Developer: Cradle Games
Genre: Soulslike, Role-playing
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
Age Rating: 12
Release Date: 25/02/21
A code was provided for review purposes.
The ‘Soulslike’ genre has taken off over the last few years. Ever since Dark Souls brought the notion of challenging and unforgiving gameplay to the masses, more and more titles are attempting to recreate the formula. Hellpoint is the latest to attempt to break into the Soulslike genre. Whilst it’s Xbox One, PC and PlayStation 4 release was in 2020 (check out our review of Hellpoint on the Xbox One), it’s only recently made it’s way to the Nintendo Switch. Developed by Cradle Games, Hellpoint takes the Soulslike genre into the dark depths of space, but can it hear us scream?
Hellpoint is very much your traditional Soulslike game, it’s story is fed to you through drips and drabs and the gameplay is punishing. What immediately drew my attention to Hellpoint is that it has been inspired by the likes of Dead Space and the sci-fi horror film – Event Horizon. Now, I’m a massive fan of Event Horizon so hearing this had me expecting a horror-filled nightmare where we wouldn’t need our eyes to see but, instead we get a…, well read on to find out 😉
Hellpoint takes place on a sprawling space station that’s located close to a black hole. The Irid Novo was once the beacon of mankind’s achievements, but now it lays in ruins. Interdimensional monsters roam it’s desolate halls and are controlled by the will of a malevolent Cosmic God. You take the role of an entity named Spawn. Spawn has been created by the mysterious Author and has been tasked with investigating the Irid Novo and hopefully find out what caused the catastrophic event known only as ‘The Merge’.
Highway to Hell!
The gameplay to Hellpoint is very similar to Dark Souls and as so it pretty much follows the same basic layout. As your Spawn awakens from it’s cryopod you’re introduced to the games tutorial section. This very basically walks you through Hellpoint’s fundamentals via a series of interactive handprints. These teach us how to upgrade our character, as well as equipping gear and more importantly, fighting. For fans of the genre, this is all relatively familiar, R and ZR attack, ZL blocks etc. For newcomers using both top buttons to attack can feel pretty cumbersome but it thankfully doesn’t take long to nail these fundamentals down.
Again, much like Dark Souls, every action you take is tied to a stamina bar. As you attack your foe, block and dodge attacks this bar drains. Once empty it will apply a stun to your character which momentarily will prevent you from doing anything other than move. In the opening sections, this meter can detain incredibly quick, so it’s best to play conservatively if the moment lets you. I keep saying this but; “fans of Dark Souls” will feel right at home. What Hellpoint does differently is it comes with guns. As you spend axions to level up your character, you can pump enough stats to be able to wield some pretty impressive tech. Rail-guns, giant lasers and more become impressive tools of destruction as you roam through the Irid Novo.
Into The Breach
The process in how you level up is also familiar. Dotted about are locations known as breaches, which allow you to spend your hard-earned axions. Most states conform to the generic RPG staples of health, strength, dexterity etc, and it’s pretty simple to upgrade your character. In a twist to the formula, interacting with a breach doesn’t respawn the area’s enemies. Unless you die, they will reemerge after a short delay. Another twist to the Soulslike gameplay is that your health kits are tied into fighting rather than resting. It’s a nice twist and aims to keep you fighting longer.
Discovered breaches can also be linked to form a rudimentary fast travel hub. But in true Soulslike fashion to do so requires a hard to find the item. The Irid Novo is a massive labyrinth of hallways and rooms, to find everything is a massive task in its self. To make things easier (or tougher) you can also use breaches to adjust that areas difficulty. This follows the typical risk vs reward factor as playing at a higher difficulty rewards you with better loot.
Armour and weapons can also be upgraded with various cores, which unlock new abilities. You’re also able to craft weapons providing you have the weapons blueprint and the resources to do so. It very much keeps in with the traditions of the genre, but it works great within the theme of the game. The black hole is also tied into the overall theme as depending on its position – hell points will open. These portals offer the opportunity to fight higher ranked enemies for the chance of better loot. It’s a great idea, but much like a lot of Hellpoint, it’s poorly explained and poorly executed.
Despite Hellpoint’s flaws (more on those shortly), its crown jewel is arguably the Irid Novo. As space stations go it’s a pretty impressive structure. The various rooms and hallways feel ‘lived in’ and there’s plenty of lore and secrets to be found. Cradle Games have done a grand job in capturing the hellish feeling despite the obvious limitations of the Nintendo Switch.
As ports go Hellpoint is another one where the Switch doesn’t do it any justice. Framerate is the most obvious issue and on occasion, the game can slow down to a crawl as the console tries to cope with what’s going on. This can make fighting incredibly frustrating as you struggle with an unresponsive camera and input lag. I wouldn’t recommend playing in handheld mode either. The graphical downgrade is more prevalent in this mode and makes the game that much more frustrating. Especially when the enemies seemingly blend into the environment.
It’s a real shame as the foundations are there for a real good Soulslike. The combat style, setting and story are different from the many other games of the genre. It’s just ruined by poor optimisation and lack of polish. You could argue that this is down to hardware limitations, which in fairness to Cradle Games it probably is. They’ve tried but ultimately Hellpoint isn’t a game I’d recommend for Switch owners.
Hellpoint is a game marred by its technical issues rather than its gameplay. Cradle Games have added some clever additions to the Soulslike genre, which freshen up the tried and tested formula. The location and story of Hellpoint are great, and both will keep you busy for quite a while. Dom summed up Hellpoint perfectly within our Xbox One review of the game – “With a little more development time and a little more love, Hellpoint could have been a standout title of 2020. Instead, it’s just another needle in the haystack.”
Rapid Reviews Rating
Hellpoint can be purchased via the Nintendo eShop by clicking here.