Developed by Cradle Games and published by tinyBuild Games, Hellpoint is a tough action RPG with a feel not too dissimilar to Dark Souls. Although it looks a little graphically dated, the feel of being in a spaceship with a lot of mystery is captured quite nicely. The ever-present hum of being of the spaceship and occasional screeching of pipes sets an eerie mood. There is a variety of hellish enemies to fill you with dread, and they are all pretty tough to boot.
You are a nameless spawn (possibly formed from a human being). You generate by a breach with no equipment or knowledge about who you are, or what has happened. The idea of the game is that you have to find your way and search for what happened. You get the gist that you are on a spaceship and there are a lot of enemies wanting to hurt you, but it becomes your mission to search out the truth.
The gameplay feels a bit dated in its speed and delivery. By this I mean the movement just feels a bit slow and heavy. It’s this way by design, but when a lot of this game is a test of your reflexes to avoid repeated doom it would have been nicer if your character moved a bit more freely.
You have the standard health, energy and stamina bars common with these games. The stamina bar is quite stingy at first and can easily be depleted by jumping or having a couple of swings of your weapon. The combat feels very similar to that of Dark Souls-type of game. Timing is everything and unless you evade the enemy attacks, you can be felled in a couple of hits. Every time you kill an enemy you gain something called Axions, which act as your experience points. These can also be randomly found scattered around the environment. Once you have enough collected you can touch a breach, allowing you to infuse your character – Hellpoint’s take on upgrading.
Now the upgrading is very important because you learn early on that your character is so weak that they will die a lot. Every time you die you lose all the Axions you had, and they drop where you were felled. On your next regeneration, you will have to navigate back to where you lost your Axions and recollect them otherwise if you fall again, they will be lost. Hellpoint is increasingly mean to start with as you find only a few weapons and odd bits of armour, some of which you can’t even equip. A lot of the equipment has requirements before you can use them correctly, so upgrading is a must if you ever wish to equip anything better.
The downside is progress is tough. Just to clear the first area, you either need to constantly grind the same enemies over and over, until you’r strong enough to beat the boss, or pray that you have a friend available who can give you a hand in the on or offline co-op. After 3 hours, I had not got past the first boss. It took me a good 2 hours to realise that I don’t have to defeat the 2 giant knight-like characters in the hallway leading to the boss first.
I was determined to kill one of these giant knights and I used every skill I had, but nothing was working. I tried to hit and move, I tried pattern memorisation, and I tried different weapons in case there was something I was missing. It doesn’t help that these knights can kill you in 2 hits – or even one, sweeping combo attack – and that is even after upgrading a lot. I am sure there is someone out there that has managed to do it and those are probably the same avid fans of Dark Souls, but these kinds of games suck all the joy out of the experience for me.
So, you can play with someone locally, or with a friend online and in fact, I would say if you want to have any hope of progressing the story then you need to play with someone else. The method to connect to someone else’s game online is very odd, and not something I have seen since Nintendo’s horrific attempt on the Wii; each player has their own unique, super long, codes to tap in to try and connect.
Regardless though, once connected it didn’t start the way I’d hope. I am sure there is a lot of bugs that would be corrected here before release or soon after. But let us just say there were slowdowns, screen tearing and some weird sync issues where the weapon my friend (Hi! – ed) was using wasn’t showing up on my screen correctly (in fact, at one point the weapon I was using wasn’t even showing up correctly on MY screen). But after a few more tries we were playing together on a decent enough session, and within half an hour he helped me take down a giant knight and we killed the boss of the first area. It seems the distract-whilst-the-other-wails-away-on-the-enemy is the best strategy here.
Once you do progress a lot more opens up to you which I would never have seen by myself. You gain more armour, a crafting system, a weapon upgrade system, and access to other equippable accessories which grant various boosts. A lot of this did seem like smoke and mirrors, as even with a lot more equipped gear I still couldn’t take out one of the big knight enemies by myself. But I’m sure further progression will allow for much better equipment and upgrades to give you a better chance at going solo. There is also an option at the breach points to increase or reduce the enemy difficulty. This I assume is so you can grind the weaker enemies for more Axions to be able to upgrade your character, or it could be for people that just aren’t dying enough on the already tough difficulty level.
Hellpoint is a challenging and interesting RPG in a similar vein to Dark Souls, but maybe not as difficult. It is still unforgiving though, and best played with others to stand a real chance of progressing. The online multiplayer needs some work to iron out some issues, but if you like games that pose a real challenge then this could be for you. The fact that I couldn’t find any real strategy to take down difficult enemies made this hard for me to play by myself.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.