The team at Flagship Studios, the creators of Hellgate: London, had a tall order to fill. The last time this team produced a game, they were still at Blizzard, where they gave us the iconic Diablo II and its expansion pack, The Lord of Destruction. While they bring many of the things to Hellgate that made those two titles great, they have dropped the ball in many ways, leading to a disappointing product that fails to live up to its expectations.
In Hellgate, it is the near future and Demons have invaded Earth. You play as one of the last surviving members of humanity, striving to drive out the Demon occupation and reclaim the surface. On the way, you’ll battle both endless hordes of monsters as well as unique bosses and rare and epic versions of basic monsters. Players can choose from one of six classes, split into three basic categories: the melee oriented Templars, remnants of a holy order that has been preparing for the invasion for centuries, the magic wielding Cabalists, who turn the energies and powers of the demons against them, and the Hunters, the ragtag remnants of humanity’s armed forces. While the game originally launched with an online service available to players, that has since been shut down due to the game being a commercial flop, and now only single-player play is available
While you probably are already filled with visions of battling endless hordes of the damned Army-of-Darkness-style with an endless supply of ammo and weaponry, there are some major problems with this game. First and foremost, the game has serious issues with how it handles system resources. The average load time on a 3 GHz 64-bit processor with 1 gb of DDR ram from the moment you click the icon to when you are in the game ranges from 6 minutes on the low end to as long as 15 minutes online during peak hours. This creates a huge barrier to enjoying the game, and is really just unacceptable in this day and age, especially for a product that has been in development for so long. While Flagship claims to be working on a solution to this problem, we are currently over two months out of the gate and the situation has really not improved. The game also crashes at a frustratingly frequent rate on my system. My record for continuous play time without a crash is two hours, and from what I’ve heard from others I know that are/have played the game, this is not a phenomenon unique to my experience with the game. These two features combine to create a situation where, on the rare occasion that you are willing to sit through the load time, you will probably only play until the first crash, and once you reboot your machine, you will likely simply find a different game. The environments are also very stilted, and players will quickly find themselves noticing repeats in the tile sets that rapidly become extremely dull and put a serious damper on player immersion.
That is not to say this title is a total loss, however. The game does recreate, fairly successfully, the feeling of one man against impossible odds that Flagship produced so well in Diablo II. Also, they do a really good job of spinning a story more complex than the basic “retake earth from invader x, y, or z” that it very easily could have become. The loot-grinding system of the Diablo games returns here, and adds in an innovative twist, such as the ability to upgrade gear you’ve grown attached to so that it stays comparable in value. The variety of Monsters is excellent, ranging from standard issue zombies and demon bats to giant slugs the size of houses that produce smaller monsters that run at players at explode. The epic scale of some of the combats left my pulse pounding like few titles have recently, and certainly more than I can remember for any RPG game in a long time.
Once in awhile, a game comes along that really provokes frustration and irritation. While the potential for a good game is there in Hellgate, the diamond is lost in so much rough that few gamers will ever find it, and most will simply give up long before they ever find it, especially in the current market of high competition in the PC RPG market. If you can get this title to work, there is a good game there, but only if you can get it to work.
Experience with the game: Played through 95% of the game in multiplayer, 25% in single player.