My Hellgate: London Impressions

Yesterday afternoon Graev was invited to the Hellgate: London Beta, or rather what appears now to be a mass invite stress test and hype phase. While he was installing I was lucky enough to get an additional invite from Bildo so Graev and I now have had the opportunity to play together for many hours. First let me reiterate that I have not played the game to the end nor have I played past probably the first act. HG:L is not a MMORPG (Sorry Guild Wars, you aren’t either) – It’s an action rpg.

Read more for my impressions of Hellgate: London.
Graphics
Starting with the issues I have found, HG:L still has several graphical glitches and bugs. From what I saw only my character’s textures were high and everyone else was a low mushy resolution. This is not uncommon in online games where other players, especially when there’s a lot of them in an area, are rendered in a lower quality to cut back on lag. Some textures around various levels are also lacking in textures and I am unsure as to the reason – perhaps unfinished?

Most models, especially my character’s, were well done. The art style isn’t bad and overall the world feels like it comes together well. I like that you can break stuff and there is a decent attention to detail in the areas that seem finished.

I do not have DX10 because I don’t want Vista – but it does support it.

Performance
Fantastic – until you hit the memory leaks and random crashes. There are specific spots in the world (names the second hub) where walking up or down flights of stairs will literally cause your system to fall to its knees and beg for mercy as it tells you that you have exhausted all system memory. Then depending on your luck your system will either lock up entirely or allow you to get to Windows where you can watch it slowly regain life. These are not specific to my system because Graev gets them at the exact same time, in the exact same places, and others have complained about them online as well. Aside from that (which in and of iteself is huge) I get a steady high FPS and I have no other complaints.

User Interface
Not much to say here. It’s very standard and Diablo’ish. So far I have no real gripes with it except for the fact that I can’t seem to rebind certain keys. Basically the interface isn’t good or bad, it’s standard.

Gameplay and Performance
It’s like Diablo, but that’s what the developers have been pushing all along isn’t it? “It’s the game made by the ex-Diablo team!” And it shows. You enter areas and you slaughter absurd amounts of bad guys. Awesome loot drops abundantly, you sell or disassemble what you don’t want in towns (Via townportals, heh), you can store stuff in your stash, upgrade with modules, and collect quests. It’s that classic action adventure RPG where you … kill stuff… and then get stuff and decide to kill more stuff. It works. Btw, I can’t imagine doing this by myself because I would die of boredom and solitude.

You go to different hubs to obtain quests which work like lobbies in Guild Wars. There might be 6-10 other people in this hub with you at a time gathering quests. When you are ready to go do a quest or a mission you enter a tube or tunnel of sorts and it zones you into a private instance. If not for the mind numbingly addicting gameplay ala Diablo this would absolutely break immersion and seem extremely bleh. It feels like you really can’t walk more than 20 feet without having to instance or zone – and in the beta these are tediously long for what little is on the other side waiting for you. So far each of the hubs has appeared just like the previous: subway stations converted into outposts. I’ve only experiences a few so I can’t comment for the rest of the game. This might just be how act 1 feels. If you’re anti-redundant then this is absolutely not the game for you. You need to be capable of accepting it for what it is.

Classes
I won’t go into too much detail on the classes but there are several to choose from. You can be a tank type Guardian, a melee DPS Blademaster, a ranged dps Marksman, an Engineer that has lots of pets, a Summoner which is more of a magical guy with pets, and an Evoker magical dps caster type. They’re all interesting and each class has a skill tree ala Diablo. You put into stats each time you level and you get skill points each time you level. It’s standard Diablo stuff that is extremely user-friendly. One thing I find most interesting is that you can play in first or third person depending on the class. It makes the game feel slightly more action oriented than Diablo.

Overall
It’s not a spectacular game. It’s not a bad game. It’s very familiar and so far it offers a decent amount of fun. I don’t get that same feeling I get when I play Diablo which is some cause for concern given what the developers were shooting for. Would I recommend this game? Again, only if you liked Diablo or other action RPGs. It’s not for everyone and even those who enjoy action rpgs may find this game lacking. If you’ve been following HG:L you know that you can be a subscriber or not. If you subscribe you get additional content when they make it – which sadly is important for the game because right now I see little replay value given the poor story and style of play. Personally I would never pay the monthly fee because it’s just not good enough. I’m still torn on whether or not I will buy the game because to me I hate making purchases that I’m not excited about. Will I have enough fun with the content in the game to justify the purchase price? That’s what I’m torn on right now

  • More than most games, Hellgate seems to be a game that is what you make it. How fun it is depends greatly on how you choose to play the game. The way I play the game emphasizes the FPS elements… dodging fireballs, shooting barrels as enemies run by, timing my splash shots and sword swings in some scenarios, etc. But the game can be played more simply, without any of that.

    When I reviewed (previewed) it, ended up deciding to score it based on what it can be, rather than what it will be for players whose playstyles don’t take full advantage of its systems. On that basis, I think it’s not great, but far better than average. But I can certainly see how many gamers won’t care for it.

  • Are you sure “obsurb” is a word? ๐Ÿ™‚

    I agree that Hellgate isn’t a bad game. But it was hyped a lot as a spectacular game in advance, and failed to deliver on that. I don’t expect too many people to be willing to pay the monthly fee, even if the basic game might sell well.

  • Obviously, I’m partial to the game. A-RPGs, to me, house some of my fondest gaming memories, despite their very simple nature. Takes all types I guess.

    But I wanted to contend that there is a great deal of replay value in Hellgate, online and off. It just might not be the kind you’d qualify as warranted. Certain folks (myself included) take a great deal of odd pleasure from creating many many many different builds of the same class to see how they play.

    Not to mention the very deep loot system, randomized quests that pop up in a dungeon when you’re not expecting it (these are too few and far between I might add), and the idea of Xbox 360-esque Achievements all go a long way towards making this A-RPG far more replayable than most.

    Between this and Mythos my instant gratification needs are set for months.

  • @ Tobold: I think the monthly fee attach rate will be decided when we start seeing what types of real content they add. Not fluff like Holloween quests, cute though they might be, but real new missions and story arcs.

    I’m eager to see it pan out, and cautiously optimistic about the whole thing.

  • Cautious is a good word here. Again, the game is fun. Fun enough with enough substance to justify the purchase? I’m still on the fence and probably will be until it comes out.

    And sorry for the “Obsurb” amount of spelling errors. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I wrote the post in word without spell check on and given my natural poor spelling… well yeah that was bad, haha.

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