The gates into the inferno have thrown wide and the legions of Hell march across the countryside. Their forces unleashed by untold eldritch magicks as they burst forth from the very earth beneath London—and now they’ve spread from the confines of that benighted city to siege a beleaguered world. As a game Hellgate is a fast-paced, action-centered MMOFPS with a lot in common with Diablo when it comes to ancillary gameplay elements (like item modding and weapon effects.)
Hellgate Global is the free-to-play version of Hellgate: London originally developed by Flagship Studios (a team headed by former employees of Blizzard Entertainment which is why Hellgate is a lot like Diablo.) After it’s initial release in 2007 it took four years until 2011 when it was sold to T3fun HanbitSoft and became a free-to-play MMOFPS with strong RPG elements and went into open beta.
As it’s now a bit of an older game, it’ll run okay on most machines; however, it still looks extremely good on higher end systems when the graphics are cranked up. It’s aged fairly well and it’s a pretty fun game if you’re into mindless demon shooting. There’s quite a strong community playing the game and it’s not difficult to build a team from available players and descent into post apocalyptic London.
Interested in a little demon splattering?
Graphics and Sound: It’s aging, but it’s still one of the better looking games—for wasteland London
A bit of the download size of Hellgate Global may be attributed to their love of cinematic video. In fact, the entire beginning is a cinematic video about a character who may well be the savior of the world—I don’t know if it’s going to be part of the client for all time or if HanbiSoft will make streaming servers for it instead. The rendering is okay, and the story is fun, but I have a feeling that most free-to-play customers would rather have a swift client download rather than story in this fashion. This is actually a takeaway from the original development of this title when it was an out-of-the-box pay-to-play game.
The in-game graphics, by comparison, are actually extremely good. It’s a first-person shooter action styled game where warfare is fought at through the barrel of a gun, the edge of a blade, or the sizzle of spellcraft. As a result, this game persists almost entirely on carefully crafted models, textures, and a lot of particle and aura effects when special-effects come into play.
In fact, it’s hard to play this game without looking for each new weapon to figure out what it’ll look like. Also: there’s a weapon that shoots bees! (Actually, if I recall correctly, it’s probably wasps—but the trope remains.)
When it comes to a game that tells me that I’m fighting demons, through, I ask only one thing: that they actually feel realistically scary. The first few times, Hellgate did a fine job of fitting this requirement; of course, like any video game player, especially MMOs, I adapt quickly—also, even Hellgate has a limited number of foes that they throw at you. Although some are much more annoying than others.
The sound is pretty fair and while the music is forgettable, the noises the enemies and weapons make are memorable. In fact, I found myself trying out different classes to get an idea of what their weapon sounds would make. One of my favorites makes a tube-like fltmp noise as it lobs toxic glass balls that shatter and spray green clouds over the enemy.
Characters also speak a little, although they have over-the-top British accents that sometimes sound like biting Cockney spoken by a comedian actor. I must admit, though, I found myself amused by the sounds of their voices that I’d look forward to speaking with them.
Gameplay: This is an FPS, it has demons, and it provides a variety of ways to kill them
There are three major archetypes that run much of the same types as standard MMORPGs. There are the Templars who run with heavy armor and melee weapons (although some augment with guns—actually everyone augments with guns in Hellgate); then there’s the Cabalists who wield magic and guns; and finally there’s the Hunters who also use guns.
There are two types of Templars: Guardians and Blademasters. The guardian class is mostly about armor and a shield, they have a lot of interesting weapons but mostly they provide tank support for the team and attract attention from squishier comrades. Blademasters may wield guns if the feel like it, but most people who play a blademaster do so because they want to cut demons to ribbons with their swords.
Cabalists provide a direct-damage ranged and a pet class between Evokers and Summoners. Evokers call upon the powers of Hell to launch occult horrors from their spellbound veins onto the battlefield, crushing demons with telekinetic powers or lighting entire areas aflame. Summoners, though, you might have guessed summon demons and elementals to fight by their side—the hallmark of the summoner is a huge mess of small elementals supported by a demon swarming over demons and overwhelming them.
Hunters have a pet class and a ranged-sniper class: they provide the Marksman and the Engineer. The Marksman is most notable to me because they can get a high damage sniper rifle; although I found myself falling back on automatic weapons a lot because demons don’t always line themselves up like redcoats and come one-by-one. The Engineer can get a set of bots and a hovering droid that she can outfit with guns—in fact, she can grab up weapons from the field and outfit her droid with one at higher levels.
Each of the six classes provide three different talent trees that they can walk through. These trees are so customizable that they can entirely change the way a person plays a particular class. For example, Cabalist Summoners could go for overwhelming swarms of elementals or focus most of their attention on their single demon partner—there’s a similar set of paths for the engineer. This is a similiarity to many of the Blizzard games like Diablo and World of Warcraft.
Almost everything in this game can be modded—weapons, armor, special items—and of mods there are two types: mods and augments. Mods work a bit like adding items to slots in the item that affix to particular structures such as ammunition, batteries, fuels, techs, and relics (for magickal effect.) These mods get dropped by enemies, and can be crafted, as long as they fit the level range of the item in question, they can be slotted. Most of them add boons to the weapon. Augmentation, on the other hand, adds random boons to the weapon—but it has a chance to clear everything added to it previously and sometimes will also raise the level of the weapons beyond your ability to weild.
Freemium: Over half of the game is unavailable to non-premium, but it’s unlock-once for everything
Certain parts of Hellgate Gloal are not accessible without paying for them—restricted to expansions from Act 3 through Act 5, Stonehenge, 2nd Attack, and the Abyss—this access is granted by an item called a Ticket. One ticket works for an entire account (all six characters created by the player) and they cost 4000 T-coins. At about $1 USD per 1000 T-coins this means that unlocking a single act will cost about $4. Full, lifetime access to the entire game ends up costing around $20.
Keep-in-mind, tickets are permanent and apply premium access one used. Tickets are also in-game items, which means that industrious players with a lot of items and in-game gold can purchase them from other players to gain premium access to particular Acts.
Also, for free-to-play customers, Stonehenge access can be obtained through in-game items called essences that are uncommonly dropped by monsters. It’s an instanced dungeon through which some elite and rare items can be gained.
Weapons may have mod slots, but they also have unlockable mod slots (not available until they’re unlocked by a payment.) Some weapons have more mod slots than others (and many have several pay-to-unlock slots.)
Conclusion: An intriguing game with a powerful story and action-packed gameplay
I went into Hellgate with a friend and we collected our own parties from the population available. Since this game has been running since 2007—with a bit of a break in between while HanbitSoft bought the property—there’s already a huge community to draw from. The forums are full of chatter and the in-game community is extremely lively.
It does take some time to get used to the method and scheme that the game uses, but soaking demons with toxic damage or blowing them up with lightning can be extremely stress-relieving. Although, it’s possible to easily run into an area solo and discover its overwhelmingly difficult; it’s also possible to become extremely overpowered in this game, removing most of the challenge from earlier areas.
If Hellgate had not gone free-to-play, it would undoubtedly have been overtaken by other titles and driven itself into obscurity; however, by switching models to a free-to-play with freemium, HanbitSoft has resurrected this interesting title and breathed new life into its community.
[Image credit: A Hellgate wallpaper by ~NeonGenesis6 on DeviantART.]