Early this morning inXile and Bethesda announced Hunted; The Demon’s Forge. We had a chance to check out the game last week and share our impressions below.

InXile Entertainment was founded by Brian Fargo back in 2002, a industry veteran who has worked on fantasy franchises such as The Bard’s Tale, Baldur’s Gate and Fallout. Hoping to reinvigorate the dark fantasy genre, Hunted is a third-person co-op action title that aims to add new polish to the classic dungeon crawler formula.

Hunted stars a female elf named E’lara and a male human named Caddoc. E’lara is a ranged weapon expert, lithe, and bloodthirsty. Caddoc is a physical opposite – big and bulky as a master swordsman should be. From a personality standpoint, Caddoc is the more reserved of the two. Returning from a long journey, the pair is informed by a wandering spirit that villagers are disappearing from once-quiet towns. Directed by the specter to the nearest village in need, they find the streets abandoned. After a few moments a scream pierces the quiet and a man runs toward them with a monstrous creature in pursuit. 

Before they can react the creature tackles the man and rips out his heart, gorily rendered with the Unreal Engine.

No longer needing to ask questions, E’lara and Caddoc spring into action. Combat is fast and frantic, with a contextual cover system proving a more strategic layer to play. There are three methods to combat that each player can take advantage of – ranged, melee and spell casting. Caddoc is slower but boasts more brute strength, making melee his primary vehicle for carnage. A crossbow acts as a secondary, less powerful tool. E’lara’s primary attack is with her massive bow – a small sword available for any close encounters. Both characters can use magic equally, as a direct method of attack or to augment weaponry.

On the outskirts of town E’lara and Caddoc locate the holding place of the villagers, noting that they are heavily guarded. The area is large and open, comprised of several plateaus at varying heights. E’lara takes the high road, positioning herself near a torch in order to pick off foes with a flaming arrow. Caddoc takes the more direct route, mowing down forces on the ground.

In the bulk of co-op games proximity is key, but inXile is introducing what they call “Co-op at a distance.” If a player falls the other can revive them with one of three potions they can carry on their belt. In a Gears of War fashion, fallen players crawl on the ground for a short period of time, allowing their partner to throw the vial at them from across the room. This allows the players to better utilize their skill sets, avoiding having them tethered together at all times.

Spells are another vehicle for co-op at a distance. For example, E’lara can freeze characters from across the room, letting Caddoc shatter them at close range. Conversely, Caddoc can use a levitation skill to toss a group of foes up into the air, giving E’lara a window to pick them off with her arrows. More skills and upgrades can be earned and unlocked as the players progress in the game.

Because each character has such unique battle style, inXile opted to allow character swapping at predetermined checkpoints. This way players can experience both play styles and level them up as desired. Friends can jump in or out at any checkpoint, with online play the only focus for inXile.

The game itself looks fantastic, with environments not limited to dark, dank dungeons. The team at inXile was explicit about the fact that they want sweeping vistas to complement some of the more traditional dark fantasy elements.

The Hunted doesn’t have a launch window as of yet, but is in development for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Games for Windows.