcing if we are to release a demo at all.
Obviously we have spoken a lot about the game, but what makes it different? Why should people buy Hunted?
Kaufman: I think people should buy it because it’s a great hybrid of shooteresque qualities and fast paced action, set in a fantasy world.
It’s really fun and exciting to play and it just brings a faster paced action than is normally seen in a fantasy game. Combine this with the co-op elements where you can battle charge you partner and the spell and skills dovetailing each other and I really think it’s a great game.