Hellpoint Review: A Soulslike By Any Other Name
It's your eighth time tackling this boss, but you think you've got it figured out. You've memorized its attack patterns, you've learned how its strategy changes, and you've uncovered its weaknesses, bring with you the necessary items to bring about its end.
You walk through an opaque wall to enter its arena, pick up the resources you dropped the last time it killed you, and start the dance again. This time, it'll be different.
If this sounds a bit familiar to you, you aren't alone. Hellpoint is a solid soulslike, featuring a creepy, enticing setting and a few cool wrinkles you might not expect. Its biggest "issue" is that it's a little too much like Dark Souls, and it just isn't as good as that standard. It isn't Dark Souls 4.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Hellpoint is a silver-tongued devil indeed. That said, if you can't get enough of the "tough-as-nails ARPG" genre, Hellpoint is a slam dunk.
Hellpoint Review: A Soulslike By Any Other Name
In Hellpoint, you play as a character called a spawn, 3D-printed to investigate a massive space station called Irid Novo. The ship has been overrun by monsters, sprinkled with a few mysterious NPCs who speak almost entirely in riddles.
You work your way through, under the guidance of the mysterious presence, fighting enemies and trying to unravel what happened to the Irid Novo. Early on, you'll pick up hints of Event Horizon and some nasty Lovecraftian-like lore, which only gets stronger as you move through the station.
To progress, you must scavenge weapons and equipment from the foes you defeat and the resources you collect. You also have a bit of a home base with some upgrading stations, allowing you to use rare crafting resources to turn that steel pipe into something really special.
You move between breaches, which refill your health and give you fast travel options. You collect axioms, which you use as currency and experience. And if you are killed by an enemy, you drop all the axioms you're carrying. Of course, you can pick them up if you make it back, though if you die again, they're gone for good.
NPCs speak in infuriatingly opaque language and have a tendency to giggle at you. You walk through shimmering walls to enter boss arenas. Glowing messages are left on the walls (green for game-generated messages — like the ones that teach you controls — orange for player-generated messages). You can duel other players.
Like I said: It's Dark Souls meets Event Horizon.
Combat is an interesting beast in Hellpoint: it isn't quite as slow and deliberate as combat in the Dark Souls series, but your movements aren't quite as fluid and agile as they are in Bloodborne. You still have those same, deliberate attack animations, but the overall speed of combat takes a bit of getting used to with each of the game's weapons.
Once you get things down, though, combat feels good.
There are several different options for how to fight: you can be a big, chunky boi, with full heavy armor and a massive melee weapon. You can grab some ranged weaponry and pick things off from afar. Or you can grab a little dagger and some light armor to flit between foes, dealing death by a thousand cuts.
You'll encounter a wide spectrum of enemies, but taking any of them lightly or being unaware of your surroundings will almost certainly lead to a major loss of health — or death. Hellpoint keeps you on your toes and rewards you for focus.
The biggest difference in the game's controls come in the form of a jump button. Unlike deliberate attacks and dodges, jumping feels extremely cartoonish here. You spring off the ground with ease, making it incredibly easy to miscalculate your leap and plummet into a bottomless pit.
As I discussed in our preview of Hellpoint, I'm still not a big fan of this element of the game. Jumping feels way too floaty and imprecise — I can bang my head against a boss all day long and not get too frustrated, but watching my spawn float over the edge of a narrow platform and lose a massive amount of progress is always infuriating.
The servers aren't extremely populated right now, but I dread the day I have to battle a hopping invader.
That isn't to say it's an exact clone. There are some cool aspects to Hellpoint that differentiate it.
One of the most interesting lies in the real-time elements that affect when certain events occur. The Irid Novo is orbiting a black hole, and a little meter shows you where it currently is in its orbit.
During certain phases of the ship's orbit, enemies get tougher (and drop better loot), and certain secrets and game elements only emerge at certain times. On one hand, this aspect can be frustrating if you're waiting for a specific event. On the other hand, it can certainly keep things fresh, making for unique runs.
Since time moves by slowly in-game, you might encounter something unique without even realizing it's unique — until you try to replicate it. It's a mechanic that will surely lead to a lot of trial and error if you don't want to look things up online, though it isn't a total game-changer.
Most of the things I encountered on my review playthrough were relatively inconsequential, and the bizarre shaking that occurs when you enter a certain orbit always threw me off. Regardless, it's a cool little hitch in a game that, otherwise, feels very familiar.
Hellpoint Review — The Bottom Line
- Satisfying combat that allows many approaches
- Interesting setting and compelling story
- The right type of difficult
- Interesting real-time events
- Way too much like other bigger-budget games
- Imprecise jumping mechanic
- Environments are tough to distinguish
Hellpoint is a bit more than a loving homage to Dark Souls, offering up just enough small, unique changes to keep it from being a total clone.
If you want a new challenge, want to explore a mysterious new setting in a familiar gameplay style, and play some infuriating couch co-op (or socially distanced online gaming) with a friend, this is a solid pick-up in a suddenly crowded genre.
[Note: A copy of Hellpoint was provided by tinyBuildGAMES for the purposes of this review.]