Hellgate: London is a blend of Guild Wars, Diablo, and, indirectly, World of Warcraft (due to Guild Wars already borrowing form it). I had been looking forward to it for sometime basically because of what games it was similar too. I’m a big fan of Diablo and to a lesser extent, Guild Wars and World of Warcraft. After finding that a PR company was attempting to pay for positive reviews of the game, I became skeptical of all the positive hype I had heard. In fact, I still am skeptical of all the positive reviews I’ve read after playing the game.
Hellgate: London takes place in the future after the world has been invaded by demons. It plays a lot like Guild Wars with a third-person view and minimal HUD. There are a couple servers, similar to World of Warcraft, with characters being unable to be played in multiple servers. However, there are very few (three I think, with one being a test server). In each server, there are a few, although I don’t know how many, instances of each town or outpost. I do not know how to switch freely between them, but you can make portals to party members, allowing you to travel to their instance. This resembles Guild Wars’s districts feature, although there is no menu in Hellgate. Also like Guild Wars, when you leave a city, you are in an instance with only yourself and your party. Most characters only have a few skills they need to use, and characters can never have the number of skills that’s normal in World of Warcraft. The attribute system is similar to Diablo II, but I like the twist that each individual item requires a certain number of stats to use it, and this requirement stacks with other items’ requirements. In other words, if you have 30 strength and two weapons that each require 20 strength, you will not be able to use both at once. The game’s skills use a tree system like that of Diablo II. Rather than fighting a couple monsters at a time like in Guild Wars or World of Warcraft, you fight a huge amount at once, as in Diablo II. Also similar to Diablo II, Hellgate is a clickfest, without the “attack until enemy is dead” features of Guild Wars or World of Warcraft. Hellgate: London also borrows one feature from World of Warcraft that I’m very pleased with – jumping. It’s just fun. The game severely lacks of emotes though. While I wouldn’t think they were that important, I got very used to using them. I think World of Warcraft does emotes best. Not only can characters in Warcraft do a wide variety of actions, they can target other people for their actions. Hellgate: London really needs this feature.
The story is interesting but could definitely be better. Demons begin to invade London, and mankind quickly learns that conventional weaponry is ineffective. Luckily, the Templar, living in secret, underground complexes, have been training for thousands of years to battle the demons. They are joined in their efforts by the Cabalists, those who seek to control the demons, and the Hunters, who use modified projectile weaponry to hunt demons. After most of the Templar forces, who lead the battle, are lost, you play the a pivotal role in attempting to find and exploit a weakness in the demons’ onslaught. The story is very good in the graphic novel and novel but is told rather slowly through the game. There are occasions where you lose control of your character to see the story continued, but usually the story is pushed further through quest dialog.
Let’s discuss the bad before the particularly good. The installation of the game took a long time. You have to make an account in the installer in a frame that loads the official site. During installation on launch day, the site was having a lot of problems, sometimes logging me out or not refreshing correctly. When I finally got into the game, I found that after typing my user name and password, I can’t simply press enter, I have to use my mouse to hit the enter button. Then, after a good minute of loading, I get to the character select screen. Afterwards I get to sit through another loading screen while I wait for the game. I understand that the information needs to be loaded, but I really wished they did some things better. Other games do not take that long to load character select. I’d think they could speed it up by loading my character list and allowing me to see this list before loading character models. Also, Guild Wars allows you to log out fully or log out to the character select screen. This would be nice, but Hellgate makes you log out completely.
Secondly, the interface is awkward. There’s a little icon that changes color when you receive messages. You either have to click this to make the chat window appear or press ‘~’. Most people I know didn’t even know you could press ‘~’ to open it. This is a problem because using the mouse is very annoying. Because the game uses the mouse to look around and the left and right mouse buttons to shoot, to use the cursor, you have to hold alt. Yes, that’s everytime you want to use the cursor unless in a menu. The cursor also feels like it’s “gliding” on ice. It slows down as I stop moving the mouse and speeds up at the beginning, making it hard to be completely accurate. There’s a slight lag with the mouse, which actually doesn’t occur on a better computer I tried, but still, the lag with my 1.9 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, 128 MB GeForce Go 6600 is annoying. I realize the computer isn’t exactly up to gaming standards, but I think it should be able to handle mouse movement. The worst part of the interface is that things seem to get stuck. If someone invites me to a party while I’m in my inventory panel, I can’t click ignore, deny, nor accept. Closing the inventory screen doesn’t rectify the problem either. I have to log out to force the window to go away.
There are also a couple gameplay issues. Firstly, I get stuck way too often. I get stuck probably once an hour or so. Luckily, typing “/stuck” will warp me to the beginning of the instance, but still, this is annoying also. Similarly, sometimes, especially in towns, I will suddenly appear at the entrance to the zone. In towns this seems to happen to everyone at the same time, causing everyone to be standing at the exact same location. What’s more annoying is that if I teleport while using my stash, the stash will still be open; however, I won’t be able to move things around in my stash because my character’s no longer near it. Of course, being that my inventory window is up, I don’t even notice that I teleported.
The worst error in the game is that sometimes when changing zones in an instance, a player will sometimes not be able to see the other player in his or her party. I’ve only been in parties of two or three, but I know that sometimes a player won’t see others but will be able to be seen, and two players won’t be able to see each other at all. Despite of this, they will still be in the same instance because one player’s shots will be seen by the other, monsters will be seemingly fighting thin air, the “invisible” player’s summons will be present, etc. I don’t really know a way to fix that problem.
There are some positives though. Most obviously, the game looks great and sounds nice. The graphics are very nice. A dark, horrific setting in an action-RPG with this level of detail is new and not what I’m used to compared to other MMOs. The music is very fitting for the action-packed, eerie setting.
What I like most about the game is what’s referred to as the mini-game. In the bottom-right corner are three icons that represent tasks the player must complete. These are either to find a certain number of a certain type of item, complete a certain number of quests or primary quests, kill a certain number of a certain type of monster, or kill a certain number of enemies with a particular type of damage. When all three of these tasks are completed, a small jingle will play, and the player will be rewarded with some drops of moderate quality. Plus, the jingle that plays is very catchy, a reward in itself! The second interesting game mechanic is the weapon upgrading and damage types. First, weapons have can either do direct damage, splash damage, or field damage. Direct hurts only the enemy you hit. Splash hurts the enemy and surrounding enemies. Field damage creates a field on the ground that hurts enemies that walk through it. There are also five types of damage – physical, fire, electrical, spectral, and toxic. Weapons have upgrade slots of different types that allow them to put upgrade components in them. This is similar to upgrade parts or runes in Guild Wars or sockets and gems in Diablo II. These can be removed cheaply without worry of destroying either the upgrade components or the weapons, leaving the player free to upgrade items in this way without worry. These upgrade components affect your luck, damage, critical chance, critical damage, type of damage, chance to inflict status effects, etc. You can also upgrade a weapon using “parts” found by dismantling weapons and armor you don’t need. I choose to dismantle everything I don’t need rather than sell. Upgrading in this way raises damage. The final way to upgrade a weapon is to augment it. You can choose to add a common, uncommon, or rare attribute to a weapon, each category costing more than the previous. I have heard that you can only add five to each weapon so it’s better to add rares, although this is very costly. These can do a wide variety of things to a weapon.
Personally, I like to try to make a weapon, if two-handed, or two weapons, if dual wielding, that do all five types of damage. This is done by adding upgrade components of each type. After creating the perfect weapon, you no longer have to switch weapons to complete the mini-game. This upgrade system is very interesting, giving different ways to upgrade weapons. Because some cost a lot of money and some very little, it allows you to upgrade weapons even if you’re low on funds or, on the other hand, to upgrade it in a different way if you have the money but not the components or parts.
All in all, Hellgate: London is nothing new. It definitely doesn’t have the polish of the three games it resembles. However, if you liked those games, you’ll probably like this one. It does put twists on the old formulas with the features I talked about above. Hellgate: London will not be as memorable as Diablo II, Guild Wars, nor World of Warcraft; however, sometimes you need to mix things up, and you can’t keep playing the same games forever. It’s a nice addition to PC action-RPGs.
Although I do have to admit, I think what I’ve liked most about Hellgate: London was the novel and graphic novel.
I’m Anargirou, Adios, and Ganelon on Shulgoth. Look me up! I’ve also posted this review on GameFAQs.