A Fresh Take on the Soulslike Genre
I stand in front of a hulking behemoth of a boss and wait for it to swing. At the very last moment I roll behind its back and use my heavy attack. I quickly dart out of the way before the next punishing blow comes. Looking down I realize that only a tiny sliver of health has been taken from the bosses health bar, so I develop a better plan of action. I back away, lift up my railgun, and begin firing grenades at the massive monster before me. The health bar drops to the halfway point, but now I'm out of ammo. I decide to rush back in for some quick hits, but miscalculate the bosses swing and die instantly. Welcome to Hellpoint.
After playing Hellpoint for more than 30 hours, this is familiar a pattern when fighting against the game's bosses. The game employs a lot of the mechanics and ideas that make From Software's games so engaging, but introduces new ideas that make Hellpoint feel refreshing. Players will still spend a lot of time constantly dying against the game's bosses, but having access to new strategies in combat helps fights feel less frustrating. Rather than only having one true way to beating a fight, players can decide to be overly aggressive, play defensively, or they can employ some combination of the two. Despite a few minor issues, Hellpoint manages to be an extremely impressive entry in the Soulslike genre.
The game opens with players being put in the role of a character called a Spawn that has been created by an entity named The Author. Spawns are artificially created humanoids that look to be more mechanical than organic. This means that the Spawn is faster and stronger than a normal human could ever hope to be, which is why The Author tasks the player's spawn with exploring the very dangerous space station Irid Novo to gather information. Irid Novo is full of monstrous creatures that will need to be dispatched in order to explore safely and discover the secrets lurking in the shadows.
The space station has a certain level of creepy atmosphere that actually reminds me a lot of the Dead Space series. You never know what might be waiting around the corner, and the dark cramped corridors can make things feel very claustrophobic. True horror is something that is sorely missing from a lot of Soulslike games (the exception being Bloodborne), but Hellpoint does a great job of drawing players into the dark world of the Irid Novo. There are notes and correspondences between former inhabitants of the station that can be discovered that will shine some light on what caused the Irid Novo to be filled to the brim with monstrous creatures. Like most Soulslike games, this lore isn't front and center but if discovered it makes the game all the more horrifying.
One of the most interesting aspects of Hellpoint is the black hole that resides just outside of the station. The game has an internal clock that changes as the space station's rotates around the black hole. This black hole influences the world in interesting ways by changing enemy placement, increasing their strength, and even adding new and more challenging enemies to the game world. On top of this enemies respawn after a certain amount of time has passed rather than whenever players rest at Hellpoint's version of bonfires, breaches. This works well with the game's atmosphere as you aren't safe even if you kill everything in a room. You could explore an area and return back to a previous room to find everyone you killed ready to wreck shop once again.
Another thing that sets Hellpoint apart from other Soulslike games is the access to weapons like the railgun. Players can equip the railgun to their left arm and fire either bullets or grenades at their enemies. This adds an extra layer to combat, as players don't have to get up close to their enemies and can instead shoot at them from afar. If you run out of energy you can rush in and attack enemies with a melee weapon to recharge energy and get back to shooting. Those who choose to use the railgun will find that Hellpoint is much more fast-paced and aggressive than other games in the genre, which is great for those who have grown tired of the defensive playstyles that are important in the Dark Souls series.
There are a few choices that I wasn't a huge fan of though. Hellpoint gives players a healing item at the beginning of the game that only has two charges. This would be fine except it only recharges by attacking enemies instead of being filled up at breaches. This means that players can't rest at a breach just before a boss fight to regenerate their healing items, but instead must risk losing more health to fighting enemies in order to bring some extra supplies with them. Additionally, since enemies respawn based on a time limit rather than resting at breaches, it can be pretty difficult to grind some extra levels. In order to make several runs through an area to level up, you have to sit and wait for them to respawn which can grow very tiresome over time.
The biggest problem with Hellpoint though is the lack of connection between areas. There is a main hub area where you can upgrade equipment and craft new items, but getting back to this area can be incredibly difficult. Fast traveling can only be done by collecting certain materials that are few and far between, and backtracking through certain areas could take a lot of unnecessary time. This lack of connection between areas gets very frustrating, especially when you've been sitting on a new weapon for awhile that is unusable because you haven't been able to upgrade anything for four hours.
Hellpoint is an incredibly interesting experiment with the Dark Souls formula though. You can feel the Souls DNA resting inside of the game, but it has been altered in ways that is hardly recognizable sometimes. There are a few hiccups that tend to be frustrating, but the mechanics are solid and the world begs players to keep exploring and find out what lurks just around the next corner. Hellpoint is one of the most well done takes on the genre yet.
TechRaptor reviewed Hellpoint on PC using a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and will be coming to Nintendo Switch at a later date.
- Fresh Take on Genre
- Solid Combat Mechanics
- Creepy Atmosphere
- Fun Boss Battles
- Rough Fast Travel System
- No Connection Between Areas
- Difficult To Grind