Developer: Cradle Games
Genre: Soulslike, Role-Playing Game
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Age Rating: T (Teen) / PEGI 12
Release Date: July 30th, 2020
Price: $34.99 / €34.99 / £28.99
A code was provided for review purposes.
Dark Souls has become such a popular and influential series in video games that it inspired its own genre aptly named “soulslike.” Nowadays, these types of games are a dime a dozen, and Hellpoint is the latest game to follow the trend. Developed by Cradle Games and published by the cult favorite tinyBuild, Hellpoint garnered a lot of anticipation from gamers, and the day of its release has finally come.
Hellpoint is a soulslike game through and through, but could also fall into many other categories such as action-adventure, role-playing, and science-fiction. Honestly, it immediately gives off a Dark Souls meets Dead Space vibe. Taking place on the space station Irid Novo, the player assumes the role of a Spawn. A Spawn is basically a blank slated humanoid, created by an all-powerful artificial intelligence unit known as the Author. The Author creates the Spawn in order to collect data at the space station and find out what has caused all of the hellish insanity.
Soon after starting, the game attempts to teach a player how to play with glowing green handprints on the walls. Each one appears in the area where it thinks a player will first use the move, but one can certainly teach themself before advancing. The controls take a bit of getting used to, and while seemingly straightforward at times, they’re a bit more advanced than meets the eye. It comes highly recommended to get settled on the controller’s button layout before diving headfirst into combat or platforming.
A lot of the actions feel very clunky. Both the light and heavy attacks feel unnecessarily sluggish, and the swings often move the player’s character in directions that make no sense. Plain and simple, it’s very frustrating and ultimately feels like an artificial way to increase the game’s difficulty. Additionally, jumping is awkwardly wrong; basically, the character mostly jumps straight up instead of up and forward, which results in terrible platforming unless the player is sprinting ahead of time. Not to mention, it’s tough to anticipate the length of the jump, which is aggravating when trying to attempt a smaller, tighter jump in some of the more intense areas.
The game comes with a stat system that allows the player to upgrade their character over time. It takes a lot of grinding to earn enough axioms (the game’s currency) to level up. Obviously, the amount needed increases each level. Some of the player’s stats are simple to understand, such as strength and stamina, but there are a few that are hard to pinpoint what they do exactly, even with the game’s brief descriptions. It ultimately feels like a lose-lose battle, because the cycle of leveling up enough to feel suited for a boss encounter takes forever. A player can use an item to upgrade the difficulty of an area, which in turn increases the amount of axioms given; however, this also makes the boss more difficult, which feels like a defeated purpose when trying to get even the smallest upper hand.
Hellpoint does reward players a bit for exploration, but for a game so large there is absolutely no direction at all. It’s extremely hard to tell where the next objective is to continue in the story, there is often a lot of tedious backtracking, and it’s very easy to get lost in the gigantic space station that is Irid Novo. The worst part is, there are portals of sorts to allow the player to fast travel, but they require a particular hard-to-find item in order to link the portals. It defeats the purpose! The secret areas are tough to find organically, and while the rewards are often useful, they never truly feel worth the work of getting to them.
The Player’s Style
Building a character and forming a style of gameplay for Hellpoint is weird. Yeah, weird. As mentioned earlier, the stat system is both simple and puzzling, but piggyback a terrible selection of equipment on to that. There isn’t much variety for armor or weapons, and they become futile very quickly with progress. A few come equipped with essential passive abilities that really help, but otherwise the assortment is rather bland. Basically, it’s not easy to find that “perfect build” that makes a player feel even a little comfortable with their set up.
Speaking of lack of variety, this applies to the enemies and bosses as well. There are a few core styles of offense the enemies have recycled over and over, which would make them somewhat predictable but still rather annoying. Bosses too; there’s no consistency or genuine growth from boss to boss. Some have a two or three move set that require mind-numbing patience, some have cheap moves that often cause instant death, and many are so big that they are impossible to dodge or block. It’s more of a fickle nuisance than anything else.
To praise Hellpoint a bit, the graphics are pretty good. Nothing outstanding, but better than most other comparable releases. The atmosphere is eerie and thrilling, and while the actual landscape of the game is too large, it’s quite impressive. Unfortunately, from a technical standpoint, the game has its own number of issues. Bugs and glitches all around, such as getting stuck in the structures or enemies freezing, make for a disruptive experience. Essentially, Hellpoint plays like it’s barely out of its beta phase.
Hellpoint was hyped up to be something extraordinary but ended up falling flat upon its release. Sure, there will be hardcore soulslike fans who will enjoy the game for what it is; however, it’s ultimately a slightly overpriced game that’s very rough around the edges. 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.