Despite being very different games, Monster Hunter and the Soulsborne titles have one thing in common, a lot of people compare titles to them and all fall short. Be it The Surge or Code Vein, a lot of developers want to make their own entry in this genre, yet most fall short for one reason or another. That isn’t to say these titles can’t find success, like The Surge ultimately got a sequel and Nioh has done quite well, they just don’t invoke the same feeling so many gamers crave from this genre. With Hellpoint Cradle Games hopes to create an experience that captures what makes those games great, in a radically different and uniquely dark environment. With so much to look forward to, is Hellpoint an experience hardcore gamers need to play or is it going to be my go-to example of poorly handled genre titles sometime in the future?
At its core, Hellpoint feels like it’s offering a different take on something like DOOM. You play as the perfect Spawn, an entity that basically exists to stop those in power from summoning creatures of unimaginable power and bring some sort of peace to this place. It’s a narrative that exists more in the background and offers more context for the journey, than the typical explanation for what you’re doing or why it’s important.
Where this falls behind something like, say, The Surge, is you had a very clear understanding of why someone was in a position of power and got an idea of what toppling them actually meant. Here, there are a bunch of random freaks with a random gimmick or unique mechanic and you fight until one of you dies. Most likely you but you apply what you learned going forward and often times the bosses are less impossibly strong and more tedious and at times cheap.
Those really invested in the lore can run around and find various explanations as to what happened, get cryptic clues, and exhaust dialogue paths to learn the ins and outs of this universe. However, more often than not, Hellpoint is dead set on keeping you locked at a certain place until the time comes. Not just in regards to story and mechanics, but gameplay elements as well.
At first, Hellpoint presents itself as a rather straightforward Soulsborne experience. You find a weapon, some random broken thing that is powerful enough to kill the unfortunate weaklings that threaten your life, some of them drop some armor and you use this humble equipment to propel yourself forward. As you unlock, see and do more, Hellpoint offers you a lot with very little context.
Take something as fundamental as leveling. Similar to other games in this genre, you kill enemies, they give you an energy seeming thing called Axions that can be exchanged at an increasing rate for additional power. Your options for enhancement are oddly limited to health, stamina, energy, load (weight), and various stats that increase your damage with specific weapon types. The help page lists them as things like strength for heavy weapons and reflex for light ones, helpful information if the metrics themselves were easy to understand. I can’t just look at gear and immediately understand why this piece exists or know what is worth investing in.
Something like the Ancient Warrior armor set offers good metrics and decent percent in a number of things I can’t find an explanation of, yet later I found the Nerve Suit and it has massively reduced power unless I meet the level requirements. I’ll gladly invest in said elements if I think it’s worth it, yet, Hellpoint doesn’t offer me a reason to bother out of it potentially being worth it. The load is another weird mechanic that exists in a poor and needless way.
Contrary to something like Dark Souls, load in Hellpoint refers to the weight of what you have equipped. It also refers to the metric as “weight adds up against the load stat to determine the degree to which your movement is impeded,” but it doesn’t really make the disadvantage clear. I don’t know if like 50 percent load is the same as 0 percent, if every percent has some kind of impact or if it’s like Nioh where certain ranges offered negatives. Worst still, regardless of what these 20+ mechanics actually mean, it’s an oddly basic experience.
Combat feels much more like The Surge, where the challenge and threat is there, it just isn’t that intimidating. I can use the starting weapon, interrupt enemy attacks, and steamroll most enemies. Three or four swings might exhaust my stamina, a problem if you’re fighting a more powerful foe but for lower-tier enemies, it means you back off for like two seconds and then unleashes another couple of hits. This concept is so fundamentally basic I could run through the starting area and unless it was during a storm, I was fighting the white-cloaked enemies or a ghost (AI controlled version of a player character), I could run around without fear of death.
Bosses offer a little more depth, they at least require dodging and paying attention to attacks, though their actual difficulty will vary. Like, the first boss is a glorified tutorial. You’ll likely lose your first attempt, but when you learn she does her attack and it appears a second later, it’s a painfully easy fight. Even some later bosses are little more than bait for a more advantageous move and then punish. I didn’t have to learn deeper commands and most times the issue was more stamina management than legitimate problems.
Unfortunately, these problems plague Hellpoint and make it rather rough to play. When the challenge isn’t there, picking new gear can be confusing and the gameplay is basically a generic action game with some RPG elements and some punishments, it makes it hard to invest in. Especially when it isn’t the smoothest thing on the PlayStation 4 and that is honestly impressive, given it looks much closer to a PlayStation 2 game. The environments and settings are a bit underwhelming graphic side, making the issues in performance harder to grasp.
Ultimately, Hellpoint is the worst kind of inspiration by game. Outside of visuals elements and design, it feels like someone wanted to offer their own take on something like Dark Souls, without the understanding of what makes those games fun. It isn’t losing progress for making a mistake or having enemies in annoying locations or even bosses that do obscene amounts of damage if you make a single mistake, it’s the idea that you need to learn, adapt and improve to survive. Hellpoint doesn’t offer in way of that and it’s unfortunate. The setting has potential and there is a lot of content for the money, just most of the time you can steamroll threats and ignore mechanics because anything short of a boss offers no threat.
[Editor’s Note: Hellpoint was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]