London calling…. for help.
Demons, zombies, foul squishy monsters, leaping beasties that fly at you from across the street. Poor London. Hell has vomited its array of nastiness upon the city and inhabitants have been forced to hole up in the Tube, that is, the subway. Mind the gap.
[image1]You, brave Templar, Cabalist, or Hunter, make your way to the nearest station over the course of a delightfully worded tutorial—hints of the laugh-out-loud dialog to come—and prepare for battle. Humanity won’t go down without a fight!
But the servers might! (Cue the bad joke drum fill.) No, I’m very bitter about this. Flagship goes and makes a really addicting, story-driven, loot-stashing game with sweet atmosphere, great sound effects, and at times supremely amusing dialog, but then somehow manages to miss the boat on the online bit, leaving us with network errors despite the fact that they had been testing out their set-up with the free-to-play Mythos. I sincerely hope they can get things on track soon, but in the meantime I’m supposed to write a review. Here goes…
Well, the single player game isn’t so buggy. We can concentrate on that for the moment and forget about how it’s often the case that you have to exit and re-enter an area before you will be able to see your party members, or how sometimes you’ll see them but they’ll be in midair above a bizarre portal, or sometimes…yeah, we’ll forget about that for right now.
Character creation is always the first stop on the MMO train, and in addition to tweaking out your character’s physical attributes, you’ll be choosing one of six classes: Guardian, Blade Master, Summoner, Evoker, Marksman, and Engineer. Depending on which you pick, you’ll be sent into first or third-person view. It’s pretty easy to get used to either, although I found that the first person didn’t seem quite the same as a normal, full-time FPS game. Almost like you had less peripheral vision. Don’t let that sway you from being a Marksman or Engineer, though, because it’s great to shoot enemies out of the sky (or have your robots do it for you!). Blade Masters, dual wielding badasses though they be, need to unlock a special jumping slash before they can be very effective against flying demons. Summoners and Evokers have their own fancy moves (e.g. calling up some demons or unleashing enhanced poisonous wasps), much more magicky than the rest. Although everyone has some sort of occultish tinge, since we are dealing with freaky undead, after all.
[image2]The game plays out in an MMO-y way. You take quests from subway bases, such as finding a boy’s prosthetic leg, killing X+1 zombies, piecing together a tainted oracle’s heart, or breaching a specific Hell rift. Major stations have all the conveniences you might expect from a base, like medics, shops, waypoints, and nifty high-tech devices dedicated to helping you pimp your guns or swords.
The customization is pretty cool, actually, since the mods you add to your stuff actually show up as little doodads attached to your weapon. It’s not quite as upfront as in, say, BioShock, but you’ll notice it if you look. More important than customization is making sure that you had enough of the right stats to be able to equip your gear. Actually, this is the second biggest annoyance of the game for me (and each annoyance grates that much harder because you’re having so much fun until that point): the equip system.
Instead of requiring players to have a certain number of points in a specific attribute, each item “uses up” some points. Something like 7 strength, 2 wisdom, 1 accuracy, as an arbitrary example. The bars that show you stats keep track of how many of your stat points are being thusly occupied, but it can get tricky once you get to levels where it actually matters. Finding new armor as my Blade Master got to be a pain because I would never have enough strength to equip it, so I ended up railroaded into spending all my points the next few levels around on strength, only to find I still didn’t have enough.
[image3]What makes Hellgate fun is not so much the loot as the story and dialog. Despite the fact that zombies are cavorting about town, the plot almost feels like a light-hearted romp at times. One character needs your help on his batch of homebrew, others clamor for the eradication of specific monsters, and one soldier is working his way up in the world by handing all of his assignments off to you. My favorite by far, though, is the weird story of how an insane man’s assistant gets a font of wisdom (in the form of a screechy demon) stuck on his head. It’s great to be able to crack up when facing the end of the world.
London looks good, even if it has become the spawn point for all the evil in the world. There are plenty of crates and barrels to smash, sending pieces flying all over the place. Unfortunately, the creepy tunnels and gray above-ground environments do tend to get a little old. Stepping through a Hell rift is always refreshing, with fire burning in the sky and weird statues standing guard, but even that tends to look somewhat the same each trip. Characters are decent looking, if a little pasty and undertextured at times, but you kind of have to expect a bit of give to get everything running decently online….which…
Yeah. How do you score something that is so hellish (in more than one way) one second and so awesome the next? Hellgate: London probably just needed some extra time in Beta. Maybe pushing for Halloween was too much. I’m in the camp that would rather have a game delayed than have it get over-looked due to technical issues that could’ve been worked out beforehand. Crazy fellow Lucius at one point says something like, “I never failed anyone I didn’t inadvertently kill.” I really hope Hellgate: London hasn’t been done in, because that would be a shame.