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game: hellgate london
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London’s burning.In Flagship Studios’ Hellgate London, Blighty’s venerable capital is trashed by the forces of hell. Flagship, the company formed by the creators of the classic action-RPG Diablo, is based in San Francisco, so why did they decide London was the ideal candidate for demonic destruction? “It’s always been this epicentre of huge struggle. London has been hotly contested. It was invaded by the Romans and then by the Vikings,” explains Flagship boss Bill Roper. “It is also an epicentre for cataclysmic events. The Great Fire of 1666. The Black Plague. The devastation of World War II. This was really a draw for us. We wanted a city that had a strong history to it but also had foundations in magic and mythology.”
In fact, the game’s premise utilises the legendary belief that if the ravens even leave the Tower of London disaster would befall England. They did and it has. London is now in ruins, and Templars are leading a resistance based in Tube stations. However, if you’re familiar with London, you may be somewhat confused by the city you find in the game, as one of Hellgate London’s striking elements is its randomisation of content, notably of areas themselves.
The narrative justification is that “The demonic process of altering our world into theirs warps reality, constantly shifting things.” Roper further explains, “We wanted to capture the look and feel of the city while still being able to fully utilize randomization and rarity in our backgrounds. We took thousands of reference photos that were used to create our vision of London for the game, with the ultimate goal being a cityscape that made you feel as if you were there in some dark, alternate future.”
Randomisation is something that helps distinguish the game. “One of the common complaints against MMORPGs is that the game degenerates into grinding,” say Roper. “I believe that a huge contributor to this is when players have learned where everything is and the sense of exploration disappears. With all of our environments, items and monsters completely randomized, players never know what’s around the next corner. This means that there’s always that sense of exploration.”
The game’s combat is also notable. “The action-based combat is something we love doing, and this definitely goes back to how Diablo was created,” says Roper. “We are first and foremost an RPG, so your stats, level, skills and spells and so forth are vital to your success. But we also love having a very fluid combat style that pits you against dozens of demons at a time. This is another way that we are very different from other MMOs.”
Hellgate London is one of those titles where the developers have clearly faced up to that perennial challenge in the games industry: punters simultaneously want more of what they like, but they also want innovation. “It is an amazingly difficult balance to strike,” agrees Roper. “With Hellgate London we had the Diablo fans firmly in mind. But we also knew we had to innovate and create new challenges and experiences. Our goal has been to create a game that is familiar yet compelling – something that players will instantly lock on to but then have a great time exploring the nuances.”
Hellgate London, out now on PC.
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