I had the chance to spend three hours in Hellpoint and I adored nearly every minute of it. This up and coming sci-fi horror Souls-like shows serious promise and might end up being one of the better titles in this sub-genre. I dove right into the preview build that we were provided and from the start, I was presented with a dark sense of foreboding, a feeling of powerlessness, and overwhelming dread.
Each cautious step forward took me further and further into the depths of the in-game world, which slowly introduces its grotesque horrors. Any fan of Dead Space will notice some similarities here, but that's not all that Hellpoint does to differentiate itself from its predecessors.
I was presented with a dark sense of foreboding, a feeling of powerlessness, and overwhelming dread.
You play as a Spawn, a humanoid created to solve the problems of Irid Novo, the space station upon which the game takes place. Your typical Souls-like staples are here, including stamina management, currency you collect from enemies and item drops that you lose upon death, watching for patterns in combat, and enemies that can kill in you in one or two hits. Most importantly, it gives an incredible sense of accomplishment with each victory. Hellpoint presents the player with a challenge, for sure, but with caution and precision, you can master the early game levels and bosses. However, that's not all that the game offers.
Hellpoint takes place on a space station orbiting a supermassive black hole. Circling this behemoth can twist the game world in subtle ways, like opening paths that were closed before. Twice a "day," the station hits a point in its orbit that creates accretion storms. These spawn hordes of enemies at various points and here the difficulty spikes considerably, even for a Souls veteran.
Die and try, try again
When you die, you will respawn at the last checkpoint, which looks a lot like humanity sprites from Dark Souls. However, since the premise of the game revolves around a convergence of multi-verses, your character comes back to life in a new reality since you died in the previous one. That means that things can be very subtlely different as you're running back to where you died, though I didn't notice anything in a couple of hours I had to play.
As you can probably guess, your healing items are quite limited, but you can recover them simply by hitting enemies often enough, especially during boss battles. While you should still be careful and use them sparingly, it's nice that the developers include a means by which you can get them back over time without having to die or rest at a checkpoint.
Other than adding some twists on the formula, Hellpoint has improved drastically since news of it first hit the scene a few years ago. Back then, the animations looked pretty bad and the lighting and shadows ruined any sense of dread that it might otherwise convey. Now, it has a lot more polish and looks a whole lot better.
While I loved the little bit I got to play, there are a few things that I'd like to see addressed, if possible, before the final retail build launches. When the player character is running, it's like he's floating a few millimeters above the ground. While the boots clank on the metal floor, the feet themselves don't seem to connect.
Part of a Souls-like, beyond the resource management and combat, is the exploration. Hellpoint has one key difference from many others here: a dedicated jump button. That's right, you can jump on boxes, leap over lower obstacles, and otherwise reach higher places. That's fantastic, but I often discovered jumping and climbing puzzles, conquered them, and found nothing for my effort. In the Observatory, for instance, you can climb all the way to the top and there's nothing there as a reward for making it there. This was certainly frustrating and I hope it's just down to the fact I was playing a preview build and not the full version.
For the most part, the couple of boss battles I got to play were fun if not incredibly easy. Granted, I only got to play the first few areas, but the bosses were a pushover. Of the three I fought, two could be duped just by staying in close and circling — their attacks just couldn't reach me. The Artillery, the worst of them all, was completely vulnerable if you circled behind him. None of his attacks could hit you and you had basically free reign to whittle down his huge health pool. I kept expecting a new attack where he protected his back, but he just kept charging forward to reorient himself. A couple of dashes and I back to whittling down his health pool with abandon.
Loot was plentiful, but there were mostly soul items (Axions, as they're called in Hellpoint). I stumbled across some weapons and armor, but those were either on or very, very near the beaten path. As I mentioned above, I'd like to see way more rewards for exploration and puzzle-solving in the final game.
You can fail whilst look spectacular
Hellpoint does a good job setting up a diversified build system with a typical arrangement of Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence. There's a fourth: Cognition, which governs your use of ranged weapons. I typically go for a Quality build in Souls-likes — which is an even mix of Strength and Dexterity — and Hellpoint has options for that, too.
Finally, the Fashion Souls looks like it'll be strong in this game. The armor that I collected looked pretty good, but the sets we've seen in the trailers look great. This is a sci-fi game after all, and I'm excited to see what the team at Cradle Games has cooked up to make our Spawn look awesome.
Considering that I played the preview build, I was impressed with how stable the game was. I noticed some bugs, like visual glitches when sprinting upstairs, but it was a genuinely great gaming experience. The development team highly recommends that you use a controller if you're playing on PC and I second that. The default layout is very similar to Dark Souls', so you should feel right at home if you've played those games.
Hellpoint is due out April 16 for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch.