When Vigil Games first imagined the post-apocalyptic action of Darksiders, it was envisioned as a four-player co-operative adventure. While the Darksiders series is still sadly on hiatus, the original creators have joined with Crytek USA to deliver a new four-player, third-person shooter set in a world gripped by rising evil. The early 20th century setting features customizable characters like cowboys, mustachioed gentlemen in bowler caps, priests, and even dentists battling against evil with all manner of weaponry. We checked out Hunt: Horrors of a Gilded Age in action during a presentation at E3 2014.
Crytek USA showed us a pre-recorded gameplay session following four hunters trudging through the swamps of Louisiana on the prowl for a witch. This Nightmare Witch is inspired by an actual southern folktale about an evil woman who suffocates her victims by sitting on their chests while they sleep. In Hunt, players travel to open environments such as the aforementioned bayou, South America, and Europe. Players will search these areas for clues about the evil curses plaguing them and to find the locations of bosses. The missions and enemy arrangements are randomized, lending more replayability to each task.
The developer is pulling inspiration from classic horror literature like H.P. Lovecraft, complete with dim-witted swamp dwellers performing dark rituals and stirring menaces from beyond our world. While the game is horror-themed, the onus is on creating a dark, malevolent vibe rather than constantly trying to scare a group of four players.
The brave team treks through a shanty village on stilts, knee-high swamp waters, and a graveyard in the demo, each location swarming with raving-mad cultists. Hunt's arsenal is a grounded selection of powerful favorites like pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Crytek is willing to fudge historical accuracy a bit by assuming someone around the time had prototyped a flamethrower, allowing players to immolate swaths of enemies at once. Players can also unlock more exotic weaponry like occult daggers and even bibles that, when read from, cause some enemies to drop into convulsions as evil is exorcised from them. Non-lethal items are also available, including an occult item that points players towards objectives or a doctor's bag to heal wounded teammates.
Crytek USA is taking a page from Left 4 Dead regarding respawn locations when players inevitably die. Hunters might regain consciousness locked in a coffin or tied upside in a trap, forcing the team to find and rescue them.
Characters are fully customizable thanks to a variety of cool fashion choices and a leveling system. Crytek USA says the progression system will be a familiar mix of gaining experience, leveling up, and selecting new skills. A variety of aesthetic customization is also available, letting you create a bad-ass lady gambler or a bearded soldier wearing Civil War garments. Crytek USA is fully embracing the style of the time, but with a dark, demon hunter flair that begs to be custom tailored. I'm personally interested in making a tough-as-nails old-timey bartender with an eyepatch and a bad attitude.
The demo concludes with a showdown against the fabled Nightmare Witch. The ethereal creature floats above gravestones, with chains and cinderblocks hanging from her limbs – remnants of a failed drowning. The players unload on the witch with all they've got. Occasionally the witch disappears along with one player who is enveloped by green mist and teleported into her spirit world. The remaining players can't see the witch unless their dimensionally displaced ally shoots her. It's an interesting dynamic that demands careful cooperation to win.
Hunt is a thematic departure for the core team behind Darksiders, but it has promise. It's planned as a free-to-play (cosmetic items, experience boosts), digital-only release for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. I'm sold on the setting and gunning down Lovecraftian evils with friend in third-person, but we won't know its full potential until it enters closed beta near the end of the year.