Developer: Cradle Games
Release Date: July 30, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Action RPG
When it comes to the Souls-like genre, it seems developers have simply taken the difficulty aspect of the gameplay and ran with it. The unforgiving mechanics and lack of hand-holding was something special for those who wanted to challenge their gaming prowess. The budget definitely plays a role in some of the more notable titles, but there are some standout titles from indie developers. However, it seems that developer Cradle Games’ chug of the proverbial Estus Flask doesn’t entirely pay off in their newest title, Hellpoint, as it uses the punishing systems as a crutch for an uncreative structure.
Hellpoint shares many of the fundamental mechanics that make up a Souls-like game with a different coat of paint slapped on. The healing flask returns as a healing injection, the bonfire save points are instead rifts, the souls to collect are replaced with something called Axions, and the shroud indicating a boss fight room is replaced with an orange screen.
The unoriginal concepts flow into combat, which is also pretty standard for a game in this genre. Enemies hide around corners, and you take a sizable amount of damage when hit. Additionally, attacking, dodging, blocking, and sprinting all consume stamina, so managing your actions at all times is critical. It’s these systems combined that make the entire experience feel unimaginative. In the early moments of gameplay, you’ll know what you’re supposed to do without being told because you’ve done all this before.
All of that being said, Hellpoint does bring some new elements to the table. The story is significantly sci-fi heavy, which was actually refreshing, considering the medieval gothic look has been used plenty of times already. The story isn’t explicitly delivered to you, but from what I’ve learned, you are in a post-apocalyptic setting in which something has infected all living creatures aboard the space station you are on.
Players take the form of a human immune to the infection, and your computer creator has tasked you with exploring the station and gathering data on what’s happened. Those who are looking forward to investigating the lore and story themselves will have a great time with how the developers roll out this information as it ended up being one of the main elements that held my attention.
Exploration in Hellpoint is also a bit different than other Soulslike games as there seems to be more platforming involved. Jumping is utilized a lot to navigate areas and progress through the stages. Instead of just rolling around to dodge enemies, you can jump onto ledges and across platforms to get a more advantageous spot.
The versatility of your character also allows you to perform jump attacks, which do a bit more damage than normal. While this is something that separates Hellpoint from other games, I didn’t really find this addition necessary, and it wasn’t something that made combat better in any way.
This brings me to my main thoughts about Hellpoint. It overall just feels like a less polished Dark Souls game with a coat of science fiction painted on it. It doesn’t do anything particularly new from what I’ve encountered during my playthrough, and the new things they add don’t really enhance the experience of the game.
There are plenty of titles that build upon the genre to make the experience unique, but this game just has a tough time finding its own identity in the sea of other titles like it. There are few respectable systems in the game, but that would require the player to invest themselves in something that they’ve probably already played before. I don’t believe that the coop modes help or hinder the experience, but they are there for those who want to take on this mission with a friend.
Hellpoint ends up being for Soulslike fans who are just dying for more experiences within the genre, but if that doesn’t describe you, then you’ll be disappointed. The sci-fi nature of the game and its story offering allows it to find its footing right before it ultimately falls apart from its uninspired gameplay. There’s a decent experience to be found during some late-game plot offerings, but that will require you to be invested past the first boss, which is asking a lot.
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