Judging by comments I've seen on some forums, it seems like many enthusiasts may skip by Hellgate: London, as the demo failed to impress. Not only did I buy it… I finished the single-player game. While that might put me in a good position to review the game, I've only played as one character class (and I tried out a couple other classes but only in limited fashion at present) so I can't really say I've had the full experience. The problem is, I really can't bring myself to start over and try out the other options. I'm not much into multiplayer games these days either, so I'm pretty much done with the game unless we start trying to benchmark it. After playing it on and off for the past month, though, I'm not sure it's worth the trouble. Sure, it stresses a system, but that alone doesn't make for a great benchmark. It's sort of like benchmarking with 3DMark: all the benchmarks really tell you is how well a system runs 3DMark; the results may or may not correlate at all with many other titles. But I digress; the point of this blog post is that I thought I'd give my thoughts on the game.

Hellgate: London is a lot like Diablo/Diablo 2, and yet it's also very different. The first-person perspective (I played a marksman) is actually somewhat cool for an action-RPG, but it makes the game feel more like an FPS instead of an RPG. Suffice it to say, as an FPS this game falls way short of titles like Crysis, Call of Duty 4, Gears of War, etc. I have to admit that while I played Diablo and Diablo 2 a whole lot, the more I played the less I liked either game. The whole running around clicking on stuff to kill it just got old, but you still wanted to see the end game at least once, and then you wanted to try to build up some of the equipment sets to turn your character into a righteous, demon-slaying superhero. Hellgate: London tries for that same feel, but ultimately falls short - or maybe I've just outgrown the genre. Diablo 2 ate over 200 hours of my life over time, but after less than 40 hours exploring Hell-ravaged London I think I'm done.

The Quest for Equipment

Probably the biggest draws for Hellgate (and similar games) are acquiring "phat loot" and seeing the next cool area. I'll deal with areas later, but let's start with equipment. You run around killing creatures in the hope of getting the Next Big Upgrade, just as you do in various MMOs and other action-RPGs. Hellgate has a ton of items you can find throughout the game, but after a while it all blurs together. One of the big problems is that there are no equipment sets - you have standard equipment, enhanced equipment, rare equipment, legendary equipment, and at the top you have unique equipment. (As was the case in Diablo, unique equipment isn't actually unique - I saw one particular item on three separate occasions; I even had the item sitting in my storage chest when I found another.) Sets appear to be part of the subscription online service but not the single-player game, which is a mistake as the lure of trying to complete sets is what kept many people (or at least me) playing Diablo/2 long past the point where I otherwise would have quit.

You can enhance equipment with various upgrades, which come in two forms: artifacts and attributes. Weapons have a seemingly random amount of space for artifact upgrades, each of which can improve damage and other aspects by 5%~20%. The result is that a lower quality base (non-magic) item with a lot of upgrade slots can actually end up being far more powerful than a legendary item if the legendary only allows four upgrades and the base item allows seven. The type of artifact upgrades also varies - there are five different classes of artifact - but other than minor differences in name and appearance, the five artifact classes don't seem to really matter.

Base equipment with many artifact slots has another advantage, in that you can add more attributes at Augmentrex 3000 stations. You can purchase single enhanced/rare/legendary stats to equipment for a fee, up to (I think) five attributes. However, these are random attributes and the cost is so extreme that this is something you will probably use on rare occasions if at all. Often you will find a legendary/unique item drop that has most of what you need without spending tons of time and money - well, time yes, but less time in the long run than if you were to sell everything you find in order to save up money to purchase upgrades.

Buying items from vendors is something else I didn't do much after the first 30 minutes, as the vendors never seemed to have anything worth purchasing. The exchange rate for high-end equipment is also terrible, as usual, so after selling a truckload of legendary items you would only be able to afford purchasing a single legendary item back… but the vendors never carried any legendary items in my playing so this is a moot concern. Anyway, money wasn't a major problem for me, and instead of focusing on getting cash I spent most of my time dismantling items in order to upgrade other equipment at the Nanoforges. So let's talk about that.

Everyone remembers that awesome item that you found early in a game of Diablo that you eventually had to get rid of because it was simply no longer as powerful as when you first picked it up - eventually even basic magical equipment in the later stages of the game would surpass the damage inflicted by early unique items. Hellgate gets around that somewhat by allowing you to upgrade items. There are four different base materials, each of which comes in a standard and a "rare" form, for a total of eight different materials that can be required to upgrade or forge any equipment - more on forging in a moment. (No upgrades/forging will actually require more than five of the eight materials, though - at least not that I encountered.) Any equipment you find throughout the game can be dismantled into its base materials, and when you have enough of these materials you can then take one of your items to a Nanoforge and upgrade it. You can only upgrade items to match your character level (you'll get a "you need more experience" message otherwise), and while the upgrading won't change any of the other aspects of an item, it does keep your equipment more or less "current" with your character level. There's a maximum amount you can upgrade any particular item - 10 times? - but it takes a while to reach that point.

Tinkers are another use for material components. They're like vendors, but instead of selling items for money, they have a randomly selected type of item that they can forge from raw materials. They have rare, legendary, and even unique items on a regular basis, something that the regular merchants lack. However, they only deal with certain equipment types at a time, so often they aren't offering something you can even use let alone want. If you specifically want a new helmet, you might have to visit dozens of times before a tinker is offering to forge helmets, and even then they might not offer anything in your "size". Tinkers seem most useful for getting high-end artifacts to upgrade your weapons, since artifacts are class agnostic - if your weapon takes a battery upgrade, you can use any battery of the appropriate level.

All the equipment options all sound good, but in practice it almost seems too much. Artifacts, forges, and upgrades… oh my! At least in my first run through the game in single-player mode, once I found a good weapon (or other equipment), I often ended up using the same thing for a long time. Throughout the game I probably used six weapons for most of my fighting - one machine gun at the start, a grenade launcher, a rocket launcher, two sniper rifles, and one heavy rifle. Of those, the heavy rifle and sniper rifle saw the most action - the heavy for groups of creatures and for blowing up crates and barrels (it was really like a rocket launcher that only fired one exploding projectile), and the sniper for picking off creatures from a distance. A large portion of my time was spent grabbing dropped items from creatures and then quickly scrapping all of them when my inventory was full.

The other concern is that there are three different equipment classes, each of which serves two of the six character classes. Some of the enhancements won't even apply to your character since they are for the other class, so for example as a marksman none of the minion enhancements did nothing for me - I never had a single minion throughout the game. The engineer skills on some equipment I could wear also served no purpose. The result is that roughly two thirds of the items you find are completely unusable. This sort of happened with Diablo as well, but Diablo focused on stat requirements - any character could use any item, provided they had the required stats. You might not be able to use a bow with a warrior character as effectively as an archer can use a bow, but it was at least an option. In single-player Hellgate: London, there is absolutely nothing for you to do other than dismantle or sell equipment that your character can't use. In multi-player, you can try to sell/trade it, but my experience with the online game is that most people didn't pay much attention to messages.

As a final comment on equipment, I suppose some people will like the process of trying to balance equipment requirements with your stats, but as the game progresses this becomes increasingly difficult. The basic equipment requirements are reasonable, but all of the artifact enhancements that you can apply can begin to push stat requirements to the point where you are not able to use an item. You can pay to remove all of the artifacts from an item and start over, which you will almost certainly have to do a couple times for each weapon. The problem here is that artifacts have a set level, so as you upgrade your equipment at the Nanoforge you eventually reach the point where some of the artifacts are too low-level for use. They stay in effect as long as you don't remove the artifacts, but once you do you will need to have new artifacts ready.

The stat requirements matter, because later in the game the monsters seemed to be scaling in difficulty faster than my weapons and equipment, in part because my stats weren't high enough to use all of the best artifact and other items I acquired. Obviously, it wasn't impossible, but some of the battles took quite a bit of time, and things became decidedly less "fun". I felt like I was trying to figure out how to manipulate the system in order to win fights rather than playing a game. In the final level, I was lucky enough to have three of the boss creatures not come hunt me down when I attacked from range with a sniper rifle; they still required about 50 shots, but at least I didn't keep dying…. I guess things might be different for other character classes, but at least these are my experiences with the marksman class.

That's a lot of talk about equipment, but from my perspective the item hunting was a huge part of Hellgate. Without the items, I don't think I could have even finished the game. It got old, it got repetitious, and yet I still played on thinking maybe the next boss character would give me a cool upgrade. Once every several hours I was proved right. Even as negative as I sound right now, I still started the game as a different class recently to see how things changed - and they did change quite a bit in terms of combat. I have sort of this love/hate relationship with Hellgate now. It's not great, but there hasn't been a good action-RPG in a while (since Titan's Quest and its expansion) and it's still sort of fun. The six character classes do play different enough in my limited experience that many people might spend an extra 12 hours with the game just trying them all out. What Hellgate has then is quantity - equipment, levels, items, classes, etc. The question is whether or not it has enough quality.

Technological Considerations

One of the interesting things about Hellgate - at least from a hardware enthusiast perspective - is how much it stresses the hardware in your system. I didn't try to benchmark the game on a bunch of different computers at different settings - Anand and Derek have more GPUs and CPUs on hand, so I really couldn't do justice to this area anyway. I simply grabbed my fastest system (Core 2 Duo E6400 overclocked to 3.0GHz with 2GB RAM and an 8800 GTX), found some playable detail settings, and set about playing. This is, needless to say, a system with plenty of oomph… and yet it struggled with Hellgate at maximum detail settings.

The reason for the sluggish performance despite graphics that definitely aren't at the level of, say, Crysis (or Bioshock or several other titles) seems to be the design approach. Many of the levels/areas are randomly generated, which means that the rendering engine has to deal with a different type of content. Rendering a game world in 3D in real-time is one thing, especially when you perform a bunch of optimizations in advance so that the system knows it doesn't have to calculate certain things from some areas. Doing all of that with more or less randomly generated content is a lot more complex. It seems likely that Flagship was forced to reduce overall graphics complexity to keep performance manageable.

On my test (re: "play") system, the game defaulted to maximum ("Very High") detail settings on all areas, but that was with a 1024x768 resolution. It was playable that way, but I wanted the native 1920x1200 of my LCD, so I ended up turning down some detail settings from Very High to High. You can see above where I ended up settling. There were occasional stutters, but overall the experience was fine. I would suspect that performance on GeForce 8800 GT hardware is close enough to the 8800 GTX that 1920x1200 is not a problem with a few tweaks. I initially disabled DX10 graphics, as performance was pretty rough, but you can turn on DX10 mode provided you're willing to turn down other settings.

In terms of DX9 vs. DX10, the differences aren't very noticeable. It seemed at times that the DX10 version stuttered more, but in later testing this wasn't as apparent. A patch may have addressed it - we'll have to look into it more. Here's a quick screenshot comparison showing the DX9 and DX10 versions of the game.

DX10 gives a slightly tweaked look to portals, though why this isn't possible in DX9 is beyond me, as it doesn't seem all that complex. The only other major difference is that soft shadows are used in DX10 mode. Particle effects might also be better, but if so I didn't immediately notice. I encountered periodic slowdowns with large explosions, particularly in rooms with metal grating on walkways, but this didn't consistently happen. It may simply be a bug that needs fixing, and it occurred to varying degrees in both DX9 and DX10 mode. Anyway, while the DX10 graphics are somewhat better it isn't such a striking difference that you need to worry about not being able to run the DX10 mode. Windows XP users can happily avoid Vista for a while longer.

As a final note, I did see that Hellgate appears to use a significant amount of CPU power, including making use of multiple cores. I haven't had a chance to test with quad-core, but on my dual-core setup it used 100% of core one and around 30-60% of core two. As a hardware geek, I'd really like to know more about how they're using the second core and what impact it has on the game. It may be providing extra physics effects, improved graphics, or something else. Either way, it's nice to see that their multi-core support isn't totally bottlenecked by the GPU.

The Rest of the Story

To wrap up, let me talk a bit about the storyline. The story in Diablo is that hell and heaven are fighting over Earth - or at least Tristam. Where the Tristam setting is in the medieval era, Hellgate: London takes place in future-London. The actual dialog and quests are different, but otherwise you're looking at the same basic premise: all hell is breaking loose on Earth and it's up to you to stop it. There's no soul shard, but instead of angles and devils we have Truth (yes - capitalized!) and demons. There may be more to the back-story if you choose to search out such information, but purely by playing the game you end up with this impression that there's a lot more to the story and you're only getting a Cliff-notes version of what's happening.

Most of the quests have you running off and killing a single monster or a group of monsters, collecting an item(s) from creatures you kill, or sometimes activating certain items within a level. It gets repetitive, and the dialog boxes that show up with these quests add nothing to the big picture. Various Templar in the game react to some of the events as though they're obviously important, but if you were to go by the short text clips and cut scenes, you'd likely be scratching your head - I know I was. The ending sequence also leaves things wide open for a sequel - perhaps not Hellgate: Seattle, but the story definitely isn't over. The sum of the parts isn't necessarily bad, but the story definitely isn't at the level of games like Bioshock, and I would say it's less satisfying than Diablo 2.

The number of different level tile sets is also quite limited. Offhand I can think of: outdoor cityscape, indoor subways, indoor hallways, indoor cathedrals, indoor crypt/dungeon... there might be one or two other areas I'm missing, but most of these areas end up looking very similar. While the levels and artwork may feel consistent, it ends up being... consistently dull. There are certain levels that are static, but even these often feel the same as other area - only with layouts that maybe lend themselves to a specific battle.

I've read a few reviews, I bought the game, I played it, I even beat it. I haven't tried the multiplayer component because that really isn't a major concern to me. The bottom line is that if you enjoyed Diablo, there's probably a lot here that you will like. It will eat about as much CPU/GPU as you can throw at it, and while the graphics are nowhere near Crysis in quality, they're still good and at times great. I still left with the sense that things could have been better, particularly in the area of the story. You can play the game as long as you like, really, constantly looking for bigger and better items. It you pay for a monthly subscription - ugh… don't even get me started! In-game advertisements and they still want us to fork over $10 per month? - you get additional items and content as far as I can discern, but truth be told by the time I played through the game once (around 30 hours) I don't have much desire to return to London. But let's talk about the multiplayer aspect quickly.

Frankly, I'm not really qualified to evaluate the multiplayer experience - it's not my general interest. One thing I can't fathom, however, is people spending $10 per month to continue playing a game for which they already paid $50, all for a few minor updates that should have been included as part of the game already. That was one thing Blizzard got right with Battle.net, and for Flagship Studios to make a second tier pay-for-play environment is a huge mistake. There may be some financial execs with dollar signs in their eyes imagining all the people paying extra to get ahead in Hellgate, but I think the reaction will be the exact opposite. After the in-game ads (which I really didn't find distracting), that they're trying to milk even more money out of the online community is unacceptable to me. Here's what you get for $10 per month:

  • Hardcore Mode
  • Guild Creation and Management
  • Larger Stash
  • Themed Events and Quests
  • Unique Event Items
  • Special Event Pets
  • New Levels to Explore
  • New Monsters

You also get:

  • New Weapons
  • New Skills and Spells
  • New Character Classes
  • Raid-Level Areas
  • Seasonal / Themed Events and Items
  • Additional Difficulty and Game Play Modes
  • Additional PvP Modes and Rewards
  • Achievement Rewards
  • Advanced Guild Management Tools
  • Web-based Rankings and Character Viewing
  • Achievement Rewards
  • Advanced Guild Management Tools
  • Web-based Rankings and Character Viewing

You can chalk me up as being decidedly underwhelmed, but then I have never subscribed to an MMO. Many of the items in that list are things that just shouldn't be subscriber content, and how important the others are will depend on how frequently they come into play. New weapons, skills, classes, levels, game modes, etc. all sound somewhat interesting, but it they only appear infrequently it won't mean much. Two months is $20, and that's enough to buy most expansion packs. If fundamental aspects of the game play don't change, however, it's difficult to imagine most of the above items mattering in the long run. Then again, I never have understood the people that play Everquest, World of Warcraft, etc. for months on end, so it could be those gamers will love what Flagship offers. Time will tell….

Hellgate represents what many fear in the gaming world: it took a long time to develop, it involves many people (judging by the end credits, it's probably as big as many blockbuster movies), the graphics boast many of the latest buzzwords… and yet for all the technological advances it's a step back in other areas. That so much time and energy from talented people could go into the game and yet still fail to impress is scary. Wrapping this up, as this is already waaaay too long, you're probably thinking I hate Hellgate: London. That's not actually true. I really enjoyed it at first, but the more I played the less satisfied I became. I had similar feelings with Diablo/2, but I didn't reach saturation level so quickly. I may simply be an older curmudgeon, so those of you who didn't walk to school uphill in the snow can probably disregard much of my complaining. If you want a score, I'm going to stick with the standard school grading scale. This is a B overall, bordering on a B-. It gets many things right, but something got lost in the big picture. Patches and other minor changes can address some of the issues, but you might need to subscribe to get the improved experience. If the subscription service didn't exist, I'd be more forgiving and the game might rate closer to a B+ instead.

The bottom line is that Hellgate: London will almost certainly appeal to fans of the genre, particularly those who liked Diablo and to a lesser extent Titan's Quest. Those are both spiritual sequels to the Diablo throne, and they diverge from their predecessor in different ways. The near-future setting in Hellgate is a nice change from the standard fantasy fare, even if it ends up not making a huge difference in terms of actual game play. At the end of the day, whether you kill demons or devils with bows, guns, or something else... well, there's only so many times you can do that before it wears thin.

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  • perpetualdark - Monday, December 17, 2007 - link

    I have been playing Hellgate since shortly before its release. I played Diablo 2 for about 2 years straight, averaging 4 hours per day.. so I played well over 2000 hours. When I first heard about Hellgate, which was only a couple weeks before release, I was intrigued since the developers were made up of a lot of the old Blizzard North team. I played the demo, and was thoroughly unimpressed. I then purchased the pre-order and played the beta. I was only able to play through about 10-12 levels per character before being wiped, but I was starting to see a lot of what I liked in Diablo 2 in this game.

    I have read a bunch of reviews, which are mostly from people who obviously played only a small portion of the game, and a lot of information in those reviews stemmed from info that came from other than playing the game.

    Let me say now that as an OLD MMO player (since the MUDs, pre-graphics), paying a monthly fee for premium services is nothing new to me, and I do not see it as out of line in the least. I look at it this way: These guys are providing servers to play this game in a controlled environment free of charge to any player that purchases the game. You do not have to subscribe, and aside from a few perks and benefits, not having a subscription does not cripple the game. You can play this game all the way to level 50 and have just as good of gear (at this point) as any other player, subscribed or not. If you find it offensive to pay to use a service, then don't pay. However, if you want to pay, then you are entitled to benefits of being a subscriber. There is not an MMO out there that you do not pay for the use of the game.. unless you want to play Maple Story. And no, Guild Wars is not free, you have to buy tons of updates if you want all the access. Eventually, subscribers will have access to gear that is superior to what non-subscribers will get, but why not?? If I could have had access to better gear in D2 that was not available to normal players, I would gladly have paid.

    Advertisement in game? PLEASE!! Let it rest already! There are posters on the walls in the "common areas" or stations. Right now, these are all "advertising" the best players and guilds in the game. When the game first released there were Nvidia and Intel ads on them. Within a couple weeks there were nothing but Kudos to the good players. Why was this ever an issue? Tell you what, next time you spend millions of dollars making a game, please feel free to charge as little as possible, and then spend millions more on huge internet pipes to provide free services. I am sure that even if the game is not everything you ever wanted, people will buy the game just because you are not advertising in the game and not charging for your services (whatever).

    DirectX10 performance is much better now than it was when the game released, but it is not perfect.. then again, on my 8800gtx c2d system with 4 gigs dominator ram, BioShock in dx10 performed worse. And static shots in dx10 compared to dx9 are not going to show anything.. the difference is in the motion blur and the depth of field, which in my opinion really added a lot to the somewhat boring cityscapes. It is boring when there are 5 demons around you like in the earlier levels or even before nightmare mode, but get into a late game battle with 50 or 60 demons, beasts, necros, zombies, and spectrals flying all around you, and the game graphics really heat up.. add the weather effects to all this and it is pretty decent. Not Crysis mind you, but then again, I personally thought Crysis was one of the worst games I ever played.. great graphics, absolute rock bottom game value.. How it ever got a good review in any magazine is beyond me.. The graphics engine is revolutionary, but thats all it is: an engine with no substance..

    Regarding Diablo 2.. The reason I played it for as long as I did is quite simple. Take a game that has multiple character classes, a huge pool of loot with near infinte combinations of attributes, somewhat random levels, and a high level cap, and add a multiplayer environment that is somewhat secure and a hardcore game mode, and you have a combination that works on almost all levels. Some people play a game just to see the eye candy, some play just to be first to a high level, and some just want some good entertainment. Personally, I want a game that I can play for 5 minutes or 5 hours, has near infinite replayability, and all my accomplishments are plain as day to anyone that looks at my character. Diablo 2 would have been a mediocre game without Battlenet. By having a closed system to play on where (for the most part), cheats and hacks cannot exist, you generate an even playing field for competition. I was proud to have 3 hardcore characters still alive in the upper 90's in D2 (pre 1.10 when you could do that in a week), and over a dozen above 70. I enjoyed having 8 mule accounts all in hardcore nightmare for all my runes, gems, rares, and other loot. Anyone that looked at my characters knew I didnt use a hack or a trainer to get what I had.. Yes, there were hacks that screwed everything up.. dupes for gold, unique items, and a million SOJ's, but it still felt really good the first time a Stone of Jordan dropped, and I was a purist.. I played on BNet but not in public parties, so I did not participate in the duping, and never used something I did not find myself..

    Hellgate has the makings of everything great about D2.. a closed multiplayer system where hacks and trainers will hopefully never exist, hardcore, nightmare, and elite modes which add a near unbeatable level of difficulty to the game.. (who will be the first to get an elite hardcore evoker to level 50?? is it even possible?), an incredible amount of loot to be had, random levels that kill a little of the monotony of playing the same content over and over.. and on top of this they add a guild system, soon to add a group finding interface, achievement point system, hopefully sets soon (3 level 30+, all in NM, one elite, and no set items seen here), and you have a good foundation for the game. Now they are adding a horodric cube type device, more recipes for crafting, and hopefully soon a cross-character inventory. I put Diablo 2 down after 3 weeks when it came out, but a year later I revisited it in hardcore mode and didnt stop for 2 straight years.. Your first impression of the game might be that there are better graphics engines out there, better shooters, better RPGs, better action games, and better story games, but if you realize that this game has all those genres mixed in, you might look past the average graphics and fairly low monthly fee and realize this game has potential.

    BTW, the only big mistake they made was billing this as an MMO.. it is a multiplayer game with graphical chat rooms, not an MMO.. And a ladder would be nice too.. This review was one of the better ones I have read, but how can someone who has never paid a subscription for a game see a subscription from a neutral standpoint? If all you liked about D2 was playing through in single player mode, then chances are you will not like this game. If you played D2 because you liked spending hours looking for that one good drop, or liked achieving the fairly difficult goal of maxing a hardcore character, then this game might be for you.
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  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, December 15, 2007 - link

    People have talked about "outgrowing the genre", but I don't think that's it. I still find Diablo1/2 to be fun, after >1000 hr. But I got bored with the Hellgate beta, and bored with the Titan's Quest demo. Diablo is way more polished and has a special formula. Reply
  • davidallenlewis - Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - link

    I have to say as a big diablo fan i am terribly disappointed with this game. I played in beta and it is still very buggy and unbalanced. I am about to finish the game with a marksman (currently 23), and i feel like ive done the same instance 50 times over, with an occasional "unique" boss thrown in. I gave FSS the benefit of the doubt and bought it, still hoping that it will get better. Not really looking forward to doing the same thing in nightmare and in hell. I think ill probably get halfway through Nightmare and just drop the game.
    Loot is extremely hard to advance and the static equipment you get from quests is junk.
    Reply
  • legoman666 - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    I bought the game shortly after release with about 7 of my friends at school. We played it a lot at the start. Me and one of my other friends partied up alot to go through the ame quicker.

    Fun thing about partying in versions 1.0-1.5, you couldn't see your party members after you zoned. The only way I knew where he was is because he was a summoner and I could see his minions. He had absolutely no idea where I was. Very annoying but not exactly game breaking.

    Also, in versions 1.0-1.4, most Uniques didn't have stats. When one finally dropped for me, I got all excited until I actually tried to analyze it; it was already "identified" and didn't have any stats besides it's base damage. Then I found 4 more on my way to kill the final boss (easy fight too). None of them had any stats either. Finally when 1.5 came out, they fixed this bug, but those with statless-uniques were stuck with them.

    On my main machine, I have WinXP x64. This game absolutely sucks in WinXP x64. I'm pretty sure there is a memory leak because the performance is fine for the first 15-20 mintues of play, but after that it just gets worse and worse. If I watched the page file usage while I was just sitting still in a station, it would slowly increase. I ended up playing the game on my laptop (that has integrated graphics) that had WinXP 32bit installed. I had to run the game on the lowest settings, but it ran well and didn't get more sluggish the longer I played.

    Level "design" is very repetative. There are about 5 different tile sets that zones are generated from. Once you've seen it once, you've seen it a million times. With such a limited variety of zones, why the HELL does the game require so much hard drive space? I am at a loss as to what those 7gb are actually doing. Not to mention that nothing in the game even looks like london except the underground. There are no distinguishable landmarks, not even the boss fights are memorable.

    Also, the UI is about the worst I have ever seen in a game. And that includes some fairly disgusting console -> PC ports. I mean, did the dev's even play the game after they wrote it? I commented to my buddy after playing for about 5 minutes that the chat UI is retarded. The 1.4 or 1.5 patch did help a little, but it's still saddeningly bad. You cannot resize the chat window, you cannot merge the different chat tabs, you cannot move the chat window, you cannot set the chat window transperency. I don't know what they were smoking when they released the game, but whatever it was, I want some.

    I decided that when I bought it, I would pay the $10/mo based on how much I liked the game. Well, I held off for 2 weeks; during which time I got 2 characters to nightmare mode (which is just a boring grind). One of the character was a marksman with friend in normal mode (way too easy) and the other was a guardian by myself in elite mode (also too easy). With a guardian in elite mode, I soloed 3 of the 5 final bosses all at once and never died. It wasn't even fun. Well, after getting each charater to nightmare mode, I never played either of them again. And as such, I haven't played the game since then either, and so they'll never get $10/mo from me for such a poorly designed game. Regardless of whether you hate WoW or not, WoW's design is 10x better than Hellgate: London's.

    The reason I bought Hellgate London was to play with my friends and to play another RPG. (they claim this is an MMORPG, but I simply don't see it. It is not massively multiplayer and the online play is exactly the same as the single plaer). As an RPG it is merely OK. If dull colored graphics and repetative gameplay are your thing, then by all means pick up Hellgate. If you want to actually have some fun with your friends while playing an online game, there are countless better choices out there.
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  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    yeah. sux.

    basically this is what half of me thinks as well.

    its like some raging faggot who is about to commit suicide had a hand in designing the game. It is like watching the new Superman or Episode one of new Star wars series.

    Reply
  • PresidentThomasJefferson - Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - link

    The new 0.7 patch & later really improves the game, the chat interface, & the much-needed 'Looking for group' interface (it lists everyone looking for a group or u can just create one for others to find in a list box) & they fixed most of the memory leak issues, installing respec skills option, etc

    Graphics look better than Halo3/Fear on 'very high' settings, (disable aa), enable trilinear & anisopteric filtering, enable or disable dynamic lights depending on your cpu power, set shadows to low
    Reply
  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    if he played more, he would at least hear about Sets.

    there are sets.

    Also, you are a fool to think that a singleplayer version of this game is the way it is meant to be played. It's meant for guilds and friends. you cant even transfer your gear between classes. Beta was really crappy and the graphics werent even as good (less stuff).

    Its main problem are the multitude of not so fascinating side quests. the main one is pretty good. the mini games and end level things show massive promise. (like the RTS parts, the mounted gun parts, the poison level where only banishing guns work....) these show how it is a Shell of a good game so long as they get writers...

    WRITERS DAMNIT.

    i agree that it should not be paid for monthly at this point.

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    Where are the sets!? I beat the single-player game, I've played multi-player up to level 7 with a new character. My understanding is that Flagship has sets for subscribers, but maybe that's incorrect. Are they something you encounter on Nightmare, or maybe Nightmare with online play? (I played Nightmare for about two hours after beating the game to see if anything changed; nothing that I could see other than monsters being tougher and dropping slightly better loot - just like Diablo.) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    To clarify, there's no way I'm paying extra for guild membership and sets - they should have been a part of the original game. Reply
  • Houdani - Monday, December 10, 2007 - link

    First off: I like the review hidden in the blog. An interesting new addition to Anandtech. It pleases me that you played the game because you wanted to, not because you were assigned a task and blew through the campaign as fast as possible, thereby missing the nuances and actual joy of playing for fun.

    Your assessment of diminishing satisfaction sums up my experience with the game. I was in the later stages of the beta and after the novelty wore off, I found that the equipment upgrades (the veritable carrot on a stick) just didn't compel me to keep coming back -- largely due to the repetitiveness of all the quests and similarity of the levels.

    Unfortunately, I finished off the beta with a rather apathetic attitude toward the game and ultimately passed on the retail version. I wanted to like it, and tried to like it, but ultimately walked away with no regrets. I think my fond memories of Diablo 1/2 have obscured the reality that maybe I'm not into the genre anymore, perhaps evidenced by me becoming quickly tired of Sacred and not even attempting Titan's Quest. Phooey -- I must be getting old.
    Reply

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