Hellpoint by Cradle Studios, is an interesting blend of Dark Souls, Bloodborne and the space horror atmosphere of Dead Space. While clearly taking the backbone of its gameplay from Souls, the environments, setting and mood are all clearly inspired by dark sci-fi experiences like Dead Space, Alien or something in that similar vein. As you fight your way through the demo level, a space station orbiting a black hole, the gameplay has a familiar feel, but the atmospheric mood is less than comforting. Let’s take a deeper look at a promising Indie game that just hit Kickstarter a few days ago.
Developed by: Cradle Games
Published by: Cradle Games
Release date: 2018
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Played on PC)
- A NEW OCCULT SCI-FI UNIVERSE: Explore the enigmatic Irid Novo space colony and piece up hints to unravel stories of conspiracies, strange experiments, and cursed rituals.
- A REVOLUTIONARY WORLD: The Quantic system based on the station 21 hours’ orbit cycles creates a variety of dynamic events which can be sought and raided to discover new depth to the story.
- INTENSE STRATEGIC ACTION COMBAT: Craft weapons and special skills, use tactic and reflexes to outwit your enemies, learn to avoid death lurking around every corner.
- HAVE FAITH IN OTHERS: Venture alone, with or against others in multiplayer (as well as splitscreen), and dedicate your character to a Cult.
Story and Setting
The game is set in the aftermath of a massive quantum cataclysm called the Merge. In the blink of a second, every living being quickly lost their mind as their memories and bodies were merged with alternate versions of themselves from parallel universes. The accident also attracted entities of immense power that should have been left alone, in the depths of other dimensions.
You play as a mysterious, nameless character whose intentions are entirely determined by your choices. You wake up in the derelict Irid Novo space station, in orbit around a super-massive black hole. One of the interesting things about the black hole is that depending on the time of day, or relative position to it, real-time events will occur on the station. For example, doors will open or powerful/difficult enemies will appear in places you have already been. This creates another dimension to the game and helps to separate it from Souls and other Souls-like games.
The station is abandoned except for zombie-like horrors that attack on site. Lights flicker in the corridors, and things are dark and hard to make out against the insufficient lighting of space. You can see movement stir in the distance and you hear noises, terrible heart-stopping noises that make you think twice about going forward. I can’t help but think of movies like Event Horizon or Pandorum and games like Dead Space as I play Hellpoint. It’s probably the most intriguing part for me, on a personal level, as I absolutely love these types of movies and games. I actually jumped at one point by a well placed enemy’s growl that was fucking terrifying. If there is one thing for me that really sets Hellpoint apart from Dark Souls it’s definitely the horror aspect, that actually makes you afraid to keep going and I sincerely hope Cradle builds upon this moving forward! In some ways it goes back to the more spooky horror roots we saw in Demon’s Souls that From Software never really built upon, in places like the Tower of Latria or deep inside Stonefang Tunnel.
To a Souls veteran the controls are immediately and easily picked up. L1 is block, R1 is attack, and R2 is heavy attack. O is roll/dodge and L2 is sprint. You use Triangle to cast your spells or special abilities, of which there were only a few in the demo, but visually, they looked nearly identical to miracles. The gameplay is surprisingly smooth for a non-Souls pre-alpha game and your character is about as responsive as you could possibly ask for, which was a huge surprise! Building off the familiar control scheme, you can jump with the X button, and it adds a whole new element to Souls-like gameplay, allowing for a bit more platforming, and puzzles that lead to shiny loot. The dodge/dash mechanic feels surprisingly similar to Bloodborne and makes combat more intense and interesting. This is something only the upcoming action RPG, The Surge seems to have implemented well since Bloodborne’s release, but Hellpoint nails it here as well.
Weapons seem to all have different abilities associated with them that unlock as you use the weapon, which has something of its own experience bar. Players will also recover energy as they strike enemies with their weapons, allowing them to cast more spells and use more abilities, replacing the flask system that Dark Souls 3 used. Weapons and presumably armor can be upgraded at a “workbench” that improves the damage of the weapon, and they can also be infused with items that change their damage types, again similar to the way you upgrade weapons in Dark Souls. You can acquire ancient blueprints and craft a variety of weapons across different classes, which includes firearms. Your associated powers can also be modified at these stations to suit your playstyle.
Many other mechanics are also extremely similar to Dark Souls, such as the way enemies respawn when you die, your accumulated experience drops when you die and you must get back to it, where you will need to fight a “ghost” of yourself in order to reclaim what was yours. Areas have shortcuts, ambushes, and checkpoints that you can activate that work like bonfires, allowing you to spend your experience and level up your stats. Instead of NPCs, the game has something similar to memory cubes that the player can acquire, which when hooked up to the station’s computer will play the memories of NPCs before the Merge. This will reveal clues about the story of the game, as well as in-game items and secrets.
The more you die, the more the station changes and every new game is different due to the real time and spatial dynamics of the station. Rooms, enemies, puzzles, events, all are parts of the game’s multiverse both from a lore and mechanical perspective. Things are changing and phasing in and out of dimensions. When you die, you are pulled away from your universe of origin, and you wake up into the next, to find things slightly different than what you had known. This is a promising approach to keep things fresh, making it not quite a procedural roguelike but adds enough of a thread to satisfy.
In all, the gameplay of Hellpoint is very similar to Souls, with its own little wrinkles. I was not expecting the demo to be as good as it was, coming from an indie studio with a much lower budget than Dark Souls or even games like Lords of the Fallen or The Surge. It shattered all expectations, and all the game really needs is a good budget and some promotion from the Souls community and we could be finding ourselves another diamond in the rough fairly soon. I fully expect Hellpoint to be a game that any Souls fan would appreciate, and if you don’t believe me feel free to download and try the demo yourself. If you feel the same way I do, feel free to back the Kickstarter and get this thing going!
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