Bethesda and inXile Partner for New Fantasy Epic

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Hunted: The Demon Forge

Out of the frying pan, into the chummy relationship? That's almost what happened, subtract a few years, when developer inXile Entertainment signed up with Elder Scrolls roleplaying maestro Bethesda Softworks to publish its upcoming fantasy hack-and-slash, Hunted: The Demon Forge.

inXile was founded in 2003 by a guy named Brian Fargo. Those of you old enough to remember when games publisher Interplay was trotting out stuff like The Bard's Tale, Star Trek: Starfleet Command, and the original two Tim Cain-designed Fallouts may recall that Fargo was the guy who founded that company as well (back in 1983). Fargo left Interplay in 2002 to form inXile and publish his first post-Interplay game, a roleplaying genre sendup for Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Windows titled The Bard's Tale, in 2004.

There's the "chummy" part, but what about the "frying pan"? Well, Bethesda and Interplay are currently litigating over the rights to a Fallout MMORPG, codenamed Project V13. Fargo left the company years before any of this went down, of course, but put another way, the guy who once ran Interplay just signed with a publisher suing the company he originally founded.

Bethesda developed and published Fallout 3 in late 2008 as part of a licensing agreement with Interplay that awarded Bethesda that rights to the Fallout franchise, while Interplay retained rights to create a Fallout MMORPG. The arrangement had a twist: Interplay had to secure funding and launch development of the project prior to April 2009.

Well it seems Interplay didn't, so Bethesda sued for trademark infringement, a move designed to wrestle the final franchise jewel back--if not for itself, then minimally to prevent Interplay from playing in a creative sandbox Bethesda now considers entirely its own.

Hunted: The Demon Forge

Back to inXile. Fargo's new game, Hunted: The Demon Forge (pictured above), must be doing something right to turn Bethesda's eye, because inXile's prior efforts barely registered. The Bard's Tale was received by most with better-than-average marks, but crime-spree action game Hei$t--announced in 2007--was just cancelled in January. The company's only other game-related output involves a handful of casual puzzlers for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

I'm already underenthused about Hunted, based on its banal retro-hook: A cooperative-play dungeon spelunker with all the cliché fantasy races and classes. Then again, I wasn't expecting much from Runic's Torchlight either, and I probably had more fun playing through it than I did either of the original two Diablos.

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