Following on from the successful release of the demo/sequel Hellpoint: The Thespian Feast, Cradle Games has finally released their awaited sci-fi take on the soulslike genre – Hellpoint. With a healthy mix of science fiction, occult and metaphysics amongst others, how does Hellpoint manage to compare to it’s peers? Let’s find out
You awake on Irid Novo, a space station once thought of as the pinnacle of humanity achievements, as an empty shell with no memories – only the mission. Created by the Author, you’re tasked with heading out into the station, now infested with interdimensional entities & cosmic gods, to seek information on the unholy series of events that led to the catastrophic incident known as the Merge.
Funnily enough the game had my interest on the menu screen as I noticed I’d be on a station orbiting a Black Hole. The game incorporates this into the overall story, so having an interest in such things myself certainly helped. To be honest Hellpoint doesn’t feature a narrative in a typical sense tho, there isn’t much in the way of cutscenes, instead you have to go out and find the story yourself. Not long after defeating the first boss you speak to the ‘architect’, one of the last survivors within the station, who tells you that you need to head out into the station to find records of the past. It’s these records, that the game tracks, which will build the narrative as you explore.
One cool feature the game has is the dynamic nature of bosses & enemies based on the position of the station in relation to the black hole – an interesting way to mix things up occasionally. The best feature though? Coop. Either online or local with a buddy. Seems a bit bonkers playing a game like this split-screen on PC, but it works well and adds some replay value seen as the second players progress is saved too.
Built on Unity with some customisations, Hellpoint offers a dark and atmospheric station to explore somewhat reminiscent to last gens Dead Space series at times. Dimly lit corridors make most of the journey in between more open sections that can often feature some beautiful lighting & architecture. The general fodder can often stop you appreciating this and they do look a bit generic, but this could be intentional. The boss characters generally offer more detail, but it’s due to to their more intense colours that they stand out. It’s similar for mid-bosses too as they have some colour, generally it seems the more colourful an enemy the more powerful they are – though you’ll occasionally battle something ghastly that doesn’t quite adhere to this.
All the atmospheric goodness must come at a price I hear you say. Sure, on my system (R51600/16GB/RX5700XT) the game struggled a little for a locked 60 at max settings with 4K as the target, but as always dropping down to an ultrawide resolution smoothed everything out. Dropping settings is also an option as it doesn’t have too much of an effect on the overall look of the game. Sound should also be noted, you’ll need to keep an ear out for enemies or face an ambush from dank corners, which the game tries often enough at first to keep you wary. Luckily the soundscape isn’t at all hectic so you can make use of sound to plan ahead.
So you seen mention of an action RPG earlier? Well, I lied, unless the definition of an action RPG to you is a soulslike game. The opening does not really prepare you for what is to come, as you dodge from enemy to enemy cutting them down in a few slashes like a clunky musou, only to get to the next section and be one bopped by the first enemy you see. Ill admit this put me off at first as the game seemed to rely on difficulty spikes for the sake of being difficult (typical soulslike problem). When you die all your Axiom is dropped (used to level up) and you spawn back at the latest fracture you have stabalised. You can find this again, and may also have to kill your ghost, so always remember your deaths to keep levelling up. I’ll give you a tip to ease the opening portion – put a little extra on stamina, otherwise a few slashes and a dodge is enough to leave you hanging in the face of the enemy.
Funnily enough the first boss you’ll encounter is much tougher than the next few, and once defeated the game thankfully opens up. You’ll find some armour etc in the next section and you can finally start using the crafting as well. Here any items you don’t need or found resources can be broken down and used to craft weapons & armour. What can be made is heavily dependant on your stats. As with weapons use, only crafting items that you meet the stat requirement of is possible – a heavy weapon requires high strength for example. I ended up using a ceremonial dagger found during the opening section for quite a while, so focused on boosting reflex stats too, as it also had several abilities to unlock. Each weapon you find has this, just some weapons have more to unlock than others. All these systems come together to create a sort of tug o’ war when it comes to encounters for the most part, with the game relatively balanced and only the odd difficulty spike rearing its head. If you die it is your own fault for the most part, which is usually the sign of a decent soulslike type game.
Hellpoint sure can be tough at times, as expected of a soulslike, but it also tries balancing things out by throwing curve-balls like couch co-op – something I didn’t expect but certainly enjoyed. It’s world & lore are really interesting, and the graphics do a good job of presenting the world to you, so you’ll find plenty to keep you going during the grind. If you’ve always wanted some sci-fi with your Dark Souls, then Hellpoint is certainly worth a try.
Cosmic gods, interdimensional entities and space stations orbiting black holes. Sounds like my kinda sci-fi party, if I spent the night with a ‘kick me’ sign on my back as well.