I’ve only seen around 30 minutes of Hexxen: Hunters but I’m already impressed by how approachable its combat is compared to Baldur’s Gate 3. For someone who doesn’t play D&D religiously and is a long-lapsed strategic RPG player, figuring out how everything works is a dangerous game of trial and error – which is particularly troublesome for a game with so very little room for that. But, Hexxen: Hunters is much more about combining a little more action with its RPG, by removing movement limitations so that characters can experiment with what attacks and other actions they can pull off before you commit. It’s more akin to Mario + Rabbids: Spark of Hope in that way.
Developer Ulisses Spiele Digital recognizes that its subject material is a little less globally well-known, but I suspect it’s hoping that the success of Baldur’s Gate 3 is going to prove a boon for Hexxen: Hunters. It’s based on the Hexxen: 1733 table-top roleplaying game where the gates of Hell opened and supernatural horrors descended on the world. Think witches, demons, and other fairytale creatures turned bad. Now, 100 years after that event, eight heroes imbued with special powers have become Hunters and are ready to take them all on.
Join the hunt
Of course, it’s not quite as simple as all that, because in Hexxen: Hunters everything you do is an attempt to wind back the Doomsday Clock that lurks in the corner of your screen. The planet Venus – or here, the Morning Star – and Lucifer himself with it, is actually hurtling towards Earth. You need to stop that from happening because no one wants a planetary car crash or the devil walking the Earth.
Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to slow down or even turn back that Doomsday Clock by a minute or two. One of those is investing in your village, which is an area that you come back to after each mission, a little like Darkest Dungeon. It starts off as a bit of a run-down hovel, but with your help you’ll start to build up locations like the smithy, church, villager homes, and more. These buildings then too have powers that you can use to influence the narrative. For example, the Church can heal afflictions, bless armor, or even use “invoke”, which actually turns back the Doomsday Clock by one step.
Interestingly your village will also develop slightly differently depending on the Hunters you follow. While there are eight in total to get to know, you can only have six in any given playthrough at once, which should encourage replayability as long as it’s not quite as involved as something like Baldur’s Gate 3. Each of the Hunters has their own personal missions that you can experience alongside the main questline to hold off ol’ Lucifer. Through those, you’ll unlock unique elements that will impact your central stronghold.
Put the hex on you
That’s particularly interesting to me as there’s actually no player character at the heart of Hexxen: Hunters, so those character narratives are going to have to offer plenty of agency and player control within themselves. What I do know is that in combat each Hunter has their own unique abilities and strengths, such as the alchemist Magnus who’s capable of creating his own grenades that can be tailor-made for each combat encounter.
This plays into that aforementioned focus on bringing the action to this RPG. As I mentioned in combat you can move freely and spend less time worrying about step counts and more about how best to use each of your Hunters. Each character’s action points will depend on how agile they are, so make the most of the more nimble characters having more options in combat. You’ll also have to balance how you bind each character to an enemy. Being bound to an enemy limits some of what you can do, although the specifics weren’t entirely clear during this brief preview. The more melee-focused characters can take more damage, so choosing to bind two or three enemies in combat to them makes sense while the longer-range characters provide support from the sidelines.
In that sense, Hexxen: Hunters does err on the side of JRPG a little, as it focuses more on who you’re attacking rather than where you are while you’re doing it. The combat certainly feels faster paced than other RPGs of this type, with the tactical elements still maintained through binding and other skill tree elements. It’s also designed to be played on a gamepad, so even in this early stage there’s a simplicity to the UI that seems to play into the focus on keeping things moving.
With Hexxen: Hunters dropping into Early Access on PC sometime in 2024, I’m looking forward to experiencing how a German TTRPG translates to a video game adaptation. With its unique art style, comical dialogue, and refreshing take on combat this could be one to watch in a post-Baldur’s Gate 3 landscape.
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