|Distributor||Bandai Namco Games |
|Released||October 30, 2007 |
|Genre||Action-RPG w/ FPS elements|
|Modes||Single player, multiplayer|
Hellgate: London is a computer game developed by Flagship Studios. The design of the game is similar in a number of ways to the Diablo series. This is due to influence of Flagship Studios co-founders including a number of ex-Blizzard North employees, including Diablo series creators Erich Schaefer and former President David Brevik. The other founders are Erich's brother Max Schaefer, former Blizzard North Vice President Bill Roper, and Diablo II producer Kenneth Williams.
Hellgate: London is a role-playing game (RPG) which has some first-person shooter (FPS) elements in a post-apocalyptic setting. Gameplay is based heavily on the character's stats, as per role-playing games. The FPS element of Hellgate: London will be seen in the Hunter faction and will require some skill to use. Soft-aim will be included in the game as a form of aim assistance.
The game, like its spiritual predecessor Diablo, builds heavily upon the core design of Roguelikes. Notably it embraces the game design philosophy of using random generation to allow for a high degree of replayability and countless unique gameplay experiences.
The game will re-launch in 2018 as "Version 2.0," as a singleplayer-only game.
Hellgate: London takes place in 2038, 18 years after the start of a war: London has been invaded by demons from Hell. These particular hellions are a tireless lot, and have been looking for a way into our universe for a long time. Up until recently, humans have had many champions looking to hold back the flood. Various real-world events are referenced in the background of the Hellgate story as averted crossover attempts. The Crusades were actually undertaken to fight back the minions of Hell, as was the charring of London in the great fire to wipe out the Plague. According to the story line, the famous Knights Templar were the keepers of knowledge on how to battle these demonic forces. Unfortunately, these heroes underwent a charring of their own at the hands of a jealous King Phillip IV, who hated the power they held in the world at large. While the Knights Templar survived as an organization, their numbers were severely diminished and were forced to remain in hiding to stay alive.
As time passed and technology progressed, the old ways began to fade from memory and the secrets of the arcane were lost. When the demons attacked again, they found their enemies unprepared. Ordinary weapons were no use against the demons, who could shrug off an RPG round. The Templars offered their special services to the military, but the leaders balked, refusing to believe in the new truths. Hell quickly took the victory in the battle for Earth. The Burn, a decades-long process of "hellforming" or turning our world into theirs, has begun.
However all is not lost, as various groups have been preparing for just such an eventuality. Freemasons built the London Underground to be demon resistant, and as such the stations now act as bases, "safe zones" for would-be defenders. These defenders are armed with a fusion of modern weaponry and arcane magic such as flamethrowers that throw Greek fire. In the game, you play one of these defenders.
Hellgate: London combines role-playing game mechanics with first-person shooter gameplay. Although the game looks and plays much like a first-person shooter, characters do level up, receive points to spend into skills or character statistics, and the outcome of a battle is influenced as much by items as by player skill.
High replayability is attempted through randomly generated levels, randomly placed monsters and fully random item drops and modifiers.
Multiplayer is focussed on cooperative player vs. environment (PvE) combat, there will be a simple duel-based player vs. player (PvP) mode, and Elite subscribers will gain access to full-fledged arenas and a PvP ladder.
In multiplayer mode, players can meet and organize for team play and quests in safe zones - the old Underground stations, protected by the Freemasons' wards. The world will not be split in "shards" or servers, but rather play like a massively multiplayer online game with heavy instancing, such as Guild Wars. Like in Diablo II, but unlike in most 'true' MMORPGs, grouping with other players is optional. Every character is capable of soloing the entire game, though grouping will bring benefits in terms of experience gain and items. Difficulty will be balanced much like it is in Diablo II, where the opposition grows stronger as more players play in the instanced areas.
While it has been stated on the PC Gamer magazine that Hellgate: London will support Windows Vista and DirectX 10, Flagship Studios has made repeated statements that the game will run perfectly well on Windows XP and DirectX 9 based systems. The game is said to be capable of running just as easily on computers as old as 4 years with some settings disabled.
During CES 2007, it was announced that the game will support a single player mode as well as some form of free online gaming, but also a paid online mode, where it is still to be decided exactly which method of payment that will be used. Cole Trethewey, founder and CEO of Flagship Studios, confirmed this in later interviews.
The pricing model for Hellgate: London was initially discussed as being extremely similar to both Diablo II (because of the Blizzard North connection) and Guild Wars, another of Diablo's spiritual descendants: an expansion based pricing model that involved no monthly fees. When Flagship hinted at monthly fees in January, 2007, many fans expressed their shock and discontent, with some who planned to pre-order the game claiming they would no longer purchase it at all. Following the outburst of controversy, Flagship announced that the pricing model was not yet decided upon and stressed its commitment to free online play.
The official subscription plan, costing $10 (U.S.) a month in exchange for "Elite" status, was eventually announced in the Games for Windows magazine. Shacknews reported a price of $9.95 per month. There are two types of multiplayer accounts: free and Elite (paid) accounts. The main benefit of paying is that Elite status is required to receive ongoing content updates, expected to be released every two or three months. The initial content updates will include socketed armor, more monsters, more weapons, additional item sets and special quests for ultimate items. New dungeons will also be included in content updates, accessible using a special subscriber-only dropship.
Additionally, Elite players will be allowed twelve character slots instead of 3, access to a Hardcore mode similar to Diablo II (basically permadeath), special PvP arenas and a PvP ladder, the ability to bypass server queues, a shared storage space with room for 40 items instead of 20, the ability to create guilds, the ability to achieve officer status in guilds, and 24-hour customer support.
Elite and non-Elite players will be able to interact in all ways in the game. Non-Elite players can join guilds, but not create them.
One feature of the Elite plan that is commonly misunderstood is the soft level cap. Some have claimed that free accounts have a lower level cap. The level cap is in fact set to 50 for both subscribers and non-subscribers, but experience gain for free accounts will drastically slow down at level 35 to 40 due to the lack of higher level content in the boxed game. Elite accounts will have access to higher level dungeons and will therefore be able to level up faster.
The Elite plan has caused some controversy within the Hellgate: London community, because many fans who did not intend to subscribe were worried that the subscription plan would cannibalise the free game, downgrading free players to second-class citizens. Others claimed that a free multiplayer model similar to Diablo II would be untenable due to the more advanced engine of Hellgate London and the associated higher server and bandwidth costs.
Because the game is instanced like Guild Wars and Diablo II — not truly massive — some gamers believe that monthly fees are especially unfair. In an instanced game, each party of characters is assigned its own copy of the current dungeon, and cannot interact with other players outside the party fighting in the same dungeon. This generates far less server load, with users' computers doing much of the work. This would make the pricing structure similar to the Phantasy Star Online games. Finally, this pricing decision moves the game into more direct competition with the popular World of Warcraft, which dominates the monthly fee massively multiplayer online role-playing game genre.
Expansion packs have been mentioned in past interviews, and have not been ruled out to date. Due to regular "elite only" content updates, expansion packs may only serve to bring a majority of this content (e.g. not including special event content such as Holiday events) to the game's single-player mode. In this way, loyal fans, who are willing to pay the $9.95 monthly, are rewarded with content of which free online players would not have access. This complex type of payment for content plan has yet to be attempted in the American market.
Factions and Classes
Being an action RPG modelled on Diablo II, Hellgate: London features no designated tank, healer, or dps classes. All classes simply do damage and heal themselves.
As published in the May 2007 issue of PC Gamer, there are six classes in Hellgate: London, divided equally among the three factions in the game. The factions, "Cabalist", "Templar" and "Hunter" represent the different approaches towards the demon invasion. Cabalists are witches and warlocks, templars are holy knights in shining armour, and hunters are high tech soldiers. All characters of a given faction share the same graphics, quests, storyline and some generic character skills, like the ability to throw grenades.
Within each faction, there are two classes. Cabalists have the Evoker, a frail but powerful direct damage spellcaster, and the Summoner, with few direct attacks but strong minions. Templars have the Guardian, a defensive class that receives bonuses for being surrounded, and the Blademaster, who can wield two swords and trades defense for damaging power. Finally, Hunters have the Marksman, the classic first-person shooter class, and the Engineer, a high-tech version of the Summoner, using hovering attack bots and armed drones.
Each class has its own class-specific . Templar classes typically use Swords and heavy plate armour; Cabalist classes use "Focus Items", power gloves that allow one to cast spells; and Hunter classes rely on high-powered rifles and cannons, but have weaker armor.
The game world of Hellgate: London is a massive set of perilous environments, featuring safe zones (disused Underground stations) connected by numerous demon-infested dungeons and city streets. The journey between zones will be randomly generated, as in Diablo II, but unlike Diablo II the levels will be fully 3D. Randomly generating convincing 3D levels is technically fairly difficult; it was attempted in Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix to mixed critical response. For this reason, Hellgate: London uses its own proprietary graphics engine, an upgraded version of the Mythos engine. Included in this randomization is randomly generated enemies, as well as weaponry used by the enemies.
The game will feature London areas and buildings of interest, and indeed St Paul's Cathedral was featured in an early concept art drawing, hinting further at this. Another building that has been brought up in an interview is Big Ben. However, the developers are still keeping these details, and which role such buildings may play in the game, mostly to themselves and thus a surprise for the gamers.
The game has been revealed to consist of five acts to unify the areas a player travels through on a greater scale. This act system is also used in other games of the action-RPG genre, not to mention the five acts of Diablo II. These acts actually will be transparent and the user will have a very difficult time realizing they just moved to a new act.
The safe zones scattered across the world will act like safe havens to purchase and upgrade items at NPC merchants, interact with other people in the game world, and gather and complete quests. The safe zones are the only parts of the world that are not instanced.
The game will offer three different quest types:
- Storyline - Special "scripted" quests following the storyline tightly and moving it forward. Key quests will be shared here, but the journey between those quests is different for each player.
- "'Template"' - Template quests are pretty straightforward. They are built off eight basic formulas: collect, explore, escort, infestation, hunt, travel/talk-and-do, use item, and operate object.
- Task - Generic quests believed to have more random objectives, given by NPCs out in the game world. Completing these quests increases one's reputation to unlock class-specific quests,n˜ as well as revealing new items and giving experience for new levels. Many tasks are in fact randomised, and the NPC may or may not appear in a given game. Some tasks are harder to find than others.˜
Hellgate: London can be played in a first person perspective for guns and a third person perspective for both guns and melee weapons. Third person perspective is usually regarded as better for melee combat, where wider peripheral vision is more important than precise, long-distance aiming.
Although the game looks like a shooter, pinpoint aiming skills are not required. Most weapons track their targets, lock on, or simply carpet an area with explosives. However, not all weapons are so easy to use. The game will indeed contain sniper rifles and other weapons that require accurate manual aiming, though most of said weapons are exclusive to the Hunter faction.
The weapons will base their power on character stats more than a player's aiming skills, being more of an RPG than an FPS in this regard. For example, a player can place points in an Accuracy statistic that determines the randomness of the rounds they fire. The more points into Accuracy you have, the tighter the spread of the bullets will be.
Unlike Diablo II, each weapon type does have a very different effect. For example, the Grizzly Rifle fires a stream of energy that causes splash damage on impact; the Rebounder fires elastic energy balls that ricochet off walls; and the Cabalist-only Locust Hive is a short ranged rifle that causes a swarm of robotic insects to sting and damage the target over time. Melee weapons are less varied, but there are swords that can inflict toxic poison or explode with splash damage on striking.
Besides the behaviour, the weapons, close and ranged combat alike, can do several different kinds of damage. Each damage type also imparts a special negative effect on a critical hit:
- Physical Damage - Can cause enemies to get knocked down.
- Fire Damage - Can set targets on fire, draining 5% of their total life per second.
- Spectral Damage - Phase shifts targets, causing them to deal 50% less damage and take 50% more.
- Toxic Damage - Poisons the targets, making them suffer negative effects over time.
- Electrical Damage - Can stun a target, rendering it unable to move or attack.
Hellgate: London will heavily use a randomized item system of at least a hundred base weapon types and many armour types, with a pool of random special properties and bonuses (magical affixes) applied to them to achieve replayability and promote item collection. Like Diablo II, each item can be regular, rare, legendary or unique.
Additionally, weapons can be upgraded with "mods", which can be added or removed using a machine in a safe zone. Mods range from rocket packs that add splash damage to bullet weapons to power cells that stun the target. Only weapons can be upgraded in this fashion, though socketed armour will be made available after launch to Elite subscribers.
As in Diablo II, item hunting is expected to be the most popular endgame activity, though the game should be less focussed on endless boss runs as the sole means to acquire good items.
Item requirements are handled differently than in Diablo II. Instead of having to meet a certain amount of strength or dexterity to use an item, you can equip most items without limit but each equipped item will count towards a maximum allowed "weight". Putting points into strength or accuracy increases the maximum, allowing you to wear more heavy items.
For example, if you have 80 strength, all your items together may not require more than 80 strength. You could equip an armour that requires 80 strength and no other items; or an armour, belt, boots and gloves that require 20 strength each.
The items may have slots that a player can insert "mods" in to enhance their power. Mods can be technology that improves items, but also demonic artifacts and holy items, currently known as relics. Technology mods are more aimed at specific weaponry upgrades, whilst relics are more general in what bonuses they give, such as giving fire damage enhancements regardless of the wielded weapon. It is also believed that game characters may have their own physical slots for similar purposes, and that mods will be removable, unlike in Diablo. Some types are listed below:
- Ammo Magazines - Modify the amount, type, range, or accuracy of weapons. Magazines can be magical or technological in nature.
- Battery Packs - Battery packs charge weapons with different types of damage, such as ice, fire, or physical.
- Fuel Tanks - Convey different damage types onto weapons.
- Relics - Often considered holy, relics may be part of a greater item or an item previously owned by someone of great ability.
- Rockets - Like ammo magazines rockets change the type of ammo a weapon uses while adding an explosive element, often making it more powerful.
Little is known about the skill system, and it has undergone several transformations during development. Currently, there are about 27 learnable skills per class. Levelling up rewards you with a skill point, which can be invested into any skill you have access to (as in, you meet the required level and have all required precursor skills). The maximum skill level is lower than in Diablo II, because the character level cap is 50 instead of 99. Most skills max out at skill level 6-10.
Unlike Diablo II, where the best strategy was to choose as few skills as possible and put every available skill point into them, Hellgate: London will encourage more diversity by reducing the impact of additional skill points. Most attacks will use your weapon damage to determine their power; additional skill points will merely reduce the mana cost, increase the range, reduce the cooldown, or improve some other secondary property.
The skill trees are currently still under wraps, but some skills are already known. Examples include:
An offensive melee character, with few defensive skills but packing a lot of damage. Example: Whirlwind causes the character to spin like a top, swords outstretched, damaging everything nearby.
A more defensively oriented melee character, doing less damage but gaining bonuses when surrounded by enemies. Example: Holy Fire Aura adds fire damage to your sword, based on how many enemies are within a given radius around you.
A fragile but powerful long ranged spellcaster that does massive damage, but is vulnerable when cornered. Example: Arc Legion casts multiple streams of lightning from the character's focus device, hitting several enemies or the same enemy multiple times.
A character that fights indirectly, summoning and managing minions to fight for the caster, and using damage over time weapons. Example: Summon Shrieker summons flying demons that attempt to attack and dive-bomb your enemies.
The proverbial first-person shooter character, with many skills to enhance his or her weaponry. Example: Sniper Stance locks the character in place but provides a range bonus and sniper scope.
A minion class similar to the Summoner, with expendable minions as well as combat drones that can wield weapons. Example: Assault Drone summons a hovering bot that can use two-handed rifles.
- Necros - The creators of undead and masters of necromatic powers.
- Beasts - The least cunning demons with the most animal-like behavior.
- Spectrals - Mysterious ghost-like beings only partially existing in our world.
- Example: Orbile, Soul Reaper
- Primus - The intelligent and fearsome dukes of hell, often more organised than most other demons. Able to build and use custom equipment.
- Example: Shulgoth
In the April 2007 edition of PC Gamer, the disc included an intro video to Hellgate: London. The sequence shows an intense battle but no gameplay. The video did, however, give a good look at some of the potential monsters that will be in the game.
The June edition of South African gaming magazine, NAG, A 'by-catalogue' of games reviewing future releases published that Hellgate: London would be released sometime in the coming month.
A comic book adaptation of Hellgate: London has also been released. Spanning a series of four issues, it is written by Ian Edginton, illustrated by Steve Pugh, and published by Dark Horse Comics. The issues will be collected into a trade paperback to be published in June 2007 (ISBN 1-59307-681-9).
There will also be a trilogy of novels based on Hellgate: London written by Mel Odom. The first novel, called Exodus was released on Halloween 2007. The second novel, called Goetia was released on February 26th of 2008. The third novel, called Convenant was released on August 26, 2008.
- Flagship Studios (Updated 2013)