Hellgate: London

Moby ID: 30909
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Description

It's the year 2038 and London lies in ruins. The nearby Hellgate has turned the sky gray and it's presence dominates the horizon. The Invasion eradicated the powerful nations of man and the decades-long process called The Burn has begun which alters and assimilates our world to make it feel more like home for the demons that now roam the streets of the destroyed city. The last surviving members of mankind are hiding in the shadows deep down in the former train stations of the city and do what they can to fight back and perhaps even stop the madness.

The game is an Action-RPG very similar to Diablo II. At the beginning you choose one of the three available factions called "The Templar", "The Cabalists" and "The Hunters". Each faction also features two different classes. For example the Templar use swords and fight face to face with the demon hordes but you can choose if you want to be a Templar Guardian or a Templar Blademaster. While the Guardian is more of a tank which uses his sword and shield to go deep into the crowd and increases his effectiveness when he's surrounded by demons, the Blademaster wields two swords at once and tries to kill his enemies as fast as possible.

The choice of your character also changes the way you will play the game. While it is better for a melee-character to see his surroundings and so playing from a 3rd-person view, the classes that use guns are better off in the 1st-person view because they need to aim right at an enemy to really hit him. Of course you can change the view at any given time.

What remains the same for all the characters is the core gameplay. You kill monsters, fulfill quests to level up your character and get the precious talent points you then invest in your attributes and the big skill tree to unlock new abilities or make you stronger. On your way you'll also find many items like armor or weapons. Although most of the stuff is limited to specific class, you can always dismantle an item in the hope of getting crafting material out of it. If you have enough material you then can upgrade your gear at the train stations.

Although Hellgate: London has a single player-component, the main focus of the game lies on the multiplayer-mode which comes in two flavors: free of costs and a monthly subscription-based premium access. The premium model grants you access to additional content and other benefits like an additional Hardcore Mode (when the character dies, the character stays dead forever) or more inventory storage space. But both player types are on the same servers and can play together.

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Credits (Windows version)

977 People (933 developers, 44 thanks) · View all

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 71% (based on 55 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.1 out of 5 (based on 20 ratings with 2 reviews)

Tedious and Disappointing.

The Good
This game takes some chances, but does not vary far from the Diablo formula that was established by Blizzard. It lets you play first person as well as third person view if you like to melee. The graphics are decent but not astounding. I bought it used for 3 bucks, so I never got to try the multiplayer. Odds are, you won't either since the servers will be shut down by Feb 2009.

A lot of effort was put in to ambient sound and the music was not intrusive. The character models were interesting and had quite a few body animations.

The bestiary was nice, but not huge. I have to admit, I found one creature, the Dunder Liche, to be an unusual construct.

Part of the fun was collecting and improving your gear. You have a lot of choices when it comes to allocating point skills too. There are occasional touches of humor that will surprise you like the "I HATE CRATES" bonus points awarded to you for smashing all the crates in a level.

The game also does a very good job of tracking your missions and quests. Its a system that works as well as in Diablo, if not slightly better.

The Random Treasure levels are very cool because they break up game play. The voice acting is sparse and mostly made of cockney accents making really odd comments. My favorite quote? "An Apple a Day keeps the doctor away, So eat anything that looks like an apple."

Its really cool when you stumble upon a rare item or weapon. Its easy to stockpile and augment your equipment to do more damage or provide more protection. There's always money around to get stuff with at the local store junctions.

And the beginning movie was really well done.

The Bad
Ok... Here's where I get serious.

The game has major balance issues. I created a melee character that just fights and fights and never really loses since I put all her points in healing points for killing. I just press forward and hold down the mouse button and the game plays itself. No strategy, no finesse, no thinking, no aiming. Just hold down the mouse button. Your swing radius far exceeds your sword, and you find taking down ariel creatures just as easy as their grounded counterparts.

You get to kill blobs. They don't move, they spit poison that misses and they throb like jelly. You stand there, holding the mouse button, swinging at glob of french vanilla pudding, until it dies and releases a level one set of britches. The 3rd set of level one britches you've found so far.

The other creatures? Zombies, Zombie Creators, fire breathing little dragons, albino minotar things with guns that were designed to miss.

The levels are all the same, using the same structures, buildings walls, paths and etc. Even hell is boring after the 3rd visit.

The missions vary from "Help those soldiers set up ground weapons" to "Find 12 goblin livers for a reward."

With the exception of the Museum level, there is no sense of challenge or danger. The Museum level is the best thing about this game and it indicates the true potential this game could've had.

And the In-game scenes are rendered with the engine and make absolutely no sense at all. It involves obscure dialogue, scenery changes that were supposed to be dramatic, but were just a different color palate switched.

There is no sense of accomplishment. No sense of adventure.

Just holding that damn mouse button down.



The Bottom Line
Boring and really disappointing.

Windows · by Scott Monster (986) · 2009

The servers are dead, but the single-player lives on

The Good
If you've heard anything about Hellgate: London, it’s likely been negative. Regarded as one of the biggest flops of 2007, the high-profile involvement of several Diablo II alums only resulted in high-profile fallout when the studio collapsed shortly after Hellgate‘s release.The demise of Flagship Studios ended up overshadowing the actual gameplay of Hellgate, and while you can no longer play this online, the single-player game is still quite available. This single-player aspect is what we’ll be taking a look at today.

Hellgate takes place in a near-future London, during a dismal time after humanity’s card has been well and truly pulled. “Hellgates” have opened around the world, issuing forth swarms of demons out to purge humanity in a process called The Burn. Those humans who survived the initial onslaught retreated underground, living in and traveling through the remains of city subways. You play as a new soldier in the ranks of London’s militant survivors staging a guerrilla war against the occupying demons. A revitalized Templar order offers fractured oversight to the resistance, and as you play through the game’s 30-ish hour campaign, you’ll meet its leaders and play a key role in humanity’s dim future.

Hellgate is very much a modern Diablo. You head out into randomized dungeons, hack and slash (or shoot) until your pack fills with randomized loot, then use a “town portal” style device to zap back to your last station and sell your collected wares. Repeat and repeat, with questgivers directing your hacking and slashing toward particular numbers or types of demons. It worked well in Diablo, and it works well here – with the thrill of “just one more” masking most issues of repetition or simplistic gameplay, at least for a while.

You choose from a fixed set of character classes that cover the expected bases – ranged specialists, melee specialists, magicians, engineers, minion controllers – and specialize by dumping experience points into a skill tree. Each node on the tree can also be specialized in more than once, increasing the power of that ability. Abilities run on a toolbar along the bottom of the screen and are deployed with the number keys.

I played as a standard soldier, and ended up with various grenades types with different debuffs, a marking ability to increase damage to a selected foe, a root ability that fixed you in place but raised your accuracy and damage, etc. You can certainly see how the various classes could support each other in a group, and overall, they feel balanced and enjoyable (in single player, at least). About the only annoyance is that the game was clearly designed to stick around, so you won’t get too far along that skill tree on only one playthrough.

Another nice feature is that ranged and melee combat both seem equally competent. Ranged defaults to a first-person view, and works like a typical FPS. All guns have infinite ammo here, but fire at different speeds and lose varying amounts of accuracy (shown with expanding crosshairs) with sustained fire. Melee restricts you to a third-person view, and you hack-and-slash much like in Jedi Knight. I didn’t get far enough on a melee character to discover any significant strategy or stances – instead, they seemed intended to spec out in a Tank role. Many of a sword-and-shield Templar’s skills are based around drawing aggro and soaking up damage, which essentially sidestep the whole issue of needing a fluid melee system.

Skills are, of course, supplemented with loot. Again, nothing surprising or broken here. Equipment is color coded based on rarity, and can be bought and sold in shops at the stations. Almost every piece of equipment has slots to accept drop-in modifications (also looted and color coded). These bestow skills boosts, rare powers (like a lightning blast when you’re hit), and damage upgrades. Both gear and mods can also be broken down into constituent parts, which can be reforged by crafting NPCs offering randomized recipes. You can also pay in-game money to enhance any particular piece of gear you may be fond of, granting it additional stats or extra mod slots. Of course, any unused gear, boots, or crafting bits can be stored in lockers in every station, and of course, paying subscribers got extra storage.

The setting is really the main draw of Hellgate, and it’s a welcome departure from the typical high-fantasy tropes that dominate the genre. London’s shattered streets are besieged by rain, ash, and snow, and an ever-present haze suggests hellfires burning in all directions. Underground tunnels are similarly dingy and atmospheric; lit with trash bin fires and strewn with rubble and disused subway cars. Many of these areas actually look quite lovely. The game was also an early adopter of DirectX 10 technology, so players with the cards can appreciate enhanced steam and smoke effects, moonlit reflections, physics-controlled gibs and explosions, to name a few.

Monsters look suitably demonic, and actually break out into a caste that roughly defines their abilities and weakness. Most are a little too shiny and plastic (typical for the time), but there are certainly no questions when a horde of zombies shamble toward you, or spectral creatures phase in to attack. There’s also a randomized “legendary monster” system that sometimes spawns in tougher, mini-boss level enemies into the world. These are usually just gold-named versions of existing creatures, but sometimes you’ll get something you haven’t seen before, or one of the game’s surprisingly large monster models. Kill them, and you’ll get a large loot drop.

The campaign’s story isn’t that bad, and frequently based around humor. A running gag involving a self-proclaimed demon researcher and an unwitting techsmith provides the most laughs, and there’s a few legitimately good lines and odd situations. However, when it’s time for the plot to get serious, it gets pretty generic (“We’ve lost contact with such and such station – hurry and check it out!”). The overall plot, based around a prophecy that might close the Hellgates, is also little more than an excuse to travel around London and solve some puzzles toward the end. Side missions similarly stick with the old formula of “Find this named boss and kill him” or “Bring me back 10 demon toenails for my research.”

The Bad
These quests are also where the gameplay side of Hellgate starts to falter. Like the original Diablo, the game is entirely based around extremely repetitive combat. As a ranged character, you simply move up to the next group of monsters, stop, and hold the fire key until they’re all dead. Same for melee, except that you stop a little closer to them. A recharging shield for all players, and frequent health powerups (or passive regeneration skills) also mean most players won’t see much of a challenge. The gameplay’s not necessarily bad, just frequently boring and simplistic, and you can certainly see the necessity of friends or a group to offer some kind of distraction. The usual draw of getting new loot also doesn’t entirely work, as scaling enemies mean you always end up taking the same amount of time to kill something.

It's also where I should note that the single-player campaign is the game. Talk of Hellgate being an MMO stirs up confusion that heavily contributed to its demise in the first place. You create a character and take that character through a linear series of story-based missions, with fixed, optional side-quests able to be grabbed in every station. There are no random missions. When you finish your personal campaign, you can only opt to restart it in a “New Game Plus” situation, and work to fill yet more of your skill tree. The difference is that there are other online players going through their campaigns too, and you can cross paths and optionally team up at the various station hubs. That’s the multiplayer component – more of a Demon’s Souls than a WoW, that you were still expected to pay a monthly fee for.

The game also works on the old system of inventory slots, with each item taking up a set number (and shape) of slots in your pack. I think I spent more time playing Inventory Tetris than slaying beasts. The pack fills up quickly too, so there’s a constant need to portal back and sell your wares, or dump off your crafting bits if you go the disassembly route. Some people may enjoy this, but I was just getting frustrated with finding my inventory full yet again in the middle of a mission. Then again, maybe I was just being greedy.

The Bottom Line
If you were to pick up a boxed copy of the original Hellgate today, this is what you’d be in for. It’s a very Diablo experience, with all the good and repetitive that brings. You also don’t even have to play the multiplayer to see where other players fit in, and where the daft concept of charging a monthy fee for the privilege doesn’t. It will be interesting to see how the free-to-play model works here, and with an additional story and maybe some enhanced difficulty (a hardcore or permadeath mode might offer enough tension to keep interested) might make the reborn F2P Hellgate something worth checking out.

Windows · by BurningStickMan (17918) · 2011

Discussion

Subject By Date
French Players - investigation Mtik333 (29527) Dec 30, 2021

Trivia

Asia

In Asia the game had a rocky launch. After several weeks of server crashing issues, a server patch was created to deal with it once and for all. Unfortunately, it could not be rolled out on the servers without a complete character wipe. All players lost their characters and had to start over, but in exchange they received four weeks of free subscription.

German version

In-game blood effects and cut off limbs were removed in the German version.

References to the game

Hellgate: London was parodied in an episode of "Die Redaktion" (The Editorial Team), a monthly comedy video produced by the German gaming magazine GameStar. It was published on the DVD of issue 03/2008.

Shutdown and resurrection

In October 2008 Namco Bandai announced to close down the servers on 31st January 2009, ending the multiplayer mode permanently. In the meantime, it could be played free of charge.

On Dec. 9th, 2009, Hanbitsoft Inc re-released in Korea as Hellgate: Resurrection. This new version uses a free-to-play business model.

Information also contributed by Trucidar

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Sicarius.

Additional contributors: Sciere, Patrick Bregger.

Game added November 9, 2007. Last modified February 13, 2024.