The Way of the Hunter strives to be the new Alpha in the niche realistic hunting game market.
So does it hold up to its goals?
Story and Ethical Hunting.
From the get go Way of the Hunter pushes the notion of ethical hunting and introduces the main character in a tidy cutscene detailing the reserve is currently experiencing a rampant sickness amongst the animals and that you are taking over for your grandfather, your job becomes twofold, to maintain and fulfil the orders for meat of both big and small game to local business to maintain an income and to also help combat the illness amongst the reserve species.
But it does this in a way that isn’t intrusive and isn’t overly punishing for the player. The right tool for the right job is as paramount as it has always been, but the punishment for unethical hunting isn’t so much a slap on the wrist and a large klaxon telling you that you are getting coal for Christmas so much as it is the game letting you learn from your mistake yourself by making the reward for the sold meat of that animal to be vastly reduced and let the player themselves realise that to make money from their hunts, they need to keep a lid on their overzealous hunting practices. Yes you CAN shoot a badger with a .338 Lapua, but selling meat of that animal would be a fairly hard thing to achieve now that you’ve turned most of that animal into a fine pink mist.
The right gun, for the right animal isn’t the only factor, with the game also trying to push the idea of good shot placement to vitals, but to also keep in mind the factor of genetics and age of the animal in question. This is where I feel the first of many elements that help let Way of the Hunter stand out amongst the already established comes into play.
Early on the game will teach the player that the animals all have a genetic makeup, and they can pass this along to future generations as the days and weeks in-game progress. With those genetics playing the biggest role once they hit maturity. You can cull an entire group of weak genetic deer, killing the old and mature ones to allow the younger ones to pass on better genes to the females of that group, whilst also being conscious that killing the females of that group is of very little worth to the player themselves.
Hunting that prey, and staying silent and watching these herds and groups migrate and grow is a large part of the charm. You aren’t just there to kill and stick a head on a wall, but to also cultivate a strong reserve and combat illness and disease in those reserves.
Graphics & Animation
Amongst the rolling vast hills, noisy and damp swamps or even across the vast mountainous ranges you get a sense of a truly lovingly built and hand crafted world for the animals to come to life in. Which when purely observed they do go about their routines with or without your influence.
Reserve wildlife ranges from small Ducks and Geese, through to Badgers and Foxes and onwards to the biggest game like Bears and Moose. Each pose their own challenges to hunt, but also require specific knowledge and thought into the method of hunting them, finding the ideal time between them taking a drink or simply laying down will change the trajectory of your shot and could mean the difference between a clean double lung, or hitting the shoulder blades and losing the majority of shot energy pushing past the bone and not hitting vital organs for that quick and relatively painless kill.
Collectively the Way of the Hunter brings forth elements of existing games of the genre and combines them with new ways to improve the experience and immerse the player into hunting mindset. Between beautiful landscapes and indepth animal mechanics like routines and detailed anatomy, to ballistics being modelled in such a way that it tracks muzzle velocity and calibre and translates these into dispersion of energy to the animal and cavity damage it can cause from expansion. There is always something to keep you on your toes whilst stalking and hunting and helping to control and improve the overall gene pool of herds and groups to avoid sickness and disease being rampant among the reserve population.
Giving you a healthy set of options in regards firearms, ammo, callers and equipment means you have access to a vast array of choices to how you wish to go about your hunt. Including if you wish to catch animals early or late in the day or at specific parts of their routines and at specific known zones they tend to visit.
Setting aside the bugs and issues, at the heart of it Way of the Hunter delivers what it promises, a beautiful landscape, a vast abundance of animal types and sizes to hunt, storytelling with purpose and a clear and precise viewpoint to set across without forcing the player the abide by it without only harming themselves in the long run.
The developers are hot on the heels of most major and minor issues and were quick to address concerns from the players and potential future players regarding things like a missing FOV slider and lack of Ultrawide support. This also brings a point to bear about games being usually buggy and shipping with issues as games get vaster in terms of scope and size but also in terms of technicality.
Way of the Hunter certainly sets itself some momentous goals to achieve and with it come issues from both lack of forethought but also general technical issues that are either overlooked or are hard to narrow down in a limited array of users until release to a larger base of players, and though it hasn’t entirely reached those goals from the initial jump, it is absolutely well on its way to attaining the status is strives to achieve
All in all The Way of the Hunter is stepping firmly into the genre and announcing itself to the world that it plans to hold its own against the existing forays into the hunting world, and I for one believe this to be an experience that anyone with an interest in hunting shouldn’t pass up.