Ballistic Interactive’s highly anticipated supernatural investigation RPG HellSign has finally clawed its way to PC. Where you are a Hunter, the last line of defense between our world and the savage creatures that lurk just outside. By investigating the world around you and reading the evidence you’ll learn more about what you’re hunting and how to kill it. Offering players a unique experience depending on their understanding of the game mechanics (Skill building, Lore reading, paying attention to everything that you find and using your brain). With all of that in mind did Ballistic interactive’s game hit the marker? Scroll down to find out!
“Woken up with the vague memory of having died the night before in a drug-induced state of delirium while on a dangerous job. There is a fresh brand upon your skin, a brand you do not remember but which causes you great unease.
You find yourself following a bloody track where strange sightings have been recorded, from spectral women beckoning people into the fog, to spiders as large as wolves, Australia is a dangerous place to live in…”
HellSign offers a nice mix of simple yet complex mechanics that make up the core mechanics. It all depends on the kind of mission that you are doing. Missions range from scouting areas for signs of supernatural and others are hunt missions where you are looking for specific creatures. You will have to think of your toes with a good amount of the game whether it’s setting traps, basing decisions of sounds (each type of creature has a specific sound that they make), pay attention to your journal that you jot down key information that helps guide you during your missions, then of course fully equipping yourself with weapons and complimenting those weapons with skill sets. Notice your surroundings for a lot of information is scattered throughout the generated maps.
The controls are clunky where moving feels like a chore from time to time since the character just feels off when he moves. Movement system isn’t clunky enough to where you’d want to put the game down. The instigating function is what really shines in this category. This core mechanic is simple yet extremely effective since it changes the way the mission will play-out drastically (You’ll stumble on things that will give you an edge, or find things that will help you down the road). You can investigate almost anything on the mission maps which is nice and frustrating at the same time. The reason i say frustrating is because there is a bug that happens randomly where your character will get stuck and it will cause the game to crash (thus making the mission fail).
The combat isn’t the smoothest aspect of the game but it’s far from the worst. A recent patch ended up fixing an issue that was present in a good portion of the game. The guns worked but didn’t work. Moments they’d actual fire and shots would register while other moments they wouldn’t fire at all. I still get it every now and then but not as much as it was before the patch. The traps that can be set really do make up for the short handedness of the gun mechanics. They almost always work the way they were meant to work which is refreshing for this game.
The writing is fun, it’s over the top silly while also being informative when it comes to the supernatural aspects. The characters you run into are funny and they are straight to the point of what ever they are trying to get across. The lore on the demons are written quite well to where they mix what’s already known with them with some extra information.
The demons that can talk are the standouts when it comes to the strength of the writing. They have such strong personalities to where the player wants to engage with them and not skip the dialogue like in most games. The story itself is presented almost as a secondary plot point while the main point is for the player to kind of make his/her name as a hunter in this city while finding out what is going on.
This approach is interesting in theory and works out quite decently for the game. I wish the actual story was more present and not playing as second fiddle to the player just doing random hunt/scout missions and maybe stumbling on something that furthers the plot. The writing though is decent, nothing really memorable about it but nothing terrible (there are cringe worthy moments but not as many as you’d think with the tone of the game).
The game itself was meant to be played multiple times since there are around 10 classes all that give different ways to progress the game. It sounds great in theory but the execution of the game kind of hinders that idea of replaying the game in it’s current state. The shooting mechanics are either a hit or miss (pun intended). There are moments when you freeze and lose progress. That’s extremely unfortunate since some of the better mechanics actually fit the game (the trap making) and of course the story is interesting. It’s in episodic format so there will be more content added to the game later which could increase the replay value.
The music fits the game perfectly and it really adds emotion to set the scene. Example when you’re on a hunt the music and sounds accompanied by it create an eerie atmosphere that has the player on edge preparing for the worst. When the player gets that feeling that is when the game is at the best. The audio levels for the most part are balanced (except when you go to the bar). For some reason the audio in the bar is 10x louder then the audio everywhere else. The sounds the creatures make are terrifying and they are unique so the players can get an idea on what creature is near just based on their sounds.
The graphics are pretty good in all aspects of the game. Whether its the realistic yet unique touch to the 3d models or the awesome graphic novel styled cut scenes. The coloring on scenes in motion and those not in motion are perfect. They all give a vibe that this game could be an interactive graphic novel. It has all the personality of it! There are minimal 3d model animation stutters here and there but nothing to serious. The real winners are the graphic novel cut scenes and the graphic novel styled stationary scenes.
HellSign is a mixed bag that needs a little more love towards the mechanics beyond the design. It has moments where it’s just plain refreshing and a joy to play. Then it has moments that are cringe worthy due to miss placed dialogue or clunky controls. I might be biased because I’ve had issues since I got the key before release (crashes, resolution was bugged to not fit the screen, the guns weren’t working properly). The current condition is better but still has some edges that need to be ironed out.
At the end of the day the question is if the game is worth the $15 on steam? Honestly its mixed for me in it’s current state. I like the game but I also dislike it and it seems both sides are about even. If I didn’t get the game for free I probably wouldn’t have dropped the money for it. Once the edges have been smoothed out and more content is added sure it’ll be worth the money (in my opinion). If you can look past clunky controls and some cringe worthy dialogue and a few minor combat bugs and occasional crash/freeze then be my guest and try it out.