There's a gateway to Hell in London, seriously, no joke. It's probably somewhere just off Trafalgar Square and I'm sure some of the drivers would say it's one of the many toll roads. All jesting aside we fast forwards to the future and the world, not just Merry Olde England has been swamped by demonic forces from the darkest depths of the pit itself.
Thus begins Hellgate London kicking off with a pretty impressive cinematic and promising to be an interesting, part-MMO style romp through the demon infested city streets and sewers that make up the London of the future, where mankind uses subway terminals as safe havens from the satanic hordes that attempt to corrode the very fabric of society...well...they also eat people too.
It comes from industry veterans that cut their teeth on the likes of Battle.net and Diablo, and well, it's almost an unofficial sequel to Diablo/Diablo II. It can be played single player offline, online with others in a very Guild Wars style and if you're willing to pay for the service you can unlock more MMO content and so forth. My problem is that I'm mined out with MMOs, they're coming out of the woodwork and none of them really do anything original.
Granted, Hellgate London has some very nifty features and it's got the kinds of things you'd expect from an MMO, it's just not quite there yet. The developers put out regular patches and content, both for paying customers and non-paying customers, obviously those who are paying a monthly fee get the best deal and gear for their money.
So, the gameplay of Hellgate London brings with it nothing truly fresh. The character design is good, you have a fair amount of control over the initial look of your character and the game allows you to play several decent classes.
Each of the classes is broken down into 3 sub groups.
The Hunters: Marksman (long range killer), Engineer (builds tech robots and so on)
The Cabalists: Evoker (magic user), Summoner (summons demons and so on)
The Templar: Guardians (tank style warriors, do lots of close in fighting), Blademaster (warriors, showy, wield two weapons and do a lot of high damage attacks)
There are a few game modes, normal and elite (open to non-subscribers), elite being unlocked when you complete the game. Hardcore mode is open to paying customers only and gives you one life, once you die, that's it. Your character is wiped so to speak, end of story, everything you had is gone.
It's a fun game if you want to waste some time here and there, it's not as deep as some of the other MMO's I could mention, nor is it as engaging and since it uses a hub system like Guild Wars, there's no real feeling of connection with any of the other players. In fact, most of the players in HGL are so elitist that the only hope I had of getting any kind of mp to review it came when a couple of my friends bought the game and I played with them.
It has a fairly reasonable crafting system that allows you to break down your gear into component parts, you can get: scrap metals, blessed shards, runic metal, tech components. Each of these actually allows you to upgrade something in the NanoForge when you have the requisite amounts for the weapon or so on.
You place them in the slots and you'll gain an upgrade.
You can also give components to NPC crafters that make random gear that changes each time you enter a haven, safe zone.
You can also make use of the Augmentrex 3000, a device that uses in game money (palladium) to imbue your item with a random quality, depending on the type of quality you require the cost varies from the item's level multiplied by the quality of upgrade. For example, a level one item with a common attribute would cost 100 palladium.
Furthermore you can enhance weapons with mods, these are plug-ins that offer a boost to various attributes or add an effect to a weapon.
As in most MMO's, your character also has skills and as you progress through the levels you'll gain more skill points as well as level up stats, so nothing has really changed here. Some armour and equipment requires a certain attribute cost to use or wear it, so you'll want to make sure you upgrade those things.
There are plenty of quests and side quests in Hellgate London that range from killing a certain type of monster, finding an item to battling a demonic boss on the story questline. They're not terribly original but at least they're fun and the way the game handles dynamic level design means that you're always going to find a new place to fight the hordes of hell.
Basically, the game generates areas randomly in a system that's similar to Diablo 1 and 2, except its obviously far more advanced than either. It can handle complex twisting corridors and maze-like interiors as well as sprawling wasted urban environments packed with debris and hellish creatures. It also handles multi-level environments too, so you can find that you'll be exploring downwards as well as in massive cavernous sewer systems and outdoor locales.
The graphics are pretty good, the design is very good and the whole crumbled, destroyed London feel is excellent. There are a few server issues online here and there and some slowdown on older machines but when you put this on Vista under DirectX10 it looks pretty nice and has lots of light/volumetric fog and so on to increase the immersion in that post-apocalyptic atmosphere.
The voice acting is somewhat bland and the sound effects are run of the mill, the animation is decent and the dialogue is passable. All in all it's an average game that isn't mind-blowing but unlike some reviews said, it's not rubbish either. There's a lot of fun to be had levelling up your character and trying out the various classes. If you're a fan of MMO's and you're looking for less grind than most of the others, then Hellgate London could be for you.