EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Johnathan Irwin
previewed on PC
In December, shortly before our holiday break, I had a chance to sit down and take a look at the new horror game from Ballistic Interactive called HellSign. The first thing that caught my eye in the screenshots was the isometric viewpoint. You really don't see a lot of horror games like that. Most often developers opt for either a first person approach or a third person angle that is as close to the character as possible. So, when games that are isometric do come along, it's a breath of fresh air and the dark, gritty atmosphere seemed on point so I was eager to take a look.
Starting out for the first time, I briefly went through the character-creation menu that was mostly just to determine my class, which controls your starting equipment and skills, as well as picking your gender and a picture to go along with it. I opted for a Breacher, which specializes in getting up close and personal with the things that go bump in the night, thanks to his ability to use Heavy Armor and the increased effectiveness of his first aid.
From there I went through a brief tutorial mission to get acquainted with the various things to search for in order to determine whether or not something haunts the rundown environments or not. Utilizing a number of tools, you can investigate the environment in different ways which... ultimately feel very similar to each other right now. Different tools lead to the same outcome, an assortment of clues that are ultimately found just by clicking about the environment until you can determine what the threat is. The investigations are a bit lacking at present.
Thankfully, where the investigations are lacking, the combat isn't. Playing like a slower-paced isometric shooter, when the time comes for combat it can be full of jump scares and you may accidentally waste ammo or get a quick-reaction critical hit. In my experience, the most common enemy in these environments are spiders, and, as I'm terrified of spiders in real life, the combat was perhaps more intense for me than it would be for others. But the other enemies I encountered, such as these odd ghost hounds and massive centipedes were also fun to fight.
The biggest area that still needs work are the environments. They look great: the lighting from the flashlight across the damaged surfaces, the bloodied furniture, the faint glint of dust in the light are all fantastic. But the buildings themselves all feel the same. Not all spooky buildings look like they're that similar, and I'd like to see a bit more variety here.
Watch For The Signs
HellSign is definitely one to keep an eye on. As with any Early Access title, it could easily swing one way or another. But as I played, I saw the untapped potential lingering beneath the surface of the basics the developers have in place. What I played felt like a mix of various ghost hunting television shows, mixed with the World of Darkness universe in its own way. And while it may not be part of that IP in any way, shape or form, that feeling of nostalgia came rushing back and I want to see the developers capitalize on that feeling.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.