Hellpoint Review – What A Hellhole
I consider myself to be a fan of Souls-likes. I enjoy the challenge, but I also enjoy the rich worlds they place themselves in, specifically the ones attributed to Hidetaka Miyazaki himself. That, and the boss fight designs have been some of the coolest I’ve encountered. Yet, when you hear the term itself, you think of dread. Did they do it right? We even have bad feelings when it turns out the developer is western, like the Japanese are the only ones capable of making good ones. A lot of that changed for me the moment I tried out Hellpoint.
Hellpoint is an action-RPG developed by Cradle Games and published by tinyBuild. I know there’s this whole thing about saying things are “like Dark Souls,” but Hellpoint wears the phrase on its sleeve.
Printed Like A Book
In Hellpoint, you play as a human, printed organically on a ship called Irid Novo by a strange entity known as the Author, who has tasked you with collecting data and finding out what occurred on the ill-fated space station. The story is okay, if hard to follow. But that’s mostly just the genre.
Now, when I said that Hellpoint wears being like Dark Souls on its sleeve, I wasn’t joking. The UI, the menus, even the way you feel in-game can be heavily similar to the way Soulsborne games are. But there are plenty of differences to find, the setting being the most obvious.
Irid Novo is a gigantic space station, and one willing to be compared to the map structure of Dark Souls were it not for the loading screens in between areas. Although it doesn’t have that seamless capability, it manages to feel rather interconnected with shortcuts, hidden pathways and plenty of secrets to find.
Into The Breach
Of course, what you need to find first are breaches, the bonfires of Hellpoint, but these have their twists. First, connecting to a breach doesn’t heal you up, nor does it refill your “Estus Flask.” What you can do at breaches is level up, travel (once conditions are met), consume axions (currency), and make enemies in the area easier or harder depending on what item you use at it.
Travelling from breach to breach on Irid Novo isn’t easy, as, while some breaches are automatically available to travel to, most will need to be chosen. Through the use of a Breach Synchronizer, you get to choose which breaches can be travelled to. Beware, as there are a limited amount of Breach Synchronizers to find on Irid Novo.
On one hand, I like that travelling is limited so it requires exploration and good decision making, I also dislike it because sometimes the game can be annoyingly hard to navigate, which I’ll get into later.
The Calm Between The Storms
Breaches aren’t the only unique twist to Hellpoint. It’s main feature, one of the bigger mechanics of the game, is that Irid Novo orbits a black hole. That’s right, a black hole. Probably not the brightest idea, which is why the space station is so… in trouble, I guess. However, what this offers for gameplay is fairly unique to the genre. Things like more enemies spawning, hordes being placed, or just straight up demons appearing will occur at specific points in the space station’s orbit.
While I would say this makes the game interesting, it can also make things rather frustrating. One marker for knowing where to go is the presence of enemies; if you find dead enemies, you’ve already been here. Yet when they respawn, it makes navigating the halls of Irid Novo, especially early on, much more difficult. What doesn’t help is that you just won’t know where to go at specific points in the game, a fact that I didn’t get to experience much, thanks to a little help.
Built To Last
And that isn’t to say Irid Novo’s levels look the same; quite the opposite. I love the environmental design they put into this game. Although you can tell it all takes place on the same ship, they tried their hardest to make each area distinct from the last. The game isn’t the prettiest thing on the market, but the architecture makes up for it in spades with intriguing designs that fit in well with the dark tone.
As you know, Irid Novo is a hellhole, almost literally. The tone is set rather early with dark rooms and imposing hallways guarded by beings who look like intergalactic KKK members. The music and sound design do well to keep this tone set, even if the tracks can be a bit forgettable.
The sound design however does well to keep that atmosphere, making every run a dreadful ordeal. You never know if a noise you heard is steam escaping the pipes, or a monster nearby, waiting to attack.
The Demons Inside Irid Novo
What surprised me the most about Hellpoint was the decent variety of enemies it had, even if only in appearance. This game will throw a good amount of enemies your way, a few of which are re-colors, but have different attacks from their compatriots. Some of them will even be bosses you have fought, recycled as regular enemies. This would be fine if one of the bosses wasn’t the reason I had to call for a buddy, and that boss features itself pretty prominently in the areas ahead. Almost too prominently. And their placements are almost always annoying, with their attacks dealing lots of damage and putting “Radiation” on you, a status effect that lowers your maximum health.
In addition to the game having some poor enemy placements and recycled bosses, there’s the Ghost System. When you die, a ghost of you is put in the area you died, and will attack you on sight. Now, killing them does give some axions, but not all the axions you lost. Those are still at the spot you died at. So it feels almost like they just tacked on this random system to make the game harder? But it doesn’t? It just feels rather pointless.
Despite this, combat will bring you back to the days of old Dark Souls as well. Like I said, it feels almost exactly like it, with your light attacks, heavy attacks, and all the mechanics in between, like dodge attacks being capable of knocking enemies over. No parrying though, but there is a shield bash, and blocking at the right moment can stagger some enemies.
Not Your Average Estus
One thing that does make combat more interesting is the fact that your healing method doesn’t work the way you would think. Instead of the Estus Flasks that refill every time you rest, your character is armed with a health injector.
The injector starts with a couple of uses, and these can only be refilled two ways: dying, or fighting, through a process known as leeching. The more hits you get in on enemies, the more progress you get towards regaining a lost use, which encourages plenty of aggressive attacks, as well as hope during boss fights. You can upgrade these to hold more uses, but you can’t upgrade them to give more health.
That means you should find the best weapon for you. This game has a good variety of those, whether they are melee, magic, or firearms. You can gather them out in the field, or find the correct amount of materials needed to print them at specific points in the world. In addition, if you use them enough, your experience with them increases and you gain special abilities and stat bonuses.
Strengthen the Body and the Mind
The latter does create a problem, though. As is the fashion in this genre, certain weapons need specific stats up to a point to be available for efficient use. Cognition for firearms, Foresight for magic, and Reflex and Strength for melee weapons.
However, when holding a weapon that gives stat bonuses, those apply to other weapons, making higher grade weapons seem available until you switch over to use them, in which case the stat bonus is gone, as you are no longer holding the weapon that had it. This makes inventory management and picking the right loadout a bit of an annoyance.
If you do need that stat boost, but don’t have the axions, then you could equip your mind or body with a module, which gives increases to specific areas, like boosting Reflex, or making your Leech more effective on regaining progress to the next heal.
In addition to all these things you have in your inventory, you are also given a tool known as an Omnicube. The Omnicube is a floating box that you can equip with various abilities, like a flashlight, a way to go back to the last breach you used, or even a jukebox to play music. Like a little buddy that helps you.
Fighting Demons Together
Speaking of buddies, this brings us to the online. As is advertised with the game, Hellpoint can be play entirely in co-op, even locally. No interruptions, no needing to reconnect after death, just play through the entire game with a buddy. Not only that, but all the loot and experience is shared with no drawbacks. And you can revive your buddy, unless it’s the client who dies.
I didn’t know it would be uninterrupted. I summoned some random person to help me out with a boss, and was surprised to see they stuck around after it was dead, after loading into a new area, and after dying. If it wasn’t for them, I probably would’ve gotten lost easily. Thanks, “Genoscythe.”
However, that does bring me to a problem with this game. Bringing in another player doesn’t make the enemies tougher. Outside of co-op, the game has this nice balance of difficulty, where bosses aren’t too hard if you know what you are doing, and you’ll get your ass kicked if you screw around. But when you bring in a buddy, the enemy placements don’t change, their health doesn’t increase, they don’t do more damage. Nothing changes. Sure, bringing in another player is supposed to make things easier, but when nothing changes, it just feels like a pushover.
Now, this isn’t a huge problem. What is a huge problem is that this game has bugs. Plenty of them. Corpse runs were made null because either the axions I dropped were spawned right by the breach or just didn’t spawn at all. There were online issues like being unable to do anything because my buddy smacked the person I was talking to, keeping me in the talk mode where the only freedom was death. None have been game breaking for me.
These aren’t to mention problems reported to me by a friend on the base PS4, which still has broken online and fps drops, among a myriad others. Hopefully, these are problems that will be fixed, since the devs were fast to fix the online issues on PC. The team behind this is passionate about what they made, and are quick to respond to problems.
A Nice Change of Pace
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Hellpoint. It starts off strong, and even if it has its falters along the way, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. This game goes in many crazy directions, and experiments with ways to reignite my love for Souls-like games.
For the price it asks, I would recommend grabbing it if you’re into this kind of game, especially if you have a buddy to play with. The combat is fun, the world is intriguing, and what it has to offer is well worth the money. It’s nothing special, but it never disappointed me.
Also, the ragdoll physics are hilarious.
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Reviewed by Freelance 7 on PC. Game provided by tinyBuild.