The concept behind Hunt the Night is very apparent. Take elements from games people love such as Link to the Past, Dark Souls and even Devil May Cry and combine them in the hopes of creating something that is part familiar, part unique but most importantly, completely enjoyable.
The most immediate influences that the player will be met with is of the SNES Legend of Zelda title, by way of the graphics. Everything is rendered in a wonderfully detailed pixel style utilizing the isometric viewpoint. There is a definite ‘modern retro’ vibe as the player traverses through dimly lit caverns, perilous swamps and fields littered with view obstructing trees. Where the game attempts to differentiate itself is in tone, as it is unlikely that the player can go more than a couple of screens without seeing pools of blood or corpses strewn about the landscape.
The world of Medhram is one that houses danger around every corner, so it makes sense that to explore it; you take control of Vesper, a member of the monster hunting order, the Stalkers. The peril is well worth it for the fun you will have searching the map for beneficial items. There are a number of blood shrines and optional hunts to increase your health pool, treasure chests that can house new weapons or armors and even a series of dark magic spells to help further your combat abilities to stumble upon. Puzzles do exist, which may sometimes serve as roadblocks for retrieval, or your story progression, but they are usually not overly complex and lore items will often be near them that provide hints.
The bigger threat to your progress will be the many creatures that want to add you to the collection of blood splatter and corpses that pollute the landscape. These range from more traditional enemies such as wolves all the way to projectile firing flower creatures and bats with skeleton heads. There is a level of excitement involved with heading into a new biome since it means finding a new series of enemies to cut down.
Combat involves mixing a series of attacks that include melee swings, firing projectiles and casting magic. All of the melee weapons have their own attack patterns, combo speeds and some even have passive bonuses. You could be using a spear with a poison effect on it to quickly inflict a debuff on your foe and then decide to change it up with a claymore that swings much slower and requires close range but packs a much stronger punch. Also, you can’t just lean on ranged attacks since ammo is replenished via your melee attacks, so you will need to plan out the best time to pop off a few shots. Spells just have cool downs so keep an eye on the prompt as well. It all balances pretty well and there would be no complaints if not for a bit of stiff controls that don’t provide the same animation cancelling we might be used to. Oh and invisible enemies, they are jerks.
Also, it shouldn’t need to be said, but platforming shouldn’t be so frequent in an isometric game. Dodging between moving or temporary platforms on a rotating timer is fine, until you are doing it for the umpteenth time and just want to get on with it. This is a real shame as these are most frequent in the dungeons which usually have more interesting puzzles and mechanics than the open world and some pretty impressive boss fights that will probably call upon a decent number of failed attempts to overcome. There were a few times where a challenge seems insurmountable but be persistent and eventually a pattern will just click.
Perhaps my biggest complaint comes from the story. Not necessarily in the quality of it but the sheer quantity of it. Dialogue with NPCs and even optional journal entries will go on for way too long, to the point that rolling your eyes is not an uncommon reaction to seeing that text box pop up. Cutting down on some of the fluff very well could have provided the same feel and tone to the narrative but kept the pacing higher. As such many people will be tempted to skip a lot altogether and that should be a real problem except like many souls like games, I don’t believe it’s necessary to enjoy the experience.
Unlike the aforementioned genre of games, Hunt the Night is a bit more forgiving in that the currency you amass while fighting enemies isn’t lost or dropped on defeat. You actually keep all of it and just port back to your last save shrine with all standard enemies respawning and your health potions refilling. This effect also occurs from just using a save shrine so that is where some of the comparisons will come from. Unfortunately, this game doesn’t have a leveling system so the currency is just that, usable at a vendor to purchase some armor or moonstones that provide passive bonuses. Hunt the Night is a very enjoyable experience that often left me feeling frustrated upon defeat but having that outweighed by my need to simply try again and be victorious. Aside from a warning that a little bit of time needs to be taken to gel with the combat and familiarize with the iframes, this is a very easy game to recommend to any fan of the plethora of influences it pulls from.