Space Hates You

HIGH Leaping around in low gravity outside the station.

LOW Trying to complete the baffling campfire sub-quest.

WTF The mad god boss fight is something else.

I believe it’s safe to say that a 3D-printed humanoid template with a person’s mind downloaded into it is clearly not the same thing as a cursed zombie. I mention this because it’s likely the only point that can be used to claim that Hellpoint isn’t a bootleg Dark Souls game.

The soulslike genre — 3D action games offering dense, layered locations, methodical, stamina-based combat and oblique storytelling — have taken off in the past decade, with dozens of developers attempting to cash in on the format that From Software first crafted with Demon’s Souls. Hellpoint is (to its credit, I think?) unusually shameless in its attempt to crib from the best. Their work is so utterly faithful to the source material that even the menus look eerily familiar to those who’ve spent time in Lordran or Anor Londo.

That’s not to say that Hellpoint doesn’t have its own identity or a few gameplay tweaks on the formula. Yes, all of the core elements are basically identical — the player wakes up in a ruined facility surrounded by clumsy, distracted zombies, then gradually fights their way through area after area until they’re squaring off with corporeal facets of elder gods. Just as fellow soulslike The Surge used near-future tech and robots to enliven things, Hellpoint also makes use of its far-flung sci-fi premise to base a novel adventure on.

Hellpoint’s combat is faithful to the the genre. Players lock on to enemies and strafe around them, waiting for a chance to dodge close and strike while they’re vulnerable. There’s a focus on ranged combat that helps set it apart, though — the player has access to a wide variety of energy weapons, from small plasma pistols all the way up to an extremely overpowered flamethrower. They draw their ammo from an energy pool which can be replenished by physically attacking enemies, so unlike Bloodborne, where guns were designed to interrupt enemies, here they can be folded into an overall fighting style with players sniping foes from afar then slicing in to finish them off and recovering ammo at the same time.

While weapons and armor can occasionally be found on dead enemies or lying around the facilities, most of the time Hellpoint puts a large focus on crafting. Players will find broken weapons and blueprints throught the station, which can be used to make high-tech tools of self-defense.

Every system in Hellpoint including leveling up stats, crafting and upgrading weapons, is paid for with the currency players get by killing enemies. In traditional soulslike fashion, currency is dropped where the player is killed, and has to be claimed without another death, lest it disappear forever.

Complicating things is Hellpoint‘s version of invading phantoms — every time the player dies, a ghostly version of them (with noticeably higher stats) spawns near where their currency has been dropped, forcing the player to defeat an AI version of their loadout, or at least sprint past it and grab the loot before getting executed.

With such a solid grasp of soulslike fundamentals, Hellpoint lives or dies based on how interesting its world is. In this case, it’s an interesting one.

Hellpoint is set entirely aboard a research station orbiting a black hole. That research has (of course) led to a rip in reality opening up, with three distinct factions of disturbing enemies clawing their way aboard and either slaughtering the locals or transforming them into living weapons.

Enemy design is Hellpoint’s most impressive feat. The four factions — demons, aliens, creatures from beyond space and actors in a play written by an insane god — are so vastly different in their appearance and behavior that players will constantly be mixing up their fighting style depending on whose area they’ve stumbled into. Not that areas are permanently in one faction’s hands, though — as the player works their way through the plot they’ll shift the balance of power across the station, and suddenly old locations will be filled with new and unexpected foes.

Hellpoint’s maps are beautifully designed, but too complex for their own good. The destroyed station goes from industrial wreckage to a crumbling apartment complex, to a shattered park, shopping area, and all the way to a suspiciously pristine golden pyramid. However, I found myself longing for a map more often than the developers probably hoped. It’s not just the size and intricacy of the map, though — Hellpoint‘s station is too utilitarian. While each area is distinct, hallways tend to be frustratingly repetitive and leave the player running in circles.

Also a little problematic is Hellpoint‘s quest structure. The main plot is clear enough — the station’s AI wants the player to gather information and deliver it to an interface. As long as they player keeps grinding through areas, they’ll eventually get the call to roll credits. However, there are multiple endings, and getting them requires the player to track down characters and do quests for them, but those quests are poorly explained and too cryptic.

Hellpoint has plenty to recommend it like interesting enemies, great combat, and frequently stunning settings. On the other hand, it doesn’t do enough different to stand out in the soulslike genre. It has clever moments and the option to play the campaign in co-op (local or online) is nice, but the devs might have done better by breaking further away from the Souls formula. There’s no reason the quests couldn’t be clear or that a map couldn’t exist — it seems they’ve made such choices because that’s what soulslikes do and not because it makes their work better for it.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Cradle Games and published by Tinybuild. It is currently available on PC, PS4, XBO and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 85 hours were spent with the game (20 hours to complete the campaign, an additional 65 hours were spent afterwards.) 2 hours were spent in online and couch co-op.

Parents: This game was reviewed by the ESRB and rated M for Violence, Blood and Users Interact. There’s a horrifying amount of violent bloodshed in the game, of course, but beyond that, Hellpoint is set within a charnel house full of brutalized corpses. One of the locations literally starts with a mountain of body bags. This is bleak stuff, folks, and kids should stay far away.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has no significant audio cues, and I played much of it with the sound off and noted few difficulties. What little dialogue there is has subtitles, but they cannot be resized.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Daniel Weissenberger
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