by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Staying ahead of the game
What do you do if you put your heart and soul into the gaming company you work for, only to have them decide on major changes within the organization that just don't fit with your own vision of the future?. For Bill Roper and several other employees at Blizzard North, the answer was to bid Blizzard adieu, and embark on an entirely new adventure. Flagship Studios was born, and the development of Hellgate London began. Now, creating a whole new game is a difficult enough task without the added pressures of founding a studio at the same time. But if you take into account that this group consists largely of people who worked on the Diablo games, you have to believe that they will succeed not only in overcoming these obstacles, but that the end result will be something special? Let me take you to the hells and beyond.
Ehm, aren't THEY supposed to be underground?
The storyline in Hellgate isn't all that remarkable, except for one thing. It's not the demons that are coming from the depths of the city, it's us. Odd? Let me give you some of the background to explain. For thousands of years, semi-secret organizations like the Knights Templar have been fighting the minions of Hell but now, well, there's no one left who believes in Hell, is there? The age-old fight has long been forgotten and all but a handful of demon slayers remain. In the past, these brave warriors have successfully pushed back a number of attempts by the demons to cross over into our plane of existence. Many of Earth's disasters or catastrophes were actually the result of these attempts and so far, the forces of good have thwarted them all. But in the not-so-distant future, London becomes overrun by demons. The time was right for the demonic hordes to enter our world once more and this time, they didn't fail. Humanity, what's left of it, is driven underground.
In a 'post-apocalyptic' fashion, the player enters the game roughly five years later. The last remnants of London's citizenry are in a desperate struggle to take back their city. You quickly hook up with the Knights Templar who are leading the fight, and it is your task to find out how the demons have managed to break into our realm and, more importantly, how to rid our world of their presence.
One of the most compelling features of Diablo was that no matter how often you returned to the dungeons, things were never quite the same. Not only would the game engine build up the levels differently each time you played, it would also completely randomize the items and pick a fresh set of baddies for you to slaughter. While the dungeons would feel familiar after a while, you were never quite sure what to expect. To my knowledge, no 3D First- or Third- person game has ever achieved this, but it looks like it will make a brilliant first appearance in Hellgate London.
Flagship Studios promises to take randomization a step further, randomizing not only dungeons but also the London streets, houses and other map features. Enemies will not just be armed with the same weapons all the time, making it a lot harder to gauge what to expect from them.
A point of view
If you look at the screenshots, you might get the impression that this game will be some sort of cross between a First Person Shooter and a RPG. You wouldn't be wrong in thinking that, if it weren't for the fact that Flagship is also adding a third person mode for the melee battles. Melee fighting and FPS' don't really mix that well; entering third person mode when you equip a sword, axe or similar weapon will give the game a level of flexibility which will set it apart from standard FPS fare. The game also features ambi-dexterity. Yup, you read that right. It will be possible to dual-wield two weapons at the same time. If you want to run around with an axe in one hand and a gun in the other, you can - but be aware that it looks like you'll have to go into third person view if you want to do so.