Hellpoint Hands-On Preview: Dark Souls Meets Event Horizon
Cryptic warnings and powerful enemies give way to an unforgiving difficulty and a whole lot of death in Hellpoint. If that sounds a lot like Dark Souls, you're on the right track. Hellpoint is an unapologetic homage to From Software's genre-defining masterpiece, and you'll immediately recognize several aspects of that influence at the start of the game.
While it's a bit reductive, Hellpoint can be summed up on a basic level as "Dark Souls in space."
Recently, we got our hands on a preview build of Hellpoint, and it definitely scratches the Souls itch. Those who aren't fans of the genre probably want to stay far away from this one.
Here's what we thought of our first foray into Hellpoint.
Hellpoint Hands-On Preview: This Place is a Tomb
Hellpoint is set on a gigantic space station called the Irid Novo. Something terrible has happened and piles of dead bodies lie all over the place. Most of the survivors attack you on sight and the few who don't mostly stay hidden or inaccessible. You must explore the station and unravel the mystery of what happened, all while fighting for survival against deadly enemies.
You play as something called a "Spawn," which is basically a 3D-printed body. You are created by a mysterious presence called the Author, and your purpose is to try and figure out what went wrong.
Whenever you die, you return as a newly-printed Spawn to the last breach you encountered. If you make it back to the place you died, you can pick up your Axions, which you use to level up. But if you die on the way back, they are lost for good.
Replace some of those words with others like hollow, bonfire, and souls and you have the basics of Dark Souls. But the similarities don't stop there.
Instead of glowing messages appearing on the walls and floors, Hellpoint features green, glowing handprints offering tips and advice. Your stats are essentially broken into the same categories as Dark Souls, but with different names. Exploration is rewarded, and information is often cryptic or misleading. Your character model changes as you equip ridiculous-looking armor and weapons.
Hell is Only a Word
From a gameplay standpoint, Hellpoint does differentiate itself from other games in the genre. In general, movement feels much less deliberate in Hellpoint. You move quickly, especially when you have lighter equipment loads. Dodging, rolling and sprinting feel much less chunky than you would expect, and some animations can even be canceled into another midstream.
This makes for a faster-paced, less-punishing style. You will still get destroyed — especially in boss fights — if you just hammer on buttons without thinking about what you're doing. However, I never once encountered one of those "instant death" moments where I pressed a button and watched in horror as things went completely belly up.
The other big difference between Hellpoint and other games like The Surge and Bloodborne, it the game's platforming aspect. There is a dedicated (and surprisingly springy) jump button, and several sections offer secrets and bonus items for those willing to jump off into the darkness.
I never encountered any extremely difficult platforming sections that were necessary to move forward, but that certainly doesn't mean the game doesn't have them. Expect at least one section of outrageous frustration where you repeatedly plummet to your death in the final version of Hellpoint, not to mention when invasions become available.
Hell's More Fun with a Partner
One of the big draws of Hellpoint is cooperative play. In Dark Souls and Bloodborne, you can obviously summon other players to help you with a particularly nasty boss. Hellpoint will still have that asynchronous multiplayer mechanic, but it will also contain full-on cooperative play, both online and local.
Each player will play their own save file and the loot is shared. This type of cooperative play will pare down the difficulty a bit when tackling some of the nastier bosses, and it will be interesting to see how the community leverages it in other ways.
It wasn't available in the preview build, but the developers have also promised co-op invasions in Hellpoint's final release. Invaders will be able to enter another player's game as a team and wage some truly epic fights. Sounds way tougher than any boss battle.
Do You See?
Obviously, the other big change from Dark Souls to Hellpoint is the setting. Instead of a gothic-medieval world, you'll get a gothic sci-fi world.
"Real-time events" come with the orbiting space station. Time travels at a fixed pace in Hellpoint as the Irid Novo circles a black hole. When it passes at either far end of its orbit, strange things happen: enemies get tougher and more numerous, loot drops become more plentiful, new pathways open up, and mini-bosses can appear.
It's pings a nostalgic alarm from Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, when the lighting changes and your compass warns you of the event, and it again gives you a little way to customize your difficulty. There probably are certain puzzles or foes that you will need to approach while this event is occurring, but you can mostly sit it out if you want to avoid the more powerful enemies.
Battle for the Cosmos
Hellpoint isn't the most original game I've ever played. It very much feels like a developer played a Souls-Borne game and said, "I want to make a game like that!" And that type of inspiration isn't necessarily a bad thing. The game's KickStarter certainly didn't shy away from the comparisons.
But some choices could prove to be Hellpoint's undoing when it releases in full — we're looking at you, jump button — and there are definitely aspects of the game that are rough around the edges. We'll have to wait and see if some of those issues (such as animation problems and some strange in-game text) get ironed out or if they are here to stay.
That said, Hellpoint certainly looks like a worthy successor for those who want more brutal difficulty and a gothic atmosphere. Hellpoint has a release date of April 16 for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Stay tuned for our review of the final product. Until then, keep this one on your radar.