Here at EAG, we are not strangers to the various horror video game sub-genres. I, myself, have covered several on the site thus far through reviews and various news updates. Games like Bendy and the Ink Machine and Die Young sit somewhere in our archives waiting for you to read if you haven’t already (hint hint). Personally, I am very fond of the genre. There are many horror survival games we’ve seen pass through here that show promise, attempting to take a unique spin on the genre, but here we have something quite different. We have a dark sci-fi action RPG game known as Hellpoint. Obviously, this sounds a bit different than the survival horror game genre, but let’s be real, they all fall into the more commonly known as “scary games” category that you either love or you hate. I sit very comfortably in the love category, so of course, I wanted to check the game out. But, after trying the demo and after checking out the Kickstarter campaign, I have to admit that this game might not be my cup of tea, but before you write it off let me explain
Hellpoint is a crowd funding campaign launched and developed by developer studio Cradle Games. The game promises a captivating story and a reimagining of the traditional split screen multiplayer gameplay we continue to see less and less of. The game begins after the event known as a “quantum catalyst”, referred to as The Merge, combines two separate alternate realities into one. All that makes up the two universes and all of the inhabitants merge into a single universe (body, mind, and space) causing a great confusion among the people. This happening not only connected the two universes but also awoke a dark power from other dimensions in which the newly created single universe will now have to fend off to survive.
You play as an inhabitant of the universe who was 3D printed by the greater governing system known as the “Authority.” You wake up in a space station named Irid Novo that is in orbit around a black hole. It is here that the Authority gives you the task to “finish what is undone,” thus catapulting you into in a game in which the actions and choices you make throughout determine the outcome of the game. You must decide what to do, who to trust, and this is what molds your gameplay experience.
I have to admit, the premise of this game is a stroke of genius. The developers must have a sound understanding of space-time and physics in order to create a game that both makes sense and is entertaining. Of all of the games I have reviewed on EAG, I must say this one is in the running for "most unique premise", if not for the decision-based gameplay which may be a little overdone nowadays. Not to say this goes against the quality of the game by any means, just that the individuality of the game suffers a little from a not-so-original gameplay style.
Just because a game has a great idea supporting it doesn’t mean the implementation of the gameplay is worthwhile. This is where I start to lose interest in the game, kind of. To start off, I would have loved a first person perspective option. I, though admittedly may very well be in the minority here, vastly prefer a first person perspective over a third-person one in RPG gameplay. An even better option would be for games to offer a first person/third person hybrid view akin to games like Skyrim. I want a first person perspective for emersion and accuracy using spells, bows, guns, etc., but a third person POV is better for hack-and-slash type mallee attacks so the player can have a better sense of space.
What the gameplay does EXTREMELY well is present the player with its implementation of the level design. The gameplay builds itself off of a structure called the “Quantic System” which curates what happens in the space stations at certain times. Before I get ahead of myself, remember that “sound understanding of space-time and physics” I mentioned the developers need in order to pull off a good game here? Well, this is where they prove they know their stuff. Just as gravity affects time in the real world, Hellpoint implements a system that acts in the same way.
In short, a black hole has an incredible amount of gravitational force that it exhibits around surrounding objects, planets, people, etc. Now, if gravity affects time in such a way to morph perception of said time, then a black hole must transform the player’s perception of time too right? You’re damned right it must! And in this case, it most certainly does. As the space station orbits around the black hole, the game will act differently at different times. The players will be crazier at one time than another, there will be a mini-boss in a corridor or room that was not in that room a moment ago, and all of this are just a few of the things the player must navigate in order to solve the “puzzles” and beat the game. As the developers put it “the Black Hole is truly the master of the dungeon.” I can’t say there is a better way to put it than that.
Now, where the game falls short, apart from the petty perspective issue I mentioned earlier, is in the look and feel. While I was playing the demo I felt myself distracted by the art and animation style. In a well-designed game, the player isn’t always distracted by how beautiful the realism or stylization of the art is, but, in my opinion, great art style is something that takes the players breath away when they pay attention to it but melts out of focus and into the gameplay as the player gets lost in the action. Hellpoint's art and animations are neither breathtaking nor do they melt away. This is something forgivable in games like Monster Hunter on the 3DS, but I find it more of a burden in this case. Now don’t get me wrong, the art style is not inherently bad. In fact, it is quite unique. I just find it to be jarring rather than seamless, and I cannot quite put my finger on why that is.
Apart from that, multiplayer mode shows a lot of promise, which I was not able to test out, and the replayability is incredible due to the Quantic System. These are where the game’s true identity comes from. An incredibly brilliant idea, mixed with a truly unique engine that changes the player experience every time you start a new game, and a wonderfully thought out level design makes for one killer gaming experience. It’s just too bad that I lost focus of all of that at times because of something as simple as a preference in art style. To clarify, this is solely my opinion on artistic design, and I do not think should reflect on the quality of the game. It is something you will need to check out yourself.
All that to say, I am really excited to see where the developers take Hellpoint. Maybe the only major gripe I have will change into some spectacular design that I can’t stop looking at, who knows? All I know is that the game only has less than two days left on Kickstarter and it just recently met its goal early today so head over there now if you want to be among the first to get your hands on the game. The beauty of crowdfunding is that it is only with your support that these projects become reality. Projects like this only become more than just a demo when loyal indie gamers and fans work together and chip in for the greater community. That being said, just because they campaign already met its goal doesn't mean your contribution won't be ever important to the future of Hellpoint.
What do you think about Hellpoint thus far? Do you agree with me about design, or is the design something you are into? Perhaps, like me, it isn’t your favorite but you can overlook it because of the incredible story and implementation? Go ahead and download the demo for yourself, and don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comment section below. You can also get ahold of us over on both Twitter and Facebook, where you can follow our account and like our page in order to stay up to date with all of your indie gaming news and reviews.