Hellgate: London, Revival

Hellgate: London arrived during a time was I was fairly addicted to MMOs and set out to try most that I could get my hands on. The game originally released in Q4 of 2007, but it didn’t hit my radar until early 2008. My father turned me onto the title, but I had read mixed reviews at the time and didn’t want to buy a copy until he had insisted that it was a decent game. I wrote about it a few times here on the blog back in 2008, but my writing style at the time was pretty attrocious so there wasn’t much detail on my thoughts. I remember it being something that I enjoyed, but it certainly wasn’t the best thing I had ever played. The developers, Flagship Studios were bankrupt by 2008 and the servers were down by early 2009. By then I definitely wasn’t playing it anymore.

Belghast was talking about missing the IP and wishing someone would do something with it again and that reminded me that it even existed. From my memory, it was an Action RPG of sorts but could be played in either third or first person view. It was still the same sort of hack and slash loot box that we’ve come to expect from games like Diablo, but as it was created by ex-Blizzard devs this would make sense. Originally there was a single player campaign and the ability to go online to group up and play through the game. Sounds a lot like a modern ARPG despite being over 10 years old, doesn’t it?

As of this week, there was an announcement that the game would be coming to Steam. There is already a page up on the Steam storefront, as a matter of fact. It’s pretty short on details, and it appears that someone who doesn’t natively speak English wrote up the description. From what we can see there, it’s focusing on the single player element and mentions Hellgate: Tokyo, which I had to look up on Wikipedia to figure out exactly what that was. Apparently in the years following the shutdown of Flagship studios and the game’s servers in 2008-09, an Asian company picked up the rights and made a new version of the game that included areas of Seoul, South Korea instead of London. There was also a development in 2014, where a title called Hellgate: Global was announced to incorporate all versions of the game into one and redistribute into the west. Or something to that effect.

Whatever the case, this is “version 2.0” which sounds like it includes pieces of content I may not have seen. I never beat the game either, so it goes without saying that I missed a bit. It’s unclear if it’s going to hold up graphically as it’s an old engine, but the screen shots don’t look terrible, probably because most MMOs are running on ancient graphic engines. Perhaps there is some scaling tech there, I would imagine we’ll be able to run higher resolutions and make the game look halfway decent. If the gameplay is as enjoyable as I remember I will definitely be checking this out when it shows up in November. It’s unclear if this will be free to play or buy to play but I doubt there will be a subscription like there used to be. Though, it was always optional and I’d be okay with an optional subscription if it proves to be worth it. I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one for the next few weeks to see if any new information arises.

Co-Op Adventures in Dying Light

Dying Light was unfortunately released at a time when the zombie genre was over-saturated. I have been into zombies as a device to move stories forward for a long time starting with cinema. For a couple of decades now, if a movie has a premise that involves post-apocalyptic zombie scenarios I’m in. From the classic George Romero movies to newer franchises like 28 Days Later, zombie movies are a hoot. In the 90’s, titles like Resident Evil moved the theme over to the video game platform, and though it took a while to gain steam, at this point there are hundreds of zombie themed games. From realistic, gritty horror set pieces to cute, cartoon brain-eaters ala Plants vs. Zombies — the genre has no shortage of variety but once you’ve played a zombie game you’ve played them all so to speak.

I remember hearing about the game when it released and it sounded like more of the same. It’s a first person shooter, survival horror style game, with a big open world to explore. The major gimmick that set this title apart from its competition was the fact that there are parkour movement mechanics that really open the world up and let you explore vertically. It sounds funny when you talk about it, but it does really help you get around and the more that you get adjusted to it, the better you’ll get an climbing and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. There are even multiplayer challenges peppered about that focus on this one aspect of the game:

The reason that I ended up getting this title three years post-release was for one main reason: Co-Op! My best friend and I haven’t been gaming together much in the past few months, mainly because the games that we were playing fairly regularly in the past were completed (or we just haven’t been playing them anymore). My girlfriend was asking me the other day why we didn’t play together anymore and I told her that we didn’t really have anything co-op to play and so when we visited him last weekend she decided that we’d all go to Gamestop and find something to play together. This one jumped out at me, as we are both Resident Evil fans and enjoyed playing 5 & 6 co-op so I thought this might fit the bill. It also helps that it was cheap and the bundle that we picked up included all of the DLC for the game as well.

One silly thing that happens when you play a co-op game of this nature together is that everyone is essentially playing the same main character despite being on a team. The game was designed with co-op in mind but they clearly didn’t add other characters to the fold so we both ended up being the same guy in the same clothes. You have to play through a tutorial section before you can host or join games, and then at that point the player stash in safe houses has additional costumes that can be worn so you can differentiate yourselves a bit. My friend ended up looking like a ninja, and I went with a secret agent suit. Many of these costumes were present as part of DLC bundles, but you’ll find drops throughout the game as well.

You play a character named Crane, who is dropped into this infected area to find survivors and infiltrate their group. It seems you are working for someone else, and you might not be a good guy, but the story hasn’t unfolded far enough yet for me to tell what you’re really up to. You do work your way into a group and meet their leader (above) who sends you on various missions to advance the story. The central hub is a location called “The Tower” and you’ll run into other NPCs who will give you side quests and there are even bounties on a bounty board. Standard open-world/RPG stuff here.

It’s hard to say where in the world this is taking place. The names of characters sound middle-eastern, but you’ll run into all nationalities. Some of the accents sound South African. I can’t really place the real world locale, but perhaps this is just supposed to be its own world?

You’ll run into a variety of interesting characters as well, including this shut-in who has gone crazy but apparently really loves his mother. Gameplay consists of running, jumping and climbing around this city and mainly using melee weapons that you find in the world to bash in the skulls of nearby zombies. There are the general slow movie zombies and then some that move faster, some that can climb onto rooftops, and “nightmares” that come out at night and remind me of Resident Evil monsters.

The crafting system is similar to most games, you’ll find various items in the world, can break down items into base parts, and can even pick up some plants to make into more useful items. More blueprints are found in the world, and depending on skill point choices you’ll open up new recipes. Speaking of skills, there are various trees that you’ll earn points in that will help you mold your character to fit your play style:

I’m not sure how to open up the Legend tree, but I assume that comes later in the game. The Survivor, Agility and Power trees are available from the start, and you’ll earn experience by doing different things. Survivor seems to be the main leveling tree and gains experience pretty quick, has skills to open up new recipes and extra backpack space. You’ll gain Agility XP for climbing, running and jumping, and the skills in the tree have to do with this. Power is your combat tree and goes up as you kill things, also opening up additional combat skills.

Each tree has its own theme but also has the standard “open up this skill to open up the next” style of unlocking, where some parts of the tree branch in separate directions and you’ll have to choose where to go. After a certain point threshold is met you’ll open up new parts of the tree that will have further branches to explore. I ended up using points to upgrade my backpack space and my health, along with new recipes for “boosts” and the ability to slide across the ground along with vaulting over zombies. My friend ended up going the drop kick route which can end in some hilarious physics during combat:

The game I’d most compare Dying Light to is Dead Island. The latter title lacked the parkour elements but had the same sort of large open area where you’d complete quests, a leveling system and a mostly melee based combat system. It does appear that there are guns in this game but they aren’t exactly growing on trees at this point. Similar to DI, you’ll have to watch your weapon’s durability, as they eventually break and have to be repaired. You could also compare this title to things like Fallout, but obviously there’s less shooting going on, and more zombies. I’d recommend this title to anyone who enjoys FPS titles, particularly the zombie kind. If you enjoyed the Dead Island series you’ll like this game as well. Or, if you just need some co-op action in your life, give it a whirl!

The Return Of Evil


It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to talk about a Resident Evil game. A fan of the series since its inception, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this title. Unfortunately, I have yet to put together the funds to pick up a PSVR, and though I was hyped for that experience, from what I’ve seen on offer there aren’t a whole lot of games that would really benefit from the peripheral. However, this game is amazing even if you aren’t playing with a VR headset (and I imagine even more intense with one). I’ll probably still pick one of those headsets up eventually, and if/when I do, I’ll have to give this game another whirl. All I know is that within the first few minutes of playing, I was already talking to the screen and feeling rather uneasy. “No I don’t want to go into that room” has been a regular utterance.

So, the big kicker here is that the series has shifted from its traditional third person over-the-shoulder camera, which in turn had evolved from static purposefully-placed cameras from the first few games, to full first person. This is not the only change for the series, but it is the most prominent. Also gone is any mention of Raccoon City, main characters from earlier games (which have been involved in most every title) or the appearance of any zombies. Sure, there’s a scene where a corpse is floating in some water and looks a little like a zombie, and your girlfriend seems to want to break up with you at another point, also vaguely resembling the living dead. But I have yet to encounter an actual zombie, or really many enemies for that matter. Admittedly, I am only about an hour into the title, but I wanted to share my early impressions.

First person brings a whole new perspective that brings the game’s intimacy level up a notch. Seeing things as if they are through the character’s eyes means shit coming at you feels more real. I can only imagine this being a pants-shitting experience for those wearing VR rigs. Honestly, I haven’t been this scared playing a Resident Evil game since the first. Playing that in the dark was terrifying, and this game is no exception, particularly because things look very real as opposed to the low poly graphics of the classic that still scared the crap out of me. The pacing has been slow, but there is a tension that builds as each new area is explored and things get more janky, to the point where you are finally in your first battle, completely caught off guard. There are flashes of an underlying story that feels ripped out of horror movie, but as I’ve said there are no mentions of zombies. My gut is telling me there is something sinister afoot, particularly within this first hour or so of gameplay, to the point that I feel things are going to accelerate fairly quickly. Soon I will know more about what is going on in this house, and I can’t wait to find out more!

If you have ever enjoyed a Resident Evil title, enjoy horror games in general, or are looking for a good scare, this game should be up you alley. Here’s some screens from my initial stint. There could be some potential spoilers ahead!

Ten Reasons You Should Play The Forest


I recently acquired a copy of Endnight Games’ The Forest, and let me tell you, it hasn’t disappointed. Despite being my first foray into Early Access gaming (aside from free Beta periods), I have seen a product that delivers what it promises. This is a truly horrifying game. This does what the developers said it would do to this point. There are features that are clearly being worked on, and there are some bugs and glitches — these things are to be expected from a game in Alpha.

I’m actually standing in the shallow part of a lake here. See that floating boat on the right? These minor bugs are more humorous than game-breaking.

There are features that the devs had said they plan to add, and I hope that some of them (particularly multiplayer) make it into the game. Overall, I feel that for $15 you’re getting a hell of a game, even in this Alpha state. I can only imagine how much the game will improve by the time it hits Beta, and full release. This isn’t going to be a review, as the game is still in the works. Rather, I’m giving you ten reasons why you should play The Forest. Here goes:

1. Support for Indie developers + feedback opportunities. There’s controversy about all of the Early Access games that are out there, so much that Steam recently amended some of their verbiage about them (warning that some games won’t ever be finished). Some people think you’re an idiot if you pay for something that isn’t done yet. Kickstarter games have failed, even after raking in a lot of dough. Interesting times, these. Still, some Indie developers are doing things that are fucking amazing, and they can use all the support they can get. In this case, you pay $15 (not exactly breaking the bank), and you get quite a lot of game for your buck. Also, the feedback that Early Access players give can sometimes be invaluable to those devs, and sometimes those suggestions even make it into the final product. You might actually help to make a game better. This team is doing some awesome stuff, and I think they deserve the extra funds.

2. Get access now, watch the game evolve. Don’t want to wait til an actual full release date? Saw a video or read an article and thought “I can’t wait to play this!”? With Early Access titles, you don’t have to wait. Not only will your contributions get you instant access to the Alpha client, but updates are constantly coming down the pipeline. This means you get to see the game evolve and improve along the way. Some people might not enjoy this experience, but I’m looking forward to it. The timer in the above screen shot shows that in 8 days from this writing, there will be a new Alpha client release. There’s also already been a couple of hotfixes implemented, and it seems that the game is constantly being worked on.

3. The graphics are AMAZING! Seriously, I haven’t seen many visuals this impressive coming from an Indie development team. The trend lately has been to use pixels or voxels, and though games like Landmark are using Voxels that look damn pretty, that’s a AAA studio production. Endnight games is a team of four people. The world feels massive and alive. The character models are very nice looking. Animations are smooth and fluid. The game looks damn good, even while running for your life.

Look at this and tell me it isn’t beautiful.

4. Immersion = genuine fear. A first person perspective gives you the feeling that you are, in fact, alone in the forest. No one is around, save for animals and the mutant cannibals that want to roast you on a spit. The sounds and overall environment suck you in. I can honestly say this is the first game that made me feel genuine fear in a very long time. I think the last time I jumped during a game was one of the early Silent Hill or Resident Evils. The Forest creates tension from the moment the you’re on the plane heading who-knows-where, as shortly thereafter you are crash landing. The tension never really lets up either. Muties take away your child. When you finally awaken, you are utterly alone and it doesn’t take long for the Muties to come back for you. Soon enough you are jumping at everything that moves, and constantly scanning your perimeter for threats.

5. Emergent AI is a marvel. If you’ve spent the last decade checking out various FPS games, MMOs, or any other variant that has an AI component, you’ll probably note that most mobs do what they are programmed to do. Meaning they are fairly scripted and predictable, and once the optimal method of dispatch is found, very little variance occurs. This is still true to a degree in The Forest, however the mobs’ AI is vastly superior to any game I’ve played to this point. Difficulty in other games comes from behind-the-scenes numbers modification (hard mode = more hit points, etc). The difficulty in this game comes not only from the fact that the mutants are hard to kill, but also because they use a variety of tactics. They mainly attack at night. They don’t attack right away, making them seem almost friendly or curious. Then when you least expect it, you’ve been flanked by another from behind. If you’re running through the forest, one might drop down from a tree to attack. You really never know where it’s coming from next, and this is something I find amazing.

Torches in the forest, silhouettes on the horizon. I’m surrounded.

6. Crafting is familiar but excellent and focuses on realism. If you’ve played Minecraft, Terraria or any of the other countless open-world crafting/building games, the crafting systems here will feel familiar. Gather some stuff, build some stuff. However in this game the resources are mostly wood and stone and other bits that you might come across, and at this point there isn’t any mining or hole digging. Also, with an emphasis on realism, you actually have to cut down trees (and avoid being crushed by them when they fall), and can only carry one log at a time. Building a shelter can take some time, and all the while you’re being hunted, so you have to be ever vigilant. Food is pretty obvious, with berries and animals aplenty, though you’ll need some fire to get that meat cooked (which also must be crafted). There are traps and other bits as well, but at the time of this writing I haven’t experimented with them.

A work in progress.

7. The Survival system has multiple focus points. Rather than having a sort of progression with skills or experience, the developers decided to keep the player information to a minimum. Not only does this keep the HUD clutter-free, but also keeps survival simple. Health is is represented by a red half-circle, and that is only refillable via medicine from what I understand. Energy and stamina share the other half-circle, and are blue in color. Energy is generated with food and drink, while stamina fluctuates as you perform tasks (this also limits you from sprinting indefinitely). Hunger is represented in the middle of the circle with a stomach symbol. Hunger is replenished with food, obviously, but all three of the factors can contribute to living or dying, and are in good balance I believe.

8. Mechanics that are ripe for Multiplayer. This game screams to be played with a friend. Not only would another set of eyes do you some good, harvesting time would be cut down, and defensive structures would be completed that much faster. Combat would still be difficult because the Muties never come around alone, and they would still be hard to kill, but a friend would make you feel a little more at ease. These are the sorts of mechanics that would also thrive in larger scale multiplayer, or even an MMO style game (though I’m not clamoring for this game to be made into an MMO, I still think that the mechanics would be a welcome change in the MMO-sphere). The devs have stated that small-scale multiplayer is coming, and I simply cannot wait for that. I already know some people I’d bring along for the ride.

9. Social commentary abound. Do you live a sedentary lifestyle? I know most gamers do. I’m guilty of it most of the time myself. It was my first thought when I was running for my life. Would I be able to survive in a world like this? If I was travelling abroad and crash landed on an island of Mutant Cannibals, would I be able to do what this character is doing? It’s not likely. I’m only a little out of shape, but I think that would be enough to damn me. Adding in multiplayer can add more social aspects to the game as well, where we can choose to help or hurt the other players in the game. I have stumbled across other makeshift camps in my travels, so we can conclude that other people from the crash survived, but were eventually captured by the mutants. There’s a good possibility that the multiplayer component can spawn from these concepts. But are we friends, or adversaries? Do I stab my friend in the back to take his stuff? Or do we form a team against the mutants? There’s a lot to examine here.

10. Most of all, it’s a blast! This game is doing things that other games have done before, so you already might have enjoyed some of the mechanics. However, The Forest is thematically different, bringing an element of fear to the budding survival genre. I’ve found fear to be a good motivating factor. Building shelter, traps and weapons all further feelings of safety against the monsters, but you still have basic survival needs such as warmth and food. The combination of being able to do whatever I want, coupled with the feelings of being watched at all times keep you busy. And you can’t sit idly by to read your survival guide or check what you have in your bags, cause the Muties are always watching, and will attack while you are distracted. It’s a great feeling though, being this busy bee that is on the cusp of death at all times. I highly recommend The Forest to anyone who isn’t afraid of a little fear.

Are you afraid of the dark?

#theforest #survivalhorror #openworld #firstperson #crafting