Hellpoint is a badass sci-fi epic that sends players on a mysterious journey through Irid Novo, a space station locked in rotation with a black hole. Bringing the souls-like genre to space, the game does an excellent job paying homage to its predecessors while also introducing unique ideas to the genre. Hellpoint is brutal, to say the least, and immediately throws players into the fire. The initial challenge may be a bit much for some players, but getting through it is very much worth it. Small details throughout the environment tell an intricate story that will undoubtedly take multiple playthroughs to uncover the truth. I was surprised continuously with Hellpoint, and I think I’ll end up playing the game long after this review.
Before I continue discussing Hellpoint, I have to state that I played the game on an Xbox One S and that the experience was less than ideal. To put it plainly, the base Xbox one can not handle the game at 1080p. I tried for the first few hours to play at 1080p, and the game was constantly freezing and running at around 15-20 FPS. Anytime there were more than 2 enemies on screen, the game would start dropping frames rapidly. The most significant problem this created was that it ruined hitboxes and made combat incredibly frustrating. The further I progressed through the game, the more complex the enemies and environments became, thus the worse the game would perform. By the third boss, I thought I was going to go insane. I was thoroughly enjoying the game, but it was becoming unplayable. Luckily, I found a solution that, while not ideal, allowed me to experience the game without any further performance stutters.
720p saved the day! I put my system resolution to 720p and got 30fps consistently no matter how intense the on-screen action got. I wish I had an Xbox One X to run the game because I’m sure these issues were more to do with my hardware, not the game itself.
The core gameplay of Hellpoint revolves around killing monsters and exploration. Hidden items and secrets are littered throughout the game and help to change the pace after an hour of battling space demons. Elaborate boss fights unlock the next detailed level, each designed to encourage further exploration. The addition of a jumping mechanic is new to the genre and allows players’ more freedom to explore the mysterious space station. Player progression is a near-identical copy of a Souls game but allows other aspects of the gameplay to shine. Numerous detailed systems such as crafting and an underworld add depth to the game and encourage multiple playthroughs to experience everything.
When thinking of a souls-like game, the story is not often at the front of the discussion. Hellpoint attacks that stereotype immediately by interweaving the game’s story and setting perfectly. Players find themselves stranded on Irid Novo, locked in a deadly dance with a looming black hole as they piece together the mystery of the space station. Instead of conversations or long-winded cutscenes, the story is told through the environment. Throughout the station, massive windows offer frequent glimpses of the anomaly and create an impending sense of dread and urgency for the player. Looking at messages scrawled on walls, and item descriptions will help reveal secrets and tell the story of what happened on the space station. While a player could just run from area to area looking for bosses, that’s not how the game was intended to be played. That said player would be missing out on one HELL of an experience……sorry I had to.
Combat in Hellpoint feels good, but not amazing. For my playthrough, I chose a “reflex” based character, which is the game’s version of dexterity. I was as fast as could be, and sadly, my attack inputs still felt slow and clunky. This wasn’t game-breaking by any means nor did it negatively affect my experience but took some getting used to. Often I would find myself purposefully missing with light attacks to set up heavy attacks. I knew the light attack animation was incredibly hard to hit with, and enemies were always faster than me, dodging my initial attacks. About 10 hours in, I found the flow of combat. The slow dance of fainting attacks and dodging preemptively became quite enjoyable. Enemies had vastly different behaviours that made finding new bosses and areas both challenging and rewarding.
From the start of the game, the numerous enemy types require vastly different strategies to defeat. Sometimes enemies are so strong that they force you to find a way to deal with them besides combat. The game’s sprawling vertical environment encourages players to find ways around challenging enemies; this also helps players unlock secret items or discover more details about the story. Every enemy in the game felt carefully designed with lore and mechanics in mind that made each new encounter exciting and enjoyable. Without spoiling anything, the bosses in Hellpoint take that idea of uniqueness to an extreme. Each new boss encounter felt like a new game and fueled an insane desire inside me to find the next one.
I was utterly taken by surprise when I realized the game has a deep and intricate crafting system that’s more akin to an RPG than a souls-like. Not only can players upgrade their weapons, but blueprints allow for the crafting of entirely new equipment. Players can find resources for crafting from killing enemies or hidden in the world. This comprehensive crafting system further drove my desire to explore in-game. Finding new blueprints of materials was a great change of pace from the frequent stressful battles. Hellpoint also does an excellent job of rewarding players for using the crafting system. I found that upgrading my weapons made a significant difference in how much damage I did, even more at times than levelling my character.
Hellpoint is loaded with hidden doors, secret passages, and cheeky ways to get places “you are not supposed to go.” The level design encourages players to explore and rewards them for taking risks like sketchy jumps or more difficult mini-boss style encounters. So often in games, I find myself finding 100 Bleeborp seeds to gain nothing but an achievement, not in Hellpoint. Every small secret down to the item inside a wooden box is useful and offers insight into the game’s story. Rewarding exploration is the number one reason I know I’ll play this game more than once.
While often borrowing from games of the souls-like genre, Hellpoint does introduce some unique mechanics that make the game stand out. Most impactful is the black hole and its effect on the game world. Always present in the top left of the screen is a clock-like device that shows the location of the anomaly in relation to the space station. When aligned, significant changes occur in the game world. Enemies are stronger, certain paths are available that were once hidden, and interdimensional storms trap players in arena-style combat with hordes of enemies. Without spoiling the story, I’ll say that the black hole is of incredible significance and a major reason why the game is so enjoyable.
Hellpoint is not the most impressive game graphically speaking. Environmental textures like walls and other surfaces are often solid colours with little detail. There is still enough variance that different levels are clearly identifiable, but the overall aesthetic of the game feels somewhat dated. To be positive, the enemy design is top-notch, but not much else shines. There is a tremendous amount of content in this game, and for me, that’s a fair trade for more subtle graphics. I have to reiterate that I played this game on Xbox One S, and other versions may look different or perform better.
The audio in the game is as good as any and does a magnificent job of utilizing how quiet space is. Music is only ever-present during boss fights and adds to the intensity of the gameplay. Long silent treks through desolate corridors brilliantly capture the frightening nature of deep space. Enemies have unique sounds and audio cues that make them identifiable even from around a corner and further encourage players’ to explore every nook and cranny. I highly recommend playing the game with headphones, it is absolutely worth it.
Hellpoint Review Xbox One
- GAMEPLAY - 80%80%
- STORY - 85%85%
- GRAPHICS - 75%75%
- AUDIO - 98%98%
Hellpoint is a game filled to the brim with content. Players’ can expect to get lost in meticulously handcrafted environments filled with countless enemies and epic boss battles. The developers clearly want players to play through the game more than once and have taken the proper steps to ensure that they never get bored in doing so. Graphically different from the current norm of mirror-like water and 4k hair FX, the game focuses on more classic gameplay principles like exploration and replayability, and it pays off. For the price of $34.99 (27.99 if you pre-order on Steam), Hellpoint is an incredible value that offers hours upon hours of the hellish space station to explore. Struggling to run optimally on the Xbox One S, I would recommend the PC or PS4 version to get the best experience, the game deserves it.