Hellgate – Demo; First Thoughts

I’ve been playing the Hellgate London Demo most of the weekend, and I must say I’m really looking forward to the release of the game.  There do seem to be a few faults, but for the most part it looks and plays great!  If you were a fan of the Diablo series of games, you won’t be let down.

As for the problems, the biggest one is a carryover from the Diablo days, and that is a limited and “unintelligent” inventory system.  Like Diablo, you can always just port to the nearest base and “sell-off” junk when your inventory is getting full.  But that just interrupts the flow of the game.  And as stuff gets put into your inventory, you may have to adjust things to make them fit – just because you have 4 slots avail, doesn’t mean you can fit a 4-slot item.  The biggest beef I have with that is that it’s such an easy, high-school comp-sci optimization algorithm to implement. Oh well.

Another issue I have with the game is the planned implementation of their online gaming where you have to pay a monthly fee to join in.  A clear departure from the free Battlenet days.  Of course the fanboys are going to say we’re going to get updated content and special goodies for joining a pay system.  Fine, but the price point is in the same realm as traditional MMO’s, which clearly HGL is Not, and should not be charging such premium prices for battlenet-style subscriptions.  Maybe around $5/Mo or $25-30/Yr (like a magazine) would be more realistic and acceptable.  Again fanboys are going to say that doesn’t support the servers, etc.  HA!  Battlenet was FREE, and that was “back-in-the-day” when servers were MUCH more expensive to own/maintain.  An even better pricing model would be the one that Guild Wars uses, where players pay for the extra character slots and the annual game releases.

Oh wait!  There is a free way to play in multi-player mode, but it’s so dumbed down from the pay version, that you may as well not bother.

Another shortcoming held over from Diablo is the lack of re-spec’ing your character.  If you screw up and gimp your character – TOO BAD!  All modern games allow some way to re-do your specialization template if you realize you’ve made a mistake, or you get bored with your current build and want to try something new without having to grind another character all the way up, only to realize maybe your old template was more fun.  Again, Guild Wars offers a great model here, this time for template flexibility.   Too bad the two games have similar roots with Diablo devs, but they didn’t quite come together. Otherwise I think we’d have a simply AWESOME offering, instead of two OK games.

The final issue, which may be a non-issue, is the lack or peer-to-peer gaming.  At least I haven’t seen it listed as an option yet, hopefully I’ve just missed something here.  The best fun I had in Diablo:LoD was connecting with a few friends and playing with a small group of people. We’ll find out in a couple weeks if this is misplaced trepidation or not…

I’ve definitely enjoyed the demo, and I’m definitely going to be getting the game, warts and all.  But for now, I’ll just be playing the single-player game. I’ve already got too many “real” MMO subscriptions, and to incur another monthly fee just for Battlenet, it just isn’t worth it.

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