Level: Prologue
Level: The Wilds
Level: The Walls

Chapter 3: The Wilds of Govad

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Meet the Harridan

Now back on track, the characters reach the docks where prisoners are being loaded onto boats by the Minotaurs.  Caddoc and E'lara spot a strange female figure who soon spots them as well, and when she turns, they realize that this is the "headless woman" they were warned about earlier:  the hood of her cloak is empty except for a pair of magically-glowing eyes, and the staff she bears appears to be topped with her missing head and ribcage!

This horrific creature runs toward them, demonstrating her unique gift as she approaches—this "Harridan" has the ability to teleport across short distances in a puff of smoke.  Worse yet, as the fight begins, it becomes clear that her staff operates independently from her physical body, using magic to hover in place, create "mirage" copies of itself, and fire magical projectiles from its mouth.

While the staff is attacking, the Harridan's body is virtually invulnerable to damage.  However, the exposed ribcage contains the woman's heart, which gives E'lara a target to shoot for.  Once the staff is (temporarily) disabled, her physical body is unprotected.  She can then be damaged until the staff awakens and calls out its distress.  This causes the Harridan to teleport it to a new location and the cycle begins again until the pair are defeated.



Closing Cinematic

Using the Death Stone on the Harridan's lifeless body reveals that Caddoc and E'lara's heroism has not gone unnoticed by the leader of the dark forces arrayed against them.  The Harridan was sent to the Wilds specifically to stop them from interfering with the prisoner exchanges and transport seen throughout the chapter.

As the chapter closes, one more surprise awaits—down river, the city of Llyr lights up the night sky... because the entire city is on fire.  The heroes head to investigate and help if they can.

Final Analysis

The Wilds is where my team first "cut its teeth" on making a level for Hunted.  As such, there were a lot of ideas that didn't initally work or represented too big of a commitment for the amount of "fun" we'd be able to extract from them.  Some needed to be re-thought due to the technical realities of our platform.  Many of the niggling problems are related to elements that were mandated to be in the level by the initial creative direction.  (For instance, I feel there's an over-abundance of optional interactions—Death Stone spirits, prisoner rescues, reward items scattered throughout—that cause the level to frequently lose momentum.)

Overall, I think the level works fine and has some really clever or memorable moments in it.  For each element that could have turned out better, I see another which represents what makes Hunted a game worth playing—the level wants the player to find fun around every corner.

The quick downslope fights are unusual and work differently than you might expect.  The first Sleg fight in the game is unfair and overly challenging but feels like an accomplishment when you finish it without giving in to temptation.  The gimmick with the Wargar Horn in the forest fights is a fun thing to do once.

The real standouts for me—weirdly enough, considering how much of the game is centered around combat—are puzzles.  The "balance board" was a real team effort to come up with (though, once we had the initial idea, I had to take it home one night to work out the details because I needed to be sure they would be right), and the optional dungeon near the end of the level is really compelling and hides how much of it is cobbled together from elements found elsewhere in the game used in new ways.  Sometimes constraints in development lead to the cleverest ideation.

My favorite fight here is the "trap" at the top of the hill, though I feel it was more compelling without Sleg and when it still encompassed the full 360-degrees of the hill.  It's still a good combat encounter, although, like many of these sequences, it's hard to judge whether it goes on too long.

The level of challenge is a bit "all over the place" throughout the level, particularly given how the difficulty jumps from the end of the previous chapter.  That wasn't intentional.

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