Hellpoint Review (Switch)
No, NO. This is not a good time for my Ghost to surprise attack me.
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
To be honest, I’m not that good at Souls games, but I can’t help myself from wanting to play them. Maybe it’s just the overwhelmingly positive reception it has or that I love the look of them. I definitely overestimate my skills though. My entry point was with Dark Souls 2, which I now know wasn’t a good choice since it’s considered the worst (at least I didn’t get the Scholar of the First Sin version), but I didn’t get too far. And then, when I finally got a PS4, I picked up Bloodborne and I fell in love. I went further than the beginning, trust me it took me a long time to get past the beginning, but eventually stopped half because Eileen got killed and I wanted her to stay alive (well, and I feel like I should restart whenever I return to it) and I got busy with school. Well, looks like it’s time for my first souls-like with Hellpoint, where I was drawn due to the dark, sci-fi aesthetic.
You come into Hellpoint as a new artificially made human, or “Spawn”, that was brought to life by someone named The Author. While the story here is one you’ll slowly find out as you progress and explore, you know that you came after some sort of cataclusmic event that caused damn near everyone to die or lose their mind, as well as attracting various entities that caused Irid Novo, the space station Hellpoint takes place, to become as dangerous as it is now and fall from the glory you’re told that it had. With you being created by The Author, you are immune and he has tasked you with gathering information (or lore as the game will track it and I’ve heard it determines the ending you’ll get) and bringing your findings to him. Though, he insists that you’re not being forced to do this. It becomes pretty obvious early on that you also weren’t the first Spawn, as you can see piles and piles of bodies littering Irid Nova, and it’s still up in the air whether you’ll be the last.
If you’re familiar with Dark Souls, you’ll already be familiar with how Hellpoint works and plays. You have your usual light and strong attacks, dodging, shields, and stamina that determines if you’ll be able to still attack, dodge, or run. Though you will get painfully staggered if you try to block an attack with not enough stamina. You even get an alternate attack if you don’t have a shield equipped (which may be the key to defeating a boss), as well as ranged weapon options (which uses Energy). As you’re going through each area, you’ll run into a lot of enemies, which vary depending on where you’re at, that drops Axions upon death and maybe a weapon or equipment piece as well. And, of course, bosses are in most of the areas you’ll be visiting and you are clearly told about it by a slightly transparent wall. These bosses do have a set of attacks which you can catch on to so you can dodge, but they are pretty quick so you really need to be on your toes (well, you do with regular enemies too, but especially with bosses). It does help that there is a window while you’re winding up that you can cancel your attack and dodge out of the way, and you can make your enemy cancel their attack with the force of your hit. And well, if you’ve had difficulty with certain bosses, there’s also a chance they’re a patrolling enemy in another area that’s (of course) weaker, but still difficult.
You can even get enemies to do damage to other enemies if you happen to have them grouped up. This is pretty funny and helpful if you manage to get that setup.
You will most likely die a lot, so get ready and make sure to find and touch these Breaches that are scattered around. Thankfully, you do have an healing item that you charge by landing hits and heals all of your health to keep you alive longer. If you do die, you lose all of your Axions, which you can try to go back to where you die and retrieve them off the ground, and will cause a Ghost to be made. These Ghosts are just a copy of you when you died and will go right to attacking you if they spot you (there are some areas that you can easily hide from them, thankfully) and trust me, you want to spot your Ghost first before they get in a surprise hit. Hopefully, they don’t show up when you’re fighting a hard enemy. These guys are difficult, especially since they’re not restrained by stamina, and annoying, but they drop Axions. And you can get some easy Axions if you’re trying to defeat a boss as they have the tendency to die mysteriously when you’re not around.
You may also notice a clock right by your health, stamina, and energy. While you’re not told anything about it, it essentially tells you if certain events are about to, or are, happening and plays a small role with one of the NPCs that determines what you’ll be able to get. Though, the one you have to look out for is when the clock turns red, which seems to cause more powerful enemies to come out of the woodworks, horde events to appear (which are enclosed so you don’t run into it by accident), and seems to make the boss you’re going into more powerful.
Hellpoint puts a big focus, and shines in, its exploration. Little do you know when first going in is how everything is connected and loops until you see it for yourself. Not to mention how many secrets there are and how you might not find all of them your first time around. This is helped with your ability to jump (which you can use in combat as well) which gives you access to other areas that don’t have a ladder leading up to to. I did have trouble determining if I could make a jump at times though. With a keen eye, you’ll notice that some slick tricks keeping you from items, shortcuts and secret rooms cleverly disguised as a regular wall, and even some platforming challenges. Exploring around is really satisfying and I ended up wanting to explore every corner I could. It also helps that you’re rewarded with Axion consumables (which won’t count towards your current count until you, well, consume them), an item that lets you increase or decrease difficulty, equipment, weapons, printing models to make upgraded equipment/weapons, and resources so you can make these models. Exploring will really help you out as it’ll give you access to items that you otherwise wouldn’t have found on the straightforward route.
So how do you upgrade your stuff? Well, if you guessed use the Axions to level up and Breaches, you’ll be correct. Axions are your source to leveling up, which will let you increase one of your stats. Witch each following level requiring even more Axions so its good to think about your build early on, as well as making sure you don’t lose those Axions before you reach a Breach to level up. And while equipment does require certain stats, you can still equip them anyway (you just won’t get the full benefits). Which in turn lets you try out new weapons to see if you like how they feel before dedicating Axions to stats.
Also, about weapons, there’s more to them than than the game tells you. While you’ll be switching out your shields and equipment (or using them to craft models using them), weapons are different. I didn’t know this until I was looking for tips for a certain Arisen Congregators boss, but you can upgrade weapons by using Axions as well. This seems really risky, especially since they could also go into leveling up and what if you switch weapons, but you upgrade these chips instead that you can freely remove and place on another weapon. It also seems these weapons get EXP as you use them and will unlock the weapon’s abilities.
I was able to play Hellpoint on the Switch, as it is tempting to have a Souls-like on the go where you can even play it while out and about. And while it plays well for the most part, it does have it’s own fair share of problems. There are various times where there are framerate drops which mainly happen when you’re running around and thankfully doesn’t seem to cause too much of a problem when it happens during combat (as in, it doesn’t make you miss a hit or a dodge). It lags when you’re first going in to equip something new as it loads your inventory and then going into the section you’re needing as well. I sadly also had a ton of crashes. I didn’t run into this problem with the first two areas, but I did start to in the Sohn District when I was going up against the bosses, the Arisen Congregators. I crashed a few times, but then a ton after the update came in. Pretty much every time I died, the game crashed when reloading, which was annoying as I did not have the boss down and died almost immediately when going in. I had a couple crashes when I was just normally loading into another area and during gameplay (froze then crashed after I walked forward, and another time when I was watching an enemy try to swing at me). Other than that, I did run into a problem where everything disappeared except the (I’d assume) sky box that required a restart or luck for it to pop back in.
I only played in single player, as I don’t know anyone that this falls into their interests, but Hellpoint does offer a matchmaking system where you or someone else can search for another player looking for help or even to fight them. You even get a code if you want a friend to link up to you easily, or for you to link up to them, without the risk of matching with someone else. There’s also a split-screen couch co-op option if you want to experience this game alongside a friend. Though, if you’re not playing co-op, Hellpoint does also have a system where players can leave messages for others to find (and vote on, but I don’t think I got it to work). It’s more confusing as it’s symbols only, but there are symbols to indicate if there’s a secret there or sudden death ahead (as well as if you just want to put up something goofy).
At the end of the day, Hellpoint is an above average game, with the main aspect bringing it down for me is the Switch port performance being as rocky as it is. I loved how this was basically like Dark Souls in space (and how it leaned more towards Bloodborne), loved how connected each area ended up being and all of the secret stuff you can find, the variety of weapons and the upgrade system that goes along with it, and the feeling of panic it gives me as I try to stay alive and find a breach (despite how it can slowly evolve into frustration after a while if it’s at the same spot). And while I can see Hellpoint being easy for those who already played all of the Souls games,or someone that happens to be amazing at these types of games, this is a good challenge for those that aren’t once you get past the first area where you’ll get the feel of things. So if you’re into Souls-like games or looking for that first one to dive into, Hellpoint is a good consideration as there’s a lot to enjoy here. Though, due to the Switch port performance, I would recommend going for a different system unless you really want a Souls-like on the go and wouldn’t mind the lag or the potential crashes.