Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is a pretty gutsy throwback to a long bygone gaming era, but it looks to be a project that has every conceivable factor weighted in its favour. Developed by InXile Entertainment (the creators of the deeply loveable 2004 cult spoof The Bard’s Tale) Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is a defiantly old-school dungeon-crawl action game, and InXile’s founder Brian Fargo has publicly expressed his unhappiness with the genre of late, pointing out that the unusual – and some would say, fundamental – joy of getting completely lost during dungeon-crawling adventure games has recently fallen by the genre wayside.

Very little is known about the game’s plot, except that it follows the story of E’Lara and Caddoc, two steely mercenaries who are apparently looking to, “discover answers to the game’s deep, dark mysteries” according to Bethesda’s official press release. One thing we do know is that the characters are completely different in terms of how they engage in combat, with E’Lara using ranged weapons (like a bow and arrow) and Caddoc being most happy when he’s wielding a large sword, mace or club, and specialising in a spot of brutal, up-close melee combat.

The game’s reliance on co-op play can only be described in purely commendable terms, not only because co-op play is becoming one of the most essential ingredients in many of the finest contemporary videogames, but also because there are some pretty promising changes being made here too. The game has been described by various members of the development team as having “co-op at a distance”, which is a pretty succinct way of saying that you are able to do your own thing if you so wish, and can assist your partner from across a large area during an emergency, rather than having to run to his or her aid.

Some specific puzzles do require direct cooperation, but for the majority of the time you are free to explore, discover secrets and (most importantly of all) get utterly lost in a world that looks (even at this early stage) to be distinctive and quite beautifully drawn. E’Lara and Caddoc also have access to spells, and it appears that they’ll be able to pool their resources together if one of them gets into a particularly intimidating battle whilst venturing out alone. Crystals are the game’s primary currency, and unlike say, the green orbs in Crackdown, these are pooled together and accessible to both players, and are used to upgrade your spells and abilities as expected.

As the E3 trailer provisionally suggests, this is going to be a hardened and uncompromising experience for adults only, and if the prospect of returning to the glory days of hardcore dungeon-crawling excites you, then you most definitely aren’t alone. Hunted: The Demon’s Forge looks set for release in early 2011 on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, and there is nothing else on the horizon that looks even slightly like it. A definite one to watch, whether you’re nostalgic or simply looking for something refreshingly different.

Watch Hunted: The Demon’s Forge trailer here….

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