Virtual reality

Delicious Dark Fantasy With Crazy Combat Combos

Hellsweeper is one of the biggest VR releases set to launch before the end of 2022 and after a brief hands-on experience, we can’t wait to play more.

Developer Mixed Realms is best known for its popular action game Sairento and now the studio is following it up with Hellsweeper, a combat-based title dripping in dark fantasy. Published by Vertigo Games, the game will release on PC VR in Q4 of this year and on Quest 2 at a later, unconfirmed date. Last month, I went hands-on with Hellsweeper at Gamescom and came away with lots of thoughts. The short version? It’s a batch of fun.

My demo lasted roughly 10 minutes, only giving me time for one short run fending off increasingly hectic waves of demonic enemies. However, Hellsweeper’s full release will include four modes – the main roguelike offering, along with an endless wave mode, a sandbox mode and a co-op mode as well.

So while I wasn’t able to assess the game on a wider level, I did get a good look at the combat, loadout and traversal mechanics. By far the most interesting takeaway was Hellsweeper’s system for loadout customization and the unique combos that come with it. Up to four damage items – including weapons, guns and magic spells – can be equipped in your loadout for any given run. Each one is mapped to a specific direction – up, down, inward or outward.

It’s a gesture-based system, where you can summon items from your loadout into either hand by holding the grip button and moving your hand in the direction assigned to each item. In my demo, I had a sword, bow, fireball and mace equipped. Holding the grip and swiping outwards with either hand summoned a sword, for example, whereas swiping inward summoned a bow and so on.

These weapons are completely expendable and you only hold onto them for as long as you want to. You can hit an enemy once with your sword and then drop it (or even throw it towards a far off enemy, as if it’s a dagger). Re-summoning weapons is easy and the game encourages you to quickly and frequently switch between weapons. There’s a frenetic pace that runs through the entire experience, and the way you use weapons matches that.

However, what makes this system really interesting is the combos you can create by combining two weapons or spells together. If you summon an item in each hand, you can smash them together to create a unique combination with different effects. Smashing my fireball onto my sword, for example, gave me a flaming sword. Likewise, combining a fireball and a bow together creates flaming arrows. You can even combine multiples of the same spell together – two fireballs merge to create one massive ball of energy, which I could shoot across the map and detonate at will.

hellsweeper

My loadout was just a small taste and I didn’t even get to try any guns or the wider array of spells. No doubt the full selection will grant countless interesting and unique combinations. While I didn’t try them personally, I did see some others in use – a memorable example was combining an ice spell with a bow to create arrows that slowed enemies down. It seems like there will be lots of experimentation to be had, letting players try different combos to craft their own personalized ideal loadout.

But what’s a loadout without enemies to use it against? Hellsweeper’s demonic enemies were another highlight of the demo. They look beautifully horrific, visually reminiscent of the artfully-crafted enemies in a FromSoftware title, and will squeal, squirm and hiss at you until you’re properly terrified. Their amazing visual design gave the monsters a huge, imposing presence in the world, adding extra pressure as more and more spawned in.

hellsweeper

To evade them, you’ll use an expansive smooth locomotion system that lets you quickly zip and dash your way around the map in a number of different ways. It’s a very responsive movement system, but one thing is certain – this is not a game for those who get easily nauseous in VR. Hellsweeper is a very intense game and it uses smooth locomotion to its full potential. You can walk, run, jump, double jump, dash mid-air and generally move around in various directions at high speed.

This isn’t necessarily a misstep. The intense movement system feels appropriate for the fast-paced, hectic nature of the combat and I’m sure there’s players who won’t be put off. It just won’t be an experience for beginners or those who are new to VR. For the experienced though, Hellsweeper looks set to offer a delicious dark fantasy treat.

Hellsweeper releases later this year on PC VR via Steam, followed by a Quest 2 release at a later date.

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