Techland has found a comfortable place within the zombie genre. Dead Island, Dead Island: Riptide and the upcoming Dying Light give players a unique arsenal of ramshackle weapons designed to cut through an army of the undead in order to survive, help others and uncover the mystery behind the menace. Hellraid is a significant departure from the recent norm, eschewing zombies and decaying island resorts for a Gothic fantasy world ruled by horror. Hellraid is built on the foundations of Dead Island and borrows elements from the Elder Scrolls series to deliver a first person hack-and-slash adventure, rich with sword and sorcery action, a new visual palette and some pretty cool monster designs.
The E3 demonstration didn't go into detail about Hellraid's story beyond the Cliff's Notes version: you are the survivor of a cursed kingdom and have decided to fight against evil and the hellish minions that wander the land. There are a combination of traditional medieval weapons that can be picked up from fallen enemies or discovered in secret alcoves and treasure chests. Apart from swords and axes, magical items can be located that attack enemies with elemental magic. The inclusion of shields, parrying and dodging maneuvers pushes combat beyond the Dead Island tactic of running up to enemies and beating them senseless before they drop. Each weapon has various properties and stats and rather than stick with one weapon throughout the game, Hellraid suggest mixing things up by using the right weapon for various circumstances. Most low level enemies can easily be destroyed through a series of light and heavy attacks or blasts of magic while stronger enemies, especially those immune to certain magics, require a bit more work. Heavy attacks work best when charged up (by holding the attack button down) though you will stagger if someone hits you while charging up an attack.
Character progression is similar to Elder Scrolls because it doesn't force you to fall in line with pre-generated character classes. Strength, Magic and Agility are three facets of the character you are free to shape, each opening up special skills and abilities. This level of freedom allows for the player to create a unique hero, one that will complement other builds in the Hellraid's online co-op experience.
Hellraid will contain three game modes at launch: Story, Mission and Arena. The E3 demo previewed Story mode, depicting an unnamed hero fighting their way through a castle keep. The trek through the dimly lit rooms featured two prominent boss encounters, one against a Minotaur monster and a massive, blinded warrior whose moves were unpredictable and dangerous. Our Techland rep had pre-written and fascinating back stories for these two creatures and I wasn't sure if this was to be included in the game or just for the benefit of those watching the demo. Mission mode allows you to replay Story levels but with an added scoring system that urges you to earn points for various feats, like creating the longest attack combo on an enemy, in order to reach the top spot on the leaderboards. Arena functions as Hellraid's horde mode, pitting you and other players against waves of increasingly difficult enemies.
After watching the presentation, I looked over my notes and discovered, to my surprise, that I absentmindedly wrote down, "Reminds me of Hexen." Thinking about it for a bit, Hellraid certainly felt similar to Raven's classic (and awesome) FPS, making me more interested in giving it a try. Techland offered a 2015 release window for Hellraid, but invites players to experience it this fall through Steam's Early Access.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.