Having played Hellsign off and on over the course of the past few weeks, here are our thoughts about the Early Access version of this excitingly fun isometric RPG turned paranormal investigation.
Hellsign is one of those games that only seems to come around every once in a very blue moon. It’s a game that combines elements of an investigation-based title that features RPG elements and horror-based themes. All of it opens up as players go from one investigation to the next, each house haunted by their very own supernatural creature.
Motherboard: MSI Z270 M7 Game Ready Plus
GPU: MSI Gaming Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
CPU: Intel I7-7700K 3.6GHz OCed to 4.2GHz
Cooling Unit: Cooler Master GTS V8
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB
HDD/SDs: 525GB Crucial SSD | Seagate Barracuda 7200 RPM HDD (Raid 0)
But what’s quite interesting about Hellsign is just how well each portion of the investigation themed RPG gameplay elements come to life. Players will do just as it sounds first. You’ll investigate each of these houses, using an EVP device to detect items that have been affected by the creature in which you hunt.
Some creatures will be hunted using both your EVP device as well as a black light, hinting at any form of DNA, ectoplasm, or form of evidence that they might leave behind. Once you find them, things truly get interesting when it comes to how Hellsign actually plays.
Hunting banshees, ghosts, and various other creatures is an absolute delight
One of the catchy things about Hellsign is what it actually is. At its core, it’s a horror game. There’s no doubt about what exactly the game seeks to do. It’s one that wants to make players jump, uncomfortable, and question the decisions they are making during each and every hunt they undertake.
As you investigate and explore a location, you’ll know the moment you found the thing you’ve begun to hunt. Your instruments will go nuts, making noises to indicate where or what the creature is. You’ll notice high-pitch noises and or the sounds of those who died. Hellsign doesn’t even really begin to shine until you’ve gotten past your first few hours.
Missions will later change, really helping bring the paranormal approach to life. Things will begin to move, such as TVs turning on, growling and scratching at the walls or spiders and the likes simply jumping from the shadows. The oddest thing is getting sucked into a different dimension, nearly causing you to jump out of your shoes if you are playing in a pitch-black room.
The really creepy parts aren’t in the first few missions though, but once a player progresses enough, they will have a new mission type that is filled to the brim with creepy stuff – TVs doing paranormal things, getting sucked into odd dimensions, nearby growling and the good old-fashioned jump scares. I’ve found myself almost jumping from my seat after having died due to a paranormal creature hunting me down with no way to seemingly hurt it.
Combat actually has a minor learning curve
When you first dive into Hellsign, there’s a lot to take in from the very start. First, movement can be a learning curve on its own while having to use WASD to navigate the area you are in. On top of using WASD, you’ll also have to grow used to using your mouse to aim – a twin-stick shooter if you will.
Since the game is an isometric title, you’ll find that aiming at small, yet quick enemies, you’ll find them moderately hard to fight at first. As they dart from one room to the next, keeping track of them and attacking them can be quite difficult. Bullets themselves can miss even if you have your aim locked in on a creature and it decides to rapidly dodge your attacks.
But as you progress, upgrade your equipment, and learn how things work; Hellsign gets quite a bit easier to work your way through. You’ll eventually find yourself taking out groups of three or more to without little to no trouble at all. Whether or not you grow used to the movement mechanics, you’ll find yourself doing even better, surviving even more difficult encounters with the use of dodging.
It’s not just that dodging will allow you to evade a hit, you can also choose which direction you wish to evade in, allowing you to use doorways or even fixtures in a room to your advantage. Just don’t expect all your ‘bounties’ to warn you when they are going to attack. This isn’t a Soulsborne type game where an indicator will be made when you are attacked.
Pacing can – at times – feel a bit slow due to your search for information about a creature you are hunting
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Supernatural on Netflix or The CW, then you already know you aren’t just going balls-to-the-wall during an entire hunt. They take time, they have things you need to do, and ultimately, you’ll need to learn everything you can about them.
Learning about this information will help, quite a bit, as boss creatures aren’t easy and they will provide you with a significantly harder challenge than things like spiders. Because of the investigative portions of the game, you’ll find the pacing slows down quite a bit. Clues will include things such as notes, which you’ll place in your Cryptonomicon, which is what you’ll be placing your notes in – in order to uncover what boss you are actually hunting.
This is where all your prepping starts, and unfortunately, you’ll spend most of Chapter 1 prepping for the boss creatures themselves. You’ll only be indicated on what you need such as better armor, Night Vision goggles, but that’s it. There are no other indicators about what kind of weapons, items you need, or what will help you defeat the creature you are after. The only problem you’ll have? All creature stats are randomized and there’s no indicator on what stats change or if their behavior actually does.
The environments could use a bit more variety
One of the drawbacks to Hellsign in its current state is the environments. While the atmosphere itself is rather well designed, Hellsign doesn’t exactly have a lot of environmental assets at its disposal. While it is on the developer, Ballistic’s, to-do list, along with multi-floored buildings, it’s a major drawback at this current time.
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen houses with extremely similar layouts more times than one. It will feel a bit old as you begin to grind through a select few missions several times over, buying the times you need before moving on. While the game does offer up some variety here and there with extra-dimensional zones, it doesn’t happen enough, and there’s not enough variety to really keep players invested with the games current state.
Controller support is highly unlikely
If you are a fan of using your console controllers for PC gaming or game such as this, Ballistic has openly stated that they are unsure of how they’ll make that work, if they even can. Mostly for the fact they don’t want the added support to cheapen their game with features such as aim assist or some various form of player degradation through controller support as a feature.
While it certainly feels that the game could support it, there’s no doubt I support the decision made by Ballistic not to include mouse and keyboard support, but it does make me wonder: What will they do if they decide to port the game to consoles at a later date? Will that be reconsidered if a console version is released? Your guess is honestly as good as mine.
That’s it. I have a hunt to complete
While there’s a lot of room for Hellsign to improve itself upon, the foundations for a solid supernatural RPG turned horror game is absolutely there. Whether it’s the crude and totally 80s-90s’ themed dialogue or the gameplay style that reminds me of Silent Hill: Book of Memories (which to me was a hidden gem on the Vita); I like the game and I see lots of potential in what Ballistic has going on.
Version Previewed: PC
Developer: Ballistic Interactive
Publisher: Ballistic Interactive
Release Date: Available now in Early Access
My only concern is based on how long and when we’ll see the next major patch for the game arrive, and if it does, what will come with it. We’re only able to enjoy Chapter 1 at the moment and it leaves us with a craving for Chapter 2 and the option to choose a female character.
Our preview is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.