Hellgate Review

The first thing that should be cleared up is that Hellgate is not an MMO, it is a gear-centric, hack-n-slash action rpg with some elements of the fps genre incorporated. The best way to think of it is as a new incarnation of Diablo. The plot goes that London has been invaded by demons and the city destroyed. Players take on the role of a sort of resistance movement based in the tunnels of London's subway system trying to beat back the demon hordes.

The game world consists of a series of occupied subway terminals housing npcs that hand out missions, lockers to store your stuff in, vendors, and craft stations as well as portals to other areas. All areas outside of the base are instanced and there can be multiple copies of each at the same time to prevent overcrowding. Each adventure area is a small map with semi random features that is heavily populated by a variety of demons. In addition to the standard map content there is also the chance to find passages to 'side areas'. These side areas might be a short tunnel full of cash, the lair of an elite demon, or a gate that leads down into a portion of hell itself. Monster populations fall into the random category and include 'rare' and 'elite' monsters that are meaner and harder to kill than the normal variety.

There are six classes which are broken into 3 categories. Melee, Magic, and Ranged. For melee classes there is the guardian who uses sword and shield like the traditional tank and the blademaster who uses two swords at the same time. For magic you have the Evoker which is your archetypal 'nuker' class with a range of elemental spells and the Summoner who can conjure his own platoon of demons and imps. The ranged classes are the Marksman and Engineer. The engineer creates drones that assist him in combat by slowing the enemy, distracting them, or by directly doing damage. The Marksman is a gun specialist with skills to enhance the use of ranged weapons in combat. Each pairing shares many of the same skills but also has a handful of abilities that only that class can access.

The game can be played entirely solo. All of the classes are capable of going out and killing things just fine on their own. If you get killed you have three options: You can ressurect on the spot for a fee, you can opt to start over at the map entrance and ghost run back to your grave marker, or return to the last station you visited. All options are accompanied by a 5 minute stat debuff. The only class I had any difficulty with was the Marksman. There were one or two bosses that I simply could not beat w/o getting killed (repeatedly) because my damage output was too low to break through their regeneration/healing or because they could catch me and tear me apart before I could defeat them. The game does increase in difficulty as you progress and death becomes somewhat more common as you go. The most frequent cause of death is when first entering a map. On occasion the entrance will be surrounded by several camps of powerful enemies who will all converge on you at once when you start fighting.

In addition to killing things for experience and advancing levels players will be constantly striving to improve their gear and find better equipment. There are 5 tiers of gear at all levels: normal (white), modified (green) , rare (blue), legendary (orange), and unique (yellow). Each weapon has a rating prominently displayed on the tooltip as a number. The number is not an indicator of how much damage it does. To see the actual damage you will have to look at the detailed stats of the item. Some weapons may have upgrade slots in addition to other properties. There can be from 1 to as many as 9 slots on a weapon. There are 5 types of upgrade slots and 5 types of upgrades that can be placed in them. All you have to do is match the pictures to figure out what goes where.

If you have an item you like you needn't fear outgrowing it. There is a craft station called the Nano-Forge that can be used to increase the level of the item as you progress. In order to use it you will need salvage. You get salvage by destroying other items. Any item can be upgraded to your level +1. If the item is too high for you to upgrade the machine will indicate you need more experience.

In addition to slot-ables and the nano-forge there is also the mod-o-matic 3000 that will add up to 5 special properties to an item. These enhancements fall into three categories: common, rare, and legendary. All this machine requires is money, and lots of it. The enhancement you get is entirely random for the category and it often seems like common properties are more beneficial than rare ones. So far I have never purchased a 'legendary' enhancement.

You are able to have three weapon load-outs equipped at the same time and switch between them on the fly by using the F1,2, and 3 keys. It can be useful having a variety of damage types ready to go or enhancing your weapons to be more effective against specific categories of enemy (which are demon, necro, spectral, and beast). Each damage type has an associated special effect. Physical has a chance to stun. Spectral damage can cause things to become phased so that they do half damage and take double. Fire can cause things to burn for 5% of their total health per second. Electric attacks have a chance to cause 'shock' and poison prevents healing.

All this creates an enormous variety of weapons and armor that can be equipped for specific advantages giving players a lot of room for choice and customization when building their character and adapting it to their play style. In the long run I think this is where the game will succeed or die. It wont take long for players to work their way through the available missions and see every map. What will keep them around or not is how well the item system grabs them and if they feel compelled to spend hours looking for that perfect upgrade or try just one more combination of skills and enhancements. The combat itself is fast paced and enjoyable which largely negates any sensation of 'grinding'. Weather or not all the pieces will come together to create a compelling experience in the long term is something only time will reveal.

The game can be played as a stand-alone single player title or it can be played online. If you decide to go online you have the option of playing for free or ponying up a $9.99 / month subscriber fee. If you were wondering what paying the subscriber fee gets you here's your answer:

Subscriber Features

Elite Mode
This is for those players that always feel a game is too easy. The demons are tougher, deal out more damage, move faster, travel in larger groups, and have more champions at the ready. Numerous tweaks to the overall balance and progression of the game make this an extremely challenging mode.

Hardcore mode takes away the various resurrection options. For the gamer that wants the ultimate test, try playing an Elite Hardcore character!

Themed Events and Items

Halloween (October 31 – November 4)

*Zombot - A special pet just for All Hallows’, this amalgam of meat and metal is sure to frighten and delight those players that are willing to put in the time to find all the necessary pieces in order to construct him.

*All Hallow’s Visage - A Unique Helm that has not only very special properties, but as well a look unlike any other helm in the game. Ghost Rider would be jealous!

*All Hallow’s Treats - Delicious and devious, these different candies do everything from temporarily boosting stats to temporarily altering the appearance of the devourer.

*All Hallows’ Quests - There is a pair of special quests available, including one that is repeatable for continuous fun.

*Nemo ~ Master of Festivities - This special NPC can first be found in Covent Garden Station to greet players and send them on their way with quests specifically crafted for the season.

Guild Creation
Buy purchasing a Guild Herald, a character can form a new guild. Characters can only be part of one guild at a time and should a Guild leader decide to abandon their post, they can pass leadership of the Guild to another subscribing guild member.

These are long-term goals for players. The player starts with a few new goals in an Achievement Log. These can be as simple as slaying a certain amount of specific demons to something as difficult as completing quests without the benefit of armor! Players uncover new goals as they start to meet the requirements of that achievement. For example, after 50 zombies have been slain, an “Achievement Unlocked” message displays on the screen. Checking the Achievement Log shows how many zombies must be eradicated to complete the achievement. Rewards for completing achievements can be anything from reputation to tags on the player to special particle effects to items to special skills to – well, anything is possible!

Extra Character Slots
While everyone gets 3 character slots, subscribers can have a maximum of 24 characters.

Larger Stash
Each character’s storage locker is doubled in size with an extra 6x8 section, making the hoarding of all sorts of goodies that much easier. Packrats rejoice!

Founder’s Perks
Name Color
Forum Icon
More to come… (this will be an on-going area, as well)

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