Whether it’s in games or film, space is a hot topic. The exploration game No Man’s Sky was a fiery hot topic. We’re in the age where we’re going to get a new Star Wars film once a year, basically. Arrival made big waves with critics last year, and we can expect two sci-fi horror films (Alien: Covenant and Life) soon. I’m sorry to say that Hellion isn’t like any of these games or films; it’s not even No Man’s Sky. Hellion is undercooked.
We start with an animated intro, a well-voiced background of the new home humanity has made for itself away from Earth. Conflict has started, and you will become part of it. Players begin on a space module, awoken from cryogenic sleep. Since this is in early access, there is no dialogue, and no text. It is you alone who has to figure out what to do next. There are video playthroughs provided by the developer, Zero Gravity, but I only learned this after feeling clueless about where to go next. I know that it might take time and money to create a quest system for players to follow, but the developer should have at least put a basic document in the help menu to point people to the right direction.
So a lack of a proper in-game tutorial is the first offense. I can get over that. It wasn’t hard to tell what you need to do initially. There are items you can pick up, and parts of the ship you can interact with. You have been asleep for some time, so parts of the module’s systems need to be replaced. What I found out, and what other players will discover, is that you don’t have enough replacement parts to get all the module’s systems running. At this point, I hit a roadblock. There is nowhere else to go but outside. Outside, you know, into endless space!
The first time I decided to have myself sucked out into space, I didn’t know how to control my jetpack, so I just floated away from my ship until I could no longer see it. The basic controls are in the help menu, so the next time I went out into space, I didn’t end up dying cold and alone. So I learned that going outside is your key to restoring your ship’s functions. There are other structures floating in proximity to the ship, and they have parts you can salvage. The trouble being that it’s very difficult to maneuver in space. Your jetpack can get you close to a structure, but it is hard to stay in place long enough to interact with things. You may even bounce off a structure. This is no good. This is a nightmare.
I’m not exaggerating. Think about how crazy it looks wheen you see astronauts working outside of a space station. This game is supposed to take place in the future, when technology is supposed to be better. So why does it feel less easy to maneuver through space in the future than it does in past NASA footage? I think that all of the zero gravity animation and physics needs to be tweaked. Maybe Zero G did try to make it feel close to actual low gravity situations, but it doesn’t feel like good gameplay. At least give the players a device to tether to objects!
I haven’t gotten to any action, so I cannot judge how action works in Hellion. Maybe it’s great! I may never know. Maybe Zero Gravity will have to include a Quick Match mode so some of us can get right to fighting, instead of trying to restore the space module. It’s a neat puzzle, but the fun ran out pretty quick. I really want to sing the praises of Hellion more, but I have been walled from enjoying the full experience.
Hellion could be a great sci-fi action game, but it might take a year, when the game is out of Early Access. Right now, I cannot recommend playing a game that’s not in a well enough state. I have played the game for close to a month, and nothing has changed for the better. The price on Steam is £19.99 (€22.99, $24.99). I honestly believe that this should be a free alpha/beta, not a game with a price tag. If you want to try it out a few months, I think that’s a better plan.