The lights are on
Fantasy games like Skyrim deliver epic adventures where
players slowly gain the power to wield powerful weapons and strong magic.
Techland, the studio behind Dead Island and Dying Light, is skipping straight
to the good stuff with Hellraid, a first-person hack 'n' slash game set in a
dark fantasy world. During this E3,
Techland showed me a hands-off demo showcasing the ability to pick up and use
any weapon no matter your level, along with the sinister demonic atmosphere of
the game world.
The action begins in a stereotypical fantasy dungeon. This
series of torture chambers looks decidedly next-gen, with glowing fires that
illuminate rooms and detailed textures that sell the grime of the stone walls.
Demonic creatures like skeleton warriors, undead archers, and goat-legged
demons prowl the foreboding halls. The player character is exploring the
underbelly of a monastery home to a well-meaning abbot who went mad trying to
research the mysteries of hell in order to push back the demonic invasion. Thankfully,
the player has a host of options for dismantling this demonic threat.
Unlike Dead Island, the class of your created character is
entirely up to you. Techland is creating a web-like skill tree that combines
class archetypes like warrior, rogue, mage, and paladin. Players can choose
their path along the web as they please, unlocking passive stat upgrades and
new abilities. Deep Silver offers examples like warriors going into a
strength-boosting rage, rogues temporarily going invisible, and mages leeching
mana from enemies. Deep Silver isn't putting any restrictions on the
four-player co-op, either, allowing players of all levels and experience to
play with one another.
The core of Hellraid's gameplay lies in the weapons you
wield. Hefty axes, swords, and mauls offer melee-based offensive options
against the demonic forces. The weighty swing of these weapons and their impact
on enemies seems reminiscent of Dead Island, but Techland says Hellraid's
engine is entirely unique. Players can block enemy blows using the weapon to
parry, or equip a shield to block and bash. Even magical rods can be acquired
from fallen enemies, letting you quickly cast lightning, ice, or fire magic at
enemies. The versatility of the arsenal mixed with the dark, first-person
fantasy setting and RPG elements makes me remember id's Hexen. And that's a
Combat is slow and deliberate. A well-timed charged attack
with a maul will shatter a skeleton into bony bits. You can also dodge in any
direction to evade enemy attacks, but at the cost of some stamina. Heavy
attacks and quick mobility all drain stamina, which may leave you vulnerable to
attacks if drained. The developer demonstrating the game used the dodge
frequently when fighting bigger enemies like a bipedal goat demon and corrupted
paladin. The massive axes and swords these enemies drop are free for the taking
once their defeated.
Techland is developing a few different modes friends can
choose between for Hellraid. Story mode allows you to progress through missions
in a continuous narrative about hellish evils flooding into the land of the
living. Arena mode pits a group of friends against waves of oncoming foes, a
familiar concept for fans of horde modes. An additional mode embraces the
arcade days of yesteryear with a focus on combos, score multipliers, and
getting as many points as possibly in a section. Characters will be playable
across all three modes, with progress transferring between them all.
Hellraid's premise of visceral, first-person melee combat in
a hellish fantasy setting is simple but enticing. Techland appears to have come
a long way in terms of polish and world creation since release of the buggy but
enduringly addictive Dead Island. Keep Hellraid in your sights leading up to its
digital release next year on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
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