From what I know about hunting, it tends to involve two of my least favorite things: getting up really early and sitting in one spot for a long time; and like fishing (“it’s called fishing, not catching har har!” goes the old joke) the gratification, if it ever comes, is of the delayed variety.
That’s why I was surprised to find myself spending most of this game running around like a madman. They got the delayed gratification part right, though. And I mean really delayed.
Let me back up. This is supposed to be a hunting game with a preternatural twist. That’s a pretty solid idea, and you start off on the right foot. You’re a Van Helsing-type guy and right away you get attacked by some vicious monster; of course, it takes more than that to kill you and so shortly thereafter you arrive at a gray, misty forest village. I’ve never been to the dark forests of Transylvania, but if it doesn’t look like this it should.
Then the cracks started to appear under the strain of my expectations.
I don’t think I was being unreasonable. I figured first I’d talk to the locals to get a read on the situation. Head out into the wild during the day (everyone knows monsters sleep during the day) to scout the area, get the lay of the land and all that. With any luck I’d encounter some mad woodsman and he’d give me a few clues about the beast. I’d follow the clues and discover signs of its presence, then use my hunting skills to track it back to its lair.
Having located my quarry, I’d return to town to prepare. Fill up on ammo. Maybe buy a trap or something, like one of those magic crucifixes I saw in the store. I’d lay my trap at the mouth of the monster’s lair and wait until nightfall. My racing heartbeat would alert me as the monster stirred. An unearthly howl would split the night and as the creature burst from his lair, followed by an explosion of silver light as my trap did its work.
I’d raise my ye olde flintlock rifle and fire; but my shot would miss as the beast lunged aside. With a roar of fury it would charge me. In desperation I’d draw my pistol, firing my last shot as it leapt for my throat. As the smoke cleared I’d find my foe dead at my feet.
Except it wouldn’t be a wolf…dun dun DUN! It would be the mayor’s son, cursed with lycanthropy; the town’s dark secret finally come to light.
That’s how I pictured it, anyway.
Unfortunately, it didn’t really pan out. Only two locals live in town besides the guy who stands there all day and sells stuff, and they weren’t very talkative. There was no day and night, no clues, no real tracking ability, no stealthy scouting and although I did run across a cabin it contained no woodsman, mad or otherwise.
What it does have is lots and lots of space.
That seems good at first until you realize pretty much the only way to find the monster in all of that space is to run around blindly. Here’s how it works:
You run around until your heart starts pounding. That means you’re getting “close.” The range is huge, though, so it’s not really very helpful. Yeah, you can drop these expensive totems that point toward the monster, but it’s usually long gone by the time you get there. If you’re lucky you find the actual wolf eventually, as opposed to the many random dogs who charge out of the brush and bite you. This part takes a long time, even though your guy can run like Forrest Gump.
If you do manage to find and shoot the wolf, he runs away and you have to do it all over again; and then again, and again and again, and then one more time until eventually he dies. You’re feeling pretty relieved at that point, and then they send you off to fight a tree; and you’re thinking, “great, at least the tree will stay in one spot!”
Well that’s where you’re wrong, because as it turns out it’s more like an Ent or something and you have to chase him around too. Technically you can beat him in one battle once you find him, but that’s probably not going to happen because you have limited ammo and he has like ten million hit points and can poison you.
I did it, though. Eventually I killed the tree. Then I thought I knew for sure where the next monster was going to be, but to my horror I discovered that that one roams around too and they expect you do the same thing.
Sorry. That was where my hunt ended. I just couldn’t take any more.
This game was made by only one guy, so you can’t exactly ask for the moon here. Still, there are certain expectations that need to be met for a game like this to work.
A world this lonely really calls for some more interaction with the environment to balance it out. I mean, you have to give the player something; and if it’s not going to be story, character interaction or well-tailored encounters then there has to be some depth to the world itself to make you want to stick around.
For example: a day/night cycle, weather, a tracking system, stealth influenced by lighting, wind, etc., resource gathering, a crafting system, weapon upgrades, things to find, interesting places to explore, more variety to the creatures, some lore to provide a foundation for the area. Something. I think this is just a tough sort of game to make solo.
I don’t want to be discouraging: there’s a kernel of a good game at the center of it all, but maybe this guy bit off more than he could chew.
Oh, and if you do play it make sure the first thing you buy is the license that pays you for every monster you kill. Otherwise you’ll run out of money and won’t be able to experience the true essence of hunting, which is buying a bunch of gear.