Hunter: The Reckoning (for XBox)

(World of Darkness)

and Next: (John Carpenter’s film ‘Vampires’)

On May 21, 2002 a video game called ‘Hunter: The Reckoning’ was released for the Xbox and GameCube gaming systems. It is a hack-and-slash game developed by High Voltage Software and published by Interplay Entertainment. It is also a tabletop game and the 6th main game in the World of Darkness series. The tabletop game was originally released by White Wolf Publishing in 1999.

Players role-play as human characters in modern times who learn of the existence of the supernatural, such as vampires, werewolves, and mages, and fight back as monster hunters. Having little knowledge of the supernatural and nobody but each other to rely on, they share information and organize through the Internet forum Hunter-Net.

The game was designed with themes of righteous fury, paranoia, hope, and retaining a normal life. The game was critically well received and considered appealing to both returning players and those new to the series, and became one of White Wolf Publishing’s most successful and popular intellectual properties.

In the game’s first edition, this revelation comes from the voice of beings called Heralds or Messengers speaking to the character, imbuing them with insight and power; in Hunter: The Reckoning 5th Edition (H5), hunters do not become imbued. The hunters are mostly unorganized and know little of the supernatural, and have to rely on each other as the world at large does not know about it. Because of their lack of knowledge, they typically have to study their targets before attacking if they want to survive the encounter.

Players create hunter characters with a character sheet, assigning points to various attributes to determine what they are good at, and deciding which of several creeds they belong to: Avengers, Defenders, Hermits, Innocents, Judges, Martyrs, Redeemers, Visionaries, or Waywards. The hunters’ powers are called edges, and are learned through paths, where the first power often is the most powerful; in the first edition, edges are supernatural, which is not necessarily the case in H5.

The development team designed the game with the concept of righteous fury as its main theme; other themes include paranoia and the fear of the unknown, the effect of monster-hunting on one’s humanity, finding hope and continuing fighting in seemingly hopeless situations, maintaining a normal life, and how power can corrupt people. According to Cliffe, the inspiration for the hunters mainly came from average people, as he considered underdogs to make for better heroes than superheroes do. The game was mostly written in-character, to show rather than tell what it is like to be a hunter.

Although the game includes monsters appearing in other World of Darkness games, they do not necessarily abide the same rules as in their home games, creating an experience that reflects how hunters do not know how supernaturals work. For example, a vampire in Hunter: The Reckoning may be more brutal and vile than one in ‘Vampire: The Masquerade’ and may have other abilities and weaknesses.

White Wolf Publishing released the Hunter: The Reckoning fiction anthology Inherit the Earth in 2001, which was edited by Stewart Wieck and contains nine stories. They also published the six-part novel series Predator & Prey by Carl Bowen and Gherbod Fleming in 2000–2002, consisting of Vampire, Judge, Werewolf, Jury, Mage, and Executioner.

High Voltage Software released two more games in 2002, and 2003, as video game adaptations of ‘Hunter: The Reckoning’ called ‘Wayward’ and ‘Redeemer.’ After Paradox Interactive acquired the ‘World of Darkness’ series in 2015, they said that they wanted to create a fourth Hunter: The Reckoning video game.

Players take the roles of hunters who fight hordes of enemies with melee weapons, ranged weapons, and magic. The story revolves around Ashcroft Penitentiary, a prison which has been taken over by vampires as their feeding grounds; the inmates who die there rise again as vengeful and destructive wraiths.

Interplay chose to adapt Hunter: The Reckoning into a video game as they thought it would translate well into an action game, a genre their division Digital Mayhem was focusing on. It was intended from the start to be a flagship title for them, and the first in a series, which led to the decision to develop it for the Xbox, as it was new at the time and had greater graphical capabilities than other consoles. The game was well received for its gameplay and visuals, although the GameCube version was criticized for its downgraded graphics and frame rate issues.

The players fight using ranged and melee weapons, but can also use magic spells called “edges”, with effects such as dealing damage to a group of enemies, or healing oneself. Certain weapons can be earned as pick-ups through exploration, including a machine gun, a chainsaw, and a shotgun.

Players take the roles of four hunters, which have different character classes: Deuce is an Avenger, and the strongest; Samantha is a Defender, and is balanced between speed and power; Father Cortez is a Judge, and has weak melee skills but strong edges; and Kassandra is a Martyr, and is fast and has quick attacks. The characters also have a set of statistics, such as strength and accuracy, which can be raised throughout the game.

The game consists of 23 levels, set in locations including a graveyard, sewer system, prison, hospital, mansion, and a torture chamber. The levels vary in length, ranging from around five minutes to around half an hour, and have a variety of different objectives, including traversing the map, freeing hostages, escorting non-player characters, and searching for things. After finishing the game, players get access to a new difficulty level and alternate costumes for their characters.

One year before the events of the game, four people are present at the execution by electric chair of the serial killer Nathaniel Arkady at Ashcroft Penitentiary: Spenser “Deuce” Wyatt, Samantha Alexander, Kassandra Cheyung, and Father Esteban Cortez. As the switch was thrown, the souls of the dead who suffered at the hands of the prison’s warden and his supernatural staff rose up in vengeful rage, driven by evil to exact their vengeance upon the residents of Ashcroft. The four witnessed the uprising of the supernatural evil, and received a message in their minds from benign supernatural beings called messengers to act against the vast supernatural force that threatened the population of Ashcroft. Choosing to heed their calling, the four became Imbued, and destroyed the evil inside the prison. The four Imbued locked the prison, sealing what was left of the evil inside, and left Ashcroft.

On the anniversary of the closing and abandonment of Ashcroft Penitentiary, several hundred local teenagers hold a rave in the courtyard. The lively celebration awakens the dormant wraiths, who slaughter most of the teenagers, and, freed from their prison, rage out into the town and begin to destroy the population. The Imbued return to Ashcroft to confront the source of the evil that threatens the town and protect the remaining survivors.

A wraith appears to the hunters, named Carpenter, and tells them that warden Degenhardt is a vampire, and that Dr. Hadrian has been performing flesh-warping experiments on the inmates. Arkady, they find out, is a werewolf and still alive. After they kill Degenhardt and Hadrian, Carpenter attacks them for denying him his revenge on Hadrian. Degenhardt turns out to not be truly dead, and to have deliberately reawakened the haunting as part of his plan to find his living family’s ghosts and give them new bodies. By confronting him in the attic of his mansion, the hunters release the tortured spirits, kill Degenhardt, and escape Ashcroft.

Certain characters were taken from the tabletop game, while the main cast was based on pre-made characters by High Voltage Software staff.

The art direction was influenced by films, including ‘Blade’, ‘The Crow,’ ‘Blade Runner,’ and ‘Dark City.’

‘Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade’

Another table top game developed by White Wolf Publishing, came out in 1998. It is a spin-off series from ‘Mage: The Ascension’ and is set in the Renaissance era. It depicts the beginning of the struggle between “traditionalists” and “technocrats”.

Other titles of note are Vampire: The Dark Ages, in 1996, and Werewolf: The Wild West, in 1997.

Although Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade was among the best selling role-playing games in France in the July–August 1998 period, it and the other most recent World of Darkness games at the time, with the exception of Vampire: The Dark Ages, were commercial failures, contributing to large economic problems for the publisher by 1998.

‘Deviant: The Renegades’

Is a Chronicles of Darkness game that was successfully Kickstarted in October 2019 by Onyx Path.

From the Onyx Path website:

“You woke up… different. Someone changed you; on a slab, an operating table, an altar. By luck or by fate, you escaped. Hunted by your creators, they hold all the cards, and it seems they might recapture you. Except, what they don’t understand is they’ve stoked the fires of vengeance; what they did wasn’t right. What they don’t know is that now — you’re hunting them.

Deviant: The Renegades presents a game where the victims of experiments band together to bring down the monolithic organizations that twisted and warped them.”

The Arcanum (from WoD)

The Arcanum is a secret society of scholars that pursue knowledge of the supernatural. A number of Arcanum agents act as hunters though they usually hunt in the pursuit of esoteric lore rather than actively hunting supernatural creatures. Many Arcanum scholars are sorcerers, and a handful possess True Faith. A member of the Arcanum is referred to as an Arcanist.

The Arcanum was founded in 1885 by Benjamin Holmscroft, a former member of the Hermetic Order of the Rising Day. Disappointed with what he perceived as charlatans, Holmscroft instead decided to found his own society of scholars who would study the supernatural with genuineness. Holmscroft invited occultists from all over the Western world to attend him in Vannevar Hall, which he claimed as his ancestral estate. All agreed that most active occult societies were mostly escapist fools. Holmscroft had purposely chosen people that believed there was much more to the “world of shadows”, as he called it, than most people would be willing to believe. When the Arcanum was founded, its structure was built to imitate the ancient mystery cults, while drawing on elements from the Hermetic Order, combining fraternal, ecclesial and professional organization models.

During the next years of its existence, the Arcanum slowly began to expand its membership. Under Holmscroft’s direction, not only scholars were targeted for recruitment, but also psychics and other persons who exhibited limited supernatural powers. Even women were considered for joining if their talents were sufficient. Early attempts of infiltration by other secret societies, like the Society of Leopold, were thwarted.

In 1888, one of the founding members, Jebediah Brown, seemingly betrayed the Arcanum to focus on his personal vendetta against vampires. As a reaction, the group went global, with Vannevar Hall as their hidden headquarter. New Chapters were opened in Vienna and Boston, with others following the British Empire and its expansion. Soon, all major nations in Europe were home to at least one Chapter House.

In 1910, the Boston Chapter House came under attack after it had infiltrated a blood cult that revered “Hecate”. When one of the infiltrators fled after “Hecate” was revealed to be a vampire, the cult learned of the location of the Chapter House and set fire to it, destroying numerous priceless tomes and the Arcanum’s archives. In the wake of this attack, additional security measures were implanted for all Chapter Houses. The newly founded Chapter in Washington D.C. became the new headquarter for the American Arcanum, while Holmscroft and the other founding members retreated further and further from leadership positions.

When World War I began, many Chapter Houses fell on opposing lines of the conflict, resulting in mistrust and much of the field work and shared research coming to a standstill. Even worse were the events of World War II, which resulted in the Berlin Chapter House falling under the control of the Nazis and their pet occultists, the Thule Gesellschaft.

Others act as informants to the Society of Leopold or government officials. Similarly, Reverend Jebediah Brown, who has survived the centuries through his vast understanding of alchemy and the efforts of Crucible Genetics Amalgamated, still believes his ongoing theft of intelligence from Arcanum Chapter Houses goes unnoticed — but, in truth, he is but another tool in an intricate armchair war.

With much of the world in a state of religious agitation, the Arcanum has found Kindred in greater numbers and of more varied ideologies than they had guessed existed. For some unknown reason, the Inner Circle of the Camarilla has barred the Kindred from interfering with the Arcanum.

Mages, on the other hand, have taken up an honest interest in the Arcanum. The Order of Hermes in particular sees the development of the Arcanum from one of the hermetic sects that they once had fostered as a sign that they are kindred spirits. Some mages even go so far to claim that the Arcanum itself is merely a front for the Order of Hermes, but the Hermetics know that this is not true. Instead, they wait for them to discover enough about the supernatural that they might present the world with irrefutable proofs of its existence, which would reinforce their paradigm in the Ascension War.

The Arcanum itself knows of the existence of a medieval Order of Hermes, but believes that this institution died out centuries ago after magic began to disappear from the world. The Arcanum works to regather the lore of this “lost” Order, combining it with their knowledge of sorcery.

The Arcanum regularly deals with ghosts and spirits. Understanding of these entities is tied to the physical world, so few Arcanist know about the different Umbrae beyond the Gauntlet (The Umbra, also called the Spirit World, the Shadow, or the Velvet Shadow, is a realm existing alongside and yet separate from the material world), (Separating the Earth from the Umbrae is a metaphysical “membrane” known as the Gauntlet. Some humans almost manage to get close to the Gauntlet in times of bliss, meditation, or creativity; this state is known as the Periphery. The Gauntlet is thinner in places such as a haunted graveyard or the wilderness, and thicker in places such as laboratories and shopping malls. The relative strength of the Gauntlet determines the ease with which one can cross it). Most deal with ghosts and spirits either when they are summoned and subdued or when they haunt a specific area. Demons are regarded as a classification of destructive spirits. The Arcanum has its share of demonologists, but watches these agents carefully for corruption. Demonolatry and Infernalism are crimes that result in expulsion.

The Arcanum studies Werewolves, Faeries, Bygones and Mummies more as a matter of hearsay. While vampires and mages often live amidst humanity, werewolves are rare creatures more often found in the wilds, while Faeries and Mummies are extraordinarily rare and difficult to locate.

Next: John Carpenter’s film ‘Vampires,’ and another film analysis: ‘The Lost Boys’.

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