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Hellgate London Preview

I met with Andrew Wong of EA and Bill Roper of Flagship Studios a few days ago to talk about the upcoming action RPG Hellgate London. Overall I was pretty impressed with it and stayed to talk to Bill for a long time.

I'm trying something new with this entry. I took notes during the demo and I'm writing this directly from the notes so it probably won't flow as well as most of my entries by will probably contain more information. My guess is that you probably came here for information and not for beautiful prose.

They wanted to make the starting area compact and simple for players to navigate. The London Underground is a safe zone so when you're there you don't have to worry about getting attacked. Everything starts with a tutorial. NPCs have quests for you so you have to walk around and talk to all of them. If the quest is blue then it is part of the major story arc. The cool thing about the game is that it is both single player and MMO, so in theory there's tons of replayability which is somewhat refreshing today. You can buy the box and play on your own for about 30-40 hours, then you can go online where there will be additional game modes and story lines. Flagship intends to work tightly with community to tailor the game to be the experience that players want.

Every time you go out on an adventure the area and all the contents are randomly generated. Two people can do the same level or quest and have two totally different experiences. My general impression is that the game looks good and has nice shadowing and fire effects. There's actually a huge mothership kind of thing that casts a massive shadow over the city so shadows come and go and the effect is very cool. The point of the game is to fight demons on the surface, and they're an ugly bunch. There's a lot of finding, buying and selling items which is always a big element of these games.

Flagship has made every effort to make the game playable for both hardcore and nonhardcore gamers. They've tried to simplify menus and also make keys context sensitive so you don't have to hunt for certain functions. For example, the left shift can make you sprint during combat. Alt brings up the action menu, your inventory is drag and drop, as is modding your weapons and leveling up your skills. The automap and quest log shown on the screen.

There is pretty good diversity in game play for the different classes. The hunter is more like an FPS than an RPG where you aim with a reticle and shoot from the hip. The first person features were designed in from the beginning so it feels right. If youŕe hunter with engineering skills (thank you hellgateguru.com) you can build drones that help you fight, drop health, project shields and more. The templar is melee based third person only; he can use the grappler which is a cool weapon that drags enemies in so you can bash them. This can be very useful for enemies with ranged attacks or flying enemies. The game is very playable using each different character class. All of the character classes have to be able to complete the game solo and all character classes have to be playable in solo mode. The cabbalist is a spell caster who uses the powers of the demons against them. They us focus items to channel the energy

One interesting thing is that armor is color themed meaning that individual pieces now match instead of giving the usual patchwork feel. Also you can make a guild color theme and share it with your guild. You can also mod your weapons to enhance capabilities. The armor colors and the mods on weapons are ways to individualize yourself within the game. Using different items require different attributes which creates a whole system of trade offs.

The game is scheduled for release in summer 07.

UPDATE 02/28/07
This story got noticed (surprisingly) a few hours ago and now it's really getting a lot of traffic. I honestly had no idea that Hellgate had such a following and it isn't even coming out for 4+ months. In the discussion forum at hellgateguru.com somone pointed out that I had made a mistake when I originally posted the story. I said that there was an engineer class. There is no engineer class. I was looking at a Hunter with engineering skills.

As of 6 pm EST, an unbelievable 47% of today's traffic is on this page.

It's also very interesting how different sites/bloggers pick out different tidbits of this entry and write about them. For example, at www.hellgatelondon.de they mention that you can have guild colors for your armor, while at the previously mentioned hellgateguru.com they're more focused on class. They're also discussing this post on hellgate.ingame.de

This is really cool stuff. I'm so happy that gamers all over the world find this site useful.

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