Hellsign: Come Hell or High Water

If you ask me what my dream job would be it’d be a monster hunter in a heartbeat. I’ve long been fascinated with monsters and cryptozoology. Sadly, I’m often dissatisfied with monster hunting games on the market. Monster Hunter World just wasn’t my cup of pterodactyl flavored tea, and the Witcher series is decent enough, but the gameplay around the hunting itself never held my interest as much. There have been exactly two games that have filled that hole: The fantastic Bloodborne which is easily one of my favorite games ever made, and one of the best horror games overall, and Hellsign: an obscure little indie survival horror game that honestly needs more support as its very underrated, even by Indie standards. Not in the hipster ooh i’m so unique I have a Samsung and not an iPhone haha i’m so counter culture way. In the actually good way, where the game is pretty god but pulled snake eyes when it came to ending up in peoples recommended page.  Here’s to hoping this article gets some more traffic to it, before Bloodborne Remastered is announced and sweeps the market again.

Story/ Mission Design: Oh the life of an Australian

You play as a hunter, someone who hunts monsters in the Australian Outback for cash and profit. One day you awaken with a strange symbol across your back called a Hellsign, and get a call to come check out an abandoned haunted house. This sparks your journey from a nobody who doesn’t know how to operate any equipment, to demon slaying legend. Story aint great if im honest, characters are interesting and funny enough but there’s major holes in the plot, such as at the beginning you not knowing how to use basic equipment, or know any monster hunting lingo which results in other characters who have paid you to be there make fun of you before explaining in depth how everything works.

Missions are a bit of a grind honestly, as you’ll mostly just be collecting things that you would have already been doing because that’s how you get money in this game.

Yeah, not the best but that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here for high octane werewolf fights baby, and that’s what you’ll absolutely kinda sorta get… maybe.

Gameplay: Dodge Roll like its Yharnam 1886 Baby!

So, you remember when I put Bloodborne and Hellsign in the same category as a monster hunter game. Well, that’s where things diverge a little bit. Bloodborne is a more horror-based experience, with Lovecraftian imagery, and gothic weapons and clothing. It’s also a fast-paced melee focused experience that can be brutally difficult at times. Hellsign is kind of on the opposite side of the spectrum, in most ways as a matter of fact, as “horror” is the only real connection between the two (Well that and dodge rolling).

Hellsign is a much slower type of survival horror game, that has big spikes of action followed by minutes of careful investigation. Think of it more like a Lovecraftian detective noir sort of way, with very little Lovecraft elements, if that makes sense. You’ll mostly be using EMF meters, paranormal microphones, and thermal scanners to find clues to what demon is haunting the current location, and then choosing whether to run or load up the shotgun and duke it out for higher pay. The game runs on a rogue-lite system where rooms, hallways, and forest areas are randomly generated, but always have a set number of targets. You walk around the house waving a microphone and that remote scanner thing from Ghostbusters around, before stumbling into a room full of monsters and engaging a firefight with ten little demon spiders. It can be a bit frustrating to play at points, as you often miss one single clue and have to backtrack for what feels like forever just to find it by chance. Overall though the gameplay is pretty fantastic, as the progression system is pretty rewarding, a bit slow but rewarding be it experience, or buying new weapons etc. The only thing I don’t like personally are the limits of the skill tree, as it’s small with not a lot of variety, though what you do get is pretty useful, farrr more useful than AC Unity, as you actually feel excited when you get new levels. The equipment you use has a decent amount of variety to it, and if you’re the type of person who loves traps, (insert Scooby Doo here) you’ll probably really love this game, because it has an extensive variety of tripwires, floodlights, and explosives.

So, the progression and gameplay are nice, if a bit frustrating and repetitive at times but how, you may ask, do the monsters hold up?

Well, it depends, honestly. If you’re looking to fight magic wielding vampires, or something out of a John Carpenter movie then I’d recommend looking elsewhere. This game is rooted in Cryptozoology, which is the study of undocumented species (cryptids as they’re called). So think less of a fantasy boss, and more along the lines of Dover Demon and the Mothman. There is a dark dimension thing, with poltergeists and demons, along with some light magic elements.  The majority, however are going to be huge bugs and these werewolf-like things called ghouls. It’s a more “realistic” monster hunting game in that way, and the enemy variety does pick up a bit from time to time. A lot of the monsters were a bit of a letdown, as most of them come down to something resembling bullfighting where they rush past you, you dodge roll, and then fire at them from the back and repeat until one of you ceases to breathe. Bit disappointing honestly, part of me wishes that there were some missions where you hunt one very smart and tough monster that runs around the house while shooting at it. Overall though pretty good gameplay and can definitely be fun at parts, just expect a slow burn at points

Art style/ Sound: Look There’s a Demon Cloud! *frantic violin playing

While I do like Hellsign I’d he remise if I didn’t mention the biggest gripe I have with this game: Hellsign was trying to be a scary horror game, but I never got scared once. Pretty big issue when you’re playing a game about hunting demons for cash.

This is due to two things: the look of the game, and the way tension is built up. First off, the look of the game can be a bit ugly depending on your taste. It has this greenish color filter over it which I personally dislike, as the colors come across as muted and dull. The monster themselves are either straight up black, invisible, or has some sort of red effect. There are no real monsters that scared me, or even stood out to me. In addition, this game is a pretty big jumpscare factory, as you kick in doors monsters jump out at you and you gun them down, rinse and repeat. No real buildup or tension, things just kinda happen. It ends up feeling like some “scary” Netflix movie rather than a tense, planned out thriller.

The level design is bland, as apparently every Australian has hired the exact same architect that believes the importance of designing quality homes is to get blindingly drunk and throw together rooms that have no coherence nor logic around the design. Each house has the same doors, same garage, even the same pool tables as each other, so it gets real dull real fast. Same for the forests and junkyard level, which are the only other two areas in the whole game.

There is some cool cutscenes in the game, as they have decent comic book styled cutscenes every once in a while, and the clip art for the equipment and weapons are pretty good. The only other issue I have with the game is the sound. The game reuses the voices a lot, and im 99% sure they’re stock sounds too. Screams are the exact same when listening on microphones, same jumping noise from the ghouls, and a comically ridiculous splat noise when getting attacked by tentacles. Also the boss music is pretty generic, as when you summon a demon, they play what sounds like Kevin Macleod music and generic violin track #247.

Conclusion:

Despite the issues I’ve listed above, I actually do really like the game, it has its flaws but has an engaging gameplay loop, and satisfying progression. I just wish it had been scarier, and had more visual appeal. I do recommend it, but more for the realistic take on monster hunting and its fun factor. Hopefully the devs either keep updating it, or work on a sequel where they can iron out some of the kinks.

Important Note:

This game’s story has been confirmed as a cliffhanger, and the devs have stated they will not be providing anymore story based updates.

3 thoughts on “Hellsign: Come Hell or High Water

    1. Its a truly amazing experience, easily in competiton for my fav game ever. And with Demons souls being remade it makes me psyched cause that possibility for BB2 is a pretty real possibility

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