If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I have a hot burning and undying love of the game Hellgate London. I played it originally at launch and was of the few suckers who actually ponied up for the subscription plan as well, with its extra events. There were a whole slew of us that were playing World of Warcraft at the time, that took a break and started playing Hellgate as effectively our primary game. There was in fact a House Stalwart guild in game that was pretty damned active for awhile… but sadly a very short while. The game released on October 31st or 2007, and in 2008… Flagship Studios filed for bankrupt protection and all assets including the intellectual property of the games they were working on… were seized by Comerica bank. Namco Bandai kept the servers going through January 31st of 2009 and after that point it was effectively a single player only game. The assets were eventually sold to T3Fun/HanbitSoft a South Korean game developer who took the unreleased assets and spun up a few new areas of the game centered around Seoul.
In 2014 the game showed up on Steam as Hellgate Global which was being run by a HanbitSoft Connected company called T3Fun/Redbana Corporation. Hellgate Global was an MMOized version of the game and featured a number of micro-transactions that added some “pay for qualify of life” type features like an item that would identify all of the items in your inventory instead of having to do them one at a time. Similarly there was an item that would deconstruct every item in your inventory at the same time. I actually played this game for a bit, and noticed that the difficulty was massively watered down and these mini bosses were added in every so often that served as a loot pinata. It was entertaining but also nowhere nears a compelling as the original game, and it eventually shut down in January of 2016. Recently Hellgate once again showed up on Steam as a game that was coming November 15th… and last night I purchased it for myself and a couple of Aggrochat members. One to grief him because I sincerely doubt he will like the game, but he also once gifted me a copy of Bad Rats. The other however because I think she will absolutely like the game… that is if she can get past the frustrations with this version.
My hope was this would be an easy way to get people in and let them experience Hellgate London. Previously the best way to play Hellgate London was to either Amazon or Ebay a copy of the old game and then install Hellgate Revival to bring it up to more modern standards. There is even a side project called London 2038 that acts as a server emulator, allowing you to play online with others and restoring much of the functionality of the game. My hope was the Steam version would bring a lot of these improvements to the game and make it as easy as purchasing and installing to get in and play. Unfortunately after last night… the route I just described is still the best way to play the game.
First of all we have to talk about how HanbitSoft has seemingly changed the story of Hellgate London, by introducing a some equally questionable animation tacked onto the front of what is still the most epic intro sequence from any game. The original game is largely the story of Doom… rifts from hell open up and a bunch of demons flow into our world and decimate it. They however shifted it to be a battle between the light and the dark in ambiguous terms, that maybe work better for a South Korean audience than the biblical hell on earth story of the original. The other big problem is that seemingly this is a game that was taken from the original English… localized into Korean… and then has now been localized back into English. We’ve all seen the memes of what happens when you pass something through google translate too many times… in fact my favorite is a twitter account called Rosewatta Stone that does that with Magic the Gathering cards.
There is an awful lot of jank going on with this game, from the completely unskippable tutorial sequence that keeps popping up how to do everything… and then will freeze your character in place until you perform whatever the hell they are asking you to do. To the fact that the textures are extremely muddy and are way lower resolution in a few of the areas than the base install of the original game. Hellgate London was a game with a bunch of different tile sets for lack of a better term, and they were constructed out of a series of themed prefabs… and this one in particular seems to have fared the worst which is the cityscape with rubble strewn through it. Others like the train station tileset, seem to have gotten a much higher resolution texture treatment and as such look significantly better. The problem is however that this experience feels extremely uneven… like they got bored while working on the game and only focused on the areas that they liked the most.
This is effectively the same version that was released as Hellgate Global from what I can tell, and as such it includes a handful of classes that were not available in the original release. I am however a creature of habit and wound up rolling a Guardian again… which is the class I always tend to play when I play Hellgate. I am a sword and shield tank, but again you can see the unbalanced nature of the textures. That shield looks perfectly fine… the armor however is blurry and washed out. It also has the weird intro sequence where it places you in what used to be the cash shop hub of the game, before sending you to your first destination. None of the cash shop vendors still exist, but that was effectively a player lobby that allowed groups to gather up, and it seems like there is no real way to get back there once you have started actually playing the game. It definitely comes off as them quickly singlerplayer-izing what was designed to be a rudimentary MMO cash grab.
The thing that cracks me up the most is the inclusion of the Korean warnings about play time. After paying an hour you get the following message to pop up in the chat window “You have been playing for 1hour. Excessive game play may affect your lifestyle.” This is one of those loot pinata bosses that I talked about, and when you kill them you get a fountain of loot most of it blue or higher quality to come pouring out. All of this aside the game was largely playable once you got past that forced intro section. That is until I started encountering some more serious issues with the game. Shortly after the hour mark I started encountering some massive slowdowns, and at first I thought maybe there was a memory leak in the client. However upon restarting the game and getting into a fight the same things started happening again. I think this might be an issue with one specific spell effect from a specific type of monster, which are the the demons that crawl around and then throw fireballs at you. The moment one of these sends this spell effect in your direction my framerate bottomed out. This is coming from me playing on an i7-5820k with a Geforce 1080 ti… so more processing power than this game ever dreamed about having initially. I finally had to stop playing last night because it was impossible to do anything… because I kept hitting these framerate walls.
Ultimately I still love Hellgate London and I happily played for about two hours until I encountered the issues. I was hoping that the Steam release would have actually had some effort put into it, but unfortunately that is not the case. The positive side is that right now it is selling for a little less than $10, so it isn’t like even with the three copies that I bought I am out a significant amount of money. I am hoping that the modding community decides to fix these issues, because it is probably something as simple as the fact that the game inexplicably dropped Direct X 10 support and is only allowing Direct X 9 for some reason. If you really want to play Hellgate London, you are still better off digging up an original copy… installing Hellgate Revival and then using London 2038 to play on the multiplayer servers. I have a feeling in the coming days I will be doing this thing again just to see how different the experience is.
I hope that HanbitSoft will patch the game to make the experience less frustrating, because I still would love to see the Seoul levels as well as the Hellgate Tokyo content that supposedly was added in to the game as well. I am not however holding my breath that any of that is going to happen, and more than likely this was just a quick cash grab that I got suckered into by my love of this franchise, and the nostalgia of all that it could have been. I’ve spent thirty bucks on dumber things, so in the end I will be just fine.