”Souls-like” has become a much more frequent term within the gaming world over the past few years, and in some ways, has become a genre of its own. From Software’s iconic projects have certainly built a foundation that many games have either borrowed from, or replicated entirely. Quebec City based developers, Cradle Games, didn’t hold back showing where the roots and inspiration behind their recent title, Hellpoint, had originated. As someone who has sunk A LOT of hours into the Dark Souls games, I was pretty excited to see what this one had to offer, and if it was worthy enough to be placed among the ranks of this newer ‘genre’.
Irid Novo; a massive structure orbiting a mysterious black hole in the depths of space, is where the game takes place. This sci-fi/horror/action hybrid introduces players to their ”Spawn”; a pale, almost Borg-like individual, who wakes up in a pool of water somewhere in the belly of the ship. An unknown entity, known as The Author, vaguely explains that a series of cosmic events has led to a catastrophic event aboard the ship, and sends players on their way to seek answers. The larger plot of the story is delivered as a puzzle of its own; piecing together small details through cryptic writings found on walls, in books, as well as talking to the few NPC’s scattered throughout the in-game world. An impressive amount of backstory and lore exists, should players choose to explore every inch of the the areas present.
After a good hour of progress, it’ll become quite obvious that this enormous space anomaly was once a thriving city, and navigating it won’t be a simple task of going from point A to B. Irid Novo is huge, and branches off into several sections that will take players a fair bit of time to get through. While most area’s do stand out from the next visually (and I should add there is an impressive amount of detail to each), all are veiled with the same dark, eerie and unsettling atmosphere. Lighting is fairly minimal, really adding a doom-impending like feeling that follows the player the entire time. The Embassy is lined with towering halls guarded by large masked knights robed in white, patrolling each corner and waiting for your arrival. The Observatory serves as a safe haven, and offers some wonderful views of the outer area’s of the ship. The Arisen Dominion had more of an ancient Egyptian tone to it, with pyramid like structures and large pillared rooms to venture through. Walking out to the entrance of Arcology was quite breathtaking to say the least, and really showed off the amount of detail and talent the team at Cradle in terms of design.
Though I did find the navigating to be daunting and at times confusing, Hellpoint has its ways of rewarding the player for exploring off the beaten path. Hidden doors, items, and other surprises are riddled throughout, and can be easily missed if not paying attention. ”Breaches” can be unlocked, and serve as fast travel points, as well as a hub to level up your character.
If Dark Souls had a spin-off entry in the series, Hellpoint could be a worthy candidate. The gameplay is almost identical; heavily focusing on exploration, combat, and of course, difficulty. As players progress, they will encounter an array of enemies; horrifying, grotesque and otherworldly creatures all looking to stop you in your path. The majority do appear more human-like. Some have weapons and other objects fused into their flesh, while others wield with both hands, fully intent on diminishing the player. Hellhounds with lashing tentacles and other creepy hellish foes were almost always waiting around each corner. From melee, to ranged and casters, variety was present the entire playthrough and thoughtfully placed through out the corridors of Irid Novo. Numerous times I would clear an area, only to have a single enemy sneak up behind me during the encounter nearly delivering a fatal blow. The combat is a mix of attacking, dodging, and blocking; all of which were smooth and consistent for the most part. In some instances, the rolling and dodging felt misplaced however. I would be well out of the hit box zone but still took incoming damage from the enemy. All in all, the ‘in your face’ battles made for some tense and challenging encounters. Learning attack patterns proved rewarding, but be ready to die often. It is a Souls-like, after all.
Equipment and other items are scattered throughout the sections of Irid Novo. Weapons and armor selection allow the player to build their character to a playstyle they feel comfortable with, which is always welcoming. Heavier gear will restrict movement and slow down combat animations, but deliver a substantial amount of damage and defense. The same goes for lighter gear, only with opposite effects (which I used for the majority of my playthrough). A small A.I. driven cube serves as a companion for your Spawn as well, and can be equipped with numerous mechanics to aid players. Axions are an in-game currency you acquire mostly through defeating the hellish creatures, and you will want to hoard as many as you can. Serving as ‘experience’ points for the player, as well a means to purchase gear upgrades; they are a crucial aspect of Hellpoint. Personal skill does tend to take priority over stats, but boosting your health and stamina bars will make life much easier.
From the opening moments of the game, I was both intrigued and confused by what appeared to be some sort of clock in the top left corner. After a few hours of experimenting, I discovered that it tells players the location of Irid Novo’s orbit around the mysterious black hole that is seen in nearly all locations. There are many secrets riddled throughout the game, and paying attention to this ‘clock’ has its rewards (none of which I am going to go into detail about). That’s all I will say on the topic.
The boss battles throughout Irid Novo are traditionally placed near the end of most sections, blocking the players path to any progression. Facing off against large scaled, god-like creatures was an adrenaline rush, and had my full attention the entire time. Each one differs from the other, all having their own physical traits and combat patterns. A personal favorite was Uthos; visually reminding me of something I would go up against in a Doom game. With little to no room for error, patience and precision were key during each fight. Unfortunately, the same hit box issues I ran into with some of the other enemies were still existent with most bosses as well. I also encountered a boss that seemed to have stalled in the middle of an attack animation allowing me to defeat it with no effort at all.
A multiplayer system is also present in Hellpoint but sadly I had no luck with it working. Any players entering my game resulted in a severe drop in frames, causing my game to nearly freeze right up. The same would happen when jumping into another players game. I personally didn’t think co-op is needed to complete the game, but it is always a nice option to have available. I have read that it has since been patched, and functioning properly now.
While it does have its noticeable flaws, Hellpoint still delivers an adventure that I believe is worthy of sitting along side the likes of Dark Souls and Bloodborne. It’s also built for multiple playthroughs, each altering the ending based on a select few choices the player can make during the game. The difficulty curve isn’t quite as high, but will still provide a challenge for most gamers. A well written story (once players piece it all together), alongside some intense combat, intimidating boss encounters, and a massive world to explore; veterans of the genre will surely give this sci-fi nightmare their nod of approval.
Final Score : 7.5
Fun Factor : 7
Technical Prowess : 8
Time Investment : 13+ Hours
Replayability : 8