Hellgate: London was touted as the “spiritual successor to Diablo II” ((Hellgate is ‘spiritual successor to Diablo II” – Roper)), but it had a horrible launch, it copped a lot of flack for game killing bugs which drove people away in, well, droves.
Six months after launch I thought I’d dig out the dusty copy I have (which I bought really cheap from a disgruntled player about 3 weeks after he bought it on launch) which I had put away after playing for about an hour for the same reasons he sold it, the game was horribly fun-killingly buggy.
Six months later a lot has changed, multiple patches to fix the bugs and add content have brought this game out of the ranks of failures in to a perfectly playable and fun game, for me anyway. If the server population is any guide people have stuck around and are returning/starting fresh, not in droves but in numbers enough to sustain the game, but who knows for how long (what is critical mass for a game which is free to play anyway?).
Some reasons I like Hellgate: London:
- The graphics are stunning and it runs very smooth on my PC, there are some areas where the framerate drops below 20 but they’re not common enough to bother me.
- I am getting a very Diablo-like feel so far. The monsters are plentiful and easy to kill, drop loot like rain, the play mechanics are similar and grouping/partying is very similar.
- It’s not an MMO. While there are guilds and grouping mechanics the game can be played entirely as if it is single player, in fact, there is a single player version of the game you can play completely offline if you want. This is similar to Diablo, but you can’t bring your Single Player character to an online server/game.
- Like Diablo, there are different difficulties. You have to complete the game on the normal level before unlocking higher difficulties which are harder (duh) but also give better rewards.
- It’s FREE to play, sort of. You can pay for a subscription ($10 per month) but from what I gather most of the benefits of subscribing are only worth it in the end-game (creating guilds, the highest difficulty level, some new content, unique items, larger inventory).
There are still some issues:
- Occasionally the framerate drops below 5 and the game almost locks up, in most case this only last for a few seconds but in those few seconds if you have a horde of demons trying to suck your brain through your nose, it can get annoying.
- Even though there are no MMO elements to the game, I have been playing later than I normally do, not much later, just later. This is normal when I find a game which holds my attention for more than 5 minutes so it will get better.
- It can be a bit of a grind, but no more than I remember Diablo being. You enter an area, kill everything, take the loot and return to town. There is a arching storyline, but most of the quests are “Collect X items”.
I think it’s a shame that this game crashed (literally and figuratively) as hard as it did when it was first launched because there was a lot of well earned hype which was overshadowed by launch issues. The fact that I’m still playing after a week and haven’t touched GTA4 since my XBOX came back is a sign that the game is worth a try.