Saturday, October 27, 2007


Mutant Offspring of Half-Life and Diablo to Conquer the World

On Halloween a new game will be released. This game, Hellgate: London, is going to be a out of the ballpark hit. It has been a long time since I have played a game this well designed and this smoothly executed. Not only is it beautifully designed but the game is supremely well architected. The gameplay is familiar enough to make it easy to learn but fresh enough to be interesting. The story and setting are likewise fresh and interesting. In games like this the devil is in the details and flagship studios has nailed those extremely well. The main problem with this game is the hours, day (weeks and months) of my life it is going to steal. When I played the beta, I did find a few annoying bugs but there were less then I expected, and this was the beta.

For the details, Hellgate: London is a technomagic action rpg that can be played in a first or third person. One of the first things you will notice is how much like the Diablo series this game feels like. This isn't surprising since a large number of the team that made Diablo are on work for flagship studios. This is not to say it is one of the thousands of Diablo knock offs that have come and gone since that masterpiece hit the market. No, this game raises the bar much like Half-Life did for shooters. In fact, you can play Hellgate: London like a shooter if you so choose. Just choose the Marksman class and have all the sniper rifle and rocket launcher fun you want.

Which brings us to the topic of the classes. Hellgate: London has six classes split between three types. That is two classes in each type for those of you who can't do math. The types are templars (melee fighters), cabalists (mages) and hunters (guns). Melee classes are not my thing so I barely touched them. They seem okay; guardians are your classic tank and blademaster is your melee dps classs. The most annoying bug I encountered effected the melee classes. You had to stand still to swing your weapon. The gunfighters can run and shoot but not the melee classes.

The Hunters rock; Marksman is your gunfighter, your various shooting stances and explosives are your little friends. I recommend getting explosive grenade quickly and using freely. The hunters also have the only stealth in the game. The hunter class is engineer; one of the two pet classes in the game. Engineers get robots, a main drone that you can enhance with found equipment. Yes, you can load your drone with a rocket launcher but I found that machine guns work the best. The drone doesn't know how to lead a shot so direct fire weapons are more effective in its hands. Engineers also get a few number of bots, small floating robots with more limited and specific abilities. Your first engineer ability is call inhibitor bots, which are a cluster of three bots that shoot a continuous ray that slows your opponents slightly and more importantly point out incoming opponents for you.

The last set of classes are the cabalists: the Evokers and the Summoners. The Evokers are a nuking mage class whose spells have different optimal ranges. Your first spell, spectral bolt, is a great example of this. It launches a pretty ball of pinkish-purple light at your opponent which does respectable damage. At about 8 metres away from you it splits into about eight balls which seems to do the same damage as you original bolt. Once the bolts pass 15 metres they are so spread out and moving so randomly that it is blind luck to hit anything. These rings of optimal attack effectiviness very much colour the gameplay of the class. Summoners are another pet class which commands demons instead of robots. Every summoner can command one major demon (they eventually have three to choose from) and a horde of little elementals. Keeping the major demon alive and timing the use of its special abilities are the key to success with this class.

Lastly I'd like to mention that this is a very beautiful game. Its art design is visually impressive. The music is subtle and the voice acting is good. It particular the character Luscious Alvin is a major treat.

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