Imagine for a moment that you wake up on a derelict ship after being cryogenically frozen for who knows how long. The power is offline, life support is no longer functioning, critical sections of your space ship are floating away and your supplies are limited. This is how Hellion begins. Developer Zero Gravity really throws you into the deep end with this game! The question is, will you sink (or rather, suffocate when you finally run out of oxygen) or will you be able to restore your ship and begin your grand adventure?
It’s sometime into the 23rd century. The human race have developed faster than light travel and set their sights on a nearby sun, Hellion, with the hopes of colonizing surrounding planets. The journey will take over a hundred years, so an unspecified number of humans travel to this distant star system utilizing cryogenics to ensure they survive the trip. However, things go terribly wrong, and a war breaks out among those who ventured to the Hellion star system. You’re a surviving human and must do what you can to make a life for yourself in this new world.
Before I get into my experience with Hellion, it’s important to know that this game is still in “Early Access” and is still a long ways before being complete. In fact, in the week I spent with it, Hellion was patched twice (From 0.1.4 to 0.1.5 to 0.1.6), so it’s clear the developers are actively working on this game. I should also note that any criticisms I offer are just as much for the benefit of the developers as it is for potential players.
“Aside from being able to put my suit on and turn the lights on, after hours of play, I still couldn’t figure out how to turn life-support on, or really anything else.”
Hellion is less “adventure” and more first person simulation, requiring you to follow a set of expected yet poorly explained tasks in the most awkward way possible. You’ll first wake up from your cryogenic pod in a small, confined space. There is a data pad on the ground with a point by point list of what you’ll need to do. You’ll find a handful of different stations, with either monitors or replaceable parts. Replacement parts are available in severely limited quantities (and they’re randomly generated). So far, it probably sounds pretty easy, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Aside from being able to put my suit on and turn the lights on, after hours of play, I still couldn’t figure out how to turn life-support on, or really anything else. Now, I assume it’s probably due to the fact that my ship is essentially incomplete – so you’ll don your suit, helmet (with ridiculously short oxygen supply) and a jetpack and jettison yourself out of a nearby airlock with hopes of finding other ship pieces and bringing them back to the ship. So, let’s say you find one of the pieces, you’ll need to activate the docking mechanism and “drive” it back to the ship. The problem is, the docking screen is the bizarre display of moving triangles and octagons with absolutely ZERO instruction as to how to pilot it. I probably spent more time reading forums and watching tutorial videos, and I still couldn’t figure out how to handle many aspects of Hellion. Ultimately, after numerous attempts at docking, I finally had to just walk away since there was nothing further I could do.
When you first enter a server, you’re given the opportunity to give your character a name and then either “Fresh Start”, “Continue” or “Outpost”. Fresh Start starts you in the cryogenic pod and presents you with the scenario I spoke of above. If you die, or return to the server, you can choose “Continue” and go back to the same scenario – however, you’ll start as a brand new character. If your first character died in space and had a bunch of replacement parts on him, you’ll likely never see them again as they’ll all be floating in space. With only two space suits available, if you “respawn” a third time, you won’t be able to travel outside your ship. The third option, which might actually be appealing to beginners, is the “Outpost” option, where you’ll begin on a working ship and be able to, I assume, experience the game without the hassle of starting fresh and putting your ship back together. However, every time I started the “Outpost” option, I’d get out of my pod and within ten seconds die from suffocation. It didn’t matter what server I was on, I would just die – making “Outpost” a useless option.
“Visually, this is mostly a lackluster experience.”
The game is touted as an MMO, but during my playtime, I never once saw another human player. I could see other people chatting in game, usually asking for help, but not much else. I’d like to think if I had the opportunity to play in a co-op mode (which is apparently available), it might make putting the ship back together easier.
Visually, this is mostly a lackluster experience. The interior of the ships are bland, muted colors. The ship design, at least the sections I’ve encountered, are simple with very little flair. The character models all look exactly the same – just a bald guy in a jumpsuit. The visual highlight is definitely outer space, where you’ll see the sun, planets and countless stars – if the game wasn’t so damn frustrating, I might have been able to appreciate the beauty of the space walks.
Hellion is an Early Access game, and a definite work in progress. In its current state, Hellion is just not fun and way too difficult. I only briefly touched on the numerous bugs/glitches I encountered during my playtime – and it’s safe to say most, if not all, will be ironed out when the game is completed. My assumption is the developers have a very specific game they’re trying to create – and once that’s done, they’ll refine it so it’s more accessible to a larger audience without sacrificing the core elements. I love the concept of the game, and will continue to follow it as it’s updated. I’m confident Hellion will continue to develop and possibly become a stellar game, but for now, it’s important to remember that it is still incomplete.