Developer: Zero Gravity
Publisher: Zero Gravity
Tested on: PC
HELLION – Preview
As a kid most of us will have gotten the question: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Many of us probably answered “astronaut”. To become a real astronaut however takes long studies, high mental and physical endurance and a lot of luck. Now, to make the voyage you won’t need a long career at NASA, only a strong PC and an early access copy of HELLION. While this might not be a direct space simulator, this game is rather a highly realistic survival title. Will you survive the harsh nature of zero gravity? Or will you open up the doors and suck your friends out, launching them into space?
At each startup we are greeted with a skip-able intro telling us the story that, at the dawn of the 23th century, mankind had finally developed fusion power for easy space travel. Now they can go beyond the confines of Earth and they’re able to set out to give humanity a new home beneath an alien sky. With their sights set to a new star, named HELLION, all is set towards the unknown place. But it was all a big mistake. While the preparations and travels almost took a century, the planet shows to be a warzone. As one of the many people shot into space, the narrator wishes that someone can survive.
Remember those summer nights when you were lying down on the field looking at the stars, imagining how beautiful space could be? Well, the cosmos is a big empty place and this is greatly captured by the game. Don’t expect a lot to be flying around like in the movies, but a more realistic showing of how the universe really is. The game allows many graphical settings that either make the game run very smoothly or give your true eye candy, but like many early access titles it suffers greatly from optimalisation issues that even the strongest PCs won’t be able to have a decent frame rate. There is a thing that does take away the realism and that’s the far background giving a flat feeling, which gives the illusion that you are in a room and not in endless space.
They say that in space, no one can hear you scream. And you will scream a lot in this game, don’t worry. Sounds are well done and the voice acting of some parts is great to listen to. In some gameplay features you will need to rely on the sound cues of thrusters. When there is no hope left for you there is an option for sending out a distress signal. Make sure you won’t turn insane from the continuous beeping though.
Many older games made us believe that flying in space would be very simple and just like on our planet. Those games are all wrong since they work with gravity models and not with inertia. This is a new way of playing and the game comes with a load of various new challenges. Because you need to work with inertia this means that you need to be careful with movement. In normal conditions when you move forward you will continue thanks to momentum minus the various factors that have a slowing effect like air, gravity, density etc. In space where there is no gravity you have to respect the rules of inertia, meaning that when you move you will continue to move until you counter that in the opposite direction. Simply said flying a ship is harder than you think, unless you get lucky and someone patiently teaches you the ropes. With a high learning curve this also means that the game is extremely frustrating at the beginning. There is currently no real tutorial so you better look up some guides first, or do it the old way through baby steps and trial and error. Once you learn the ropes of the game after many hours you can finally start surviving for real. Luckily the only thing you currently need to watch out for is that you have breathable air to survive, excluding resources for traveling (fuels and parts).
Living in your little rescue ship does mean that you need to take good care of the various life support systems, checking out the health of the items and look at which needs replacing. When you want to get out you just cannot open a door and go, as you need a pressure suit and a jetpack to survive outer space. For the moment you can chose between a normal suit and a more advanced version found in some modules. To get outside you need to depressurize the rooms, but the normal ship does not support this, so you will lose precious air in the process. Other ships and modules do come with this handy feature so you don’t waste anything, just don’t forget to do it.
Your main goal is to mine asteroids for resources and build a space colony with other people. If you are not trusting others feel free to equip yourself with a gun to defend yourself. Mining asteroids is done with a drill and the gathered ores can be processed in your station. Be sure not to drift away from your ship as air and fuel are limited and you don’t want to die there lonely on a space rock.
Since it is currently an early access title this means that it is only playable online and this opens the door for a few extra problems. As mentioned the game takes a lot of patience, precision and careful planning. This all can be undone quickly by lag spikes and will also affect the overall experience. Not to mention the handful of bugs plaguing this title making some features currently unavailable.
HELLION is a realistic new space survival game that might come with a very steep learning curve. In the end when you finally find a stable server, get the hang of space travel and you have a trusty friend to help you, the game turns out to be quite fun. The lack of a tutorial or any real in-depth content means that it could get boring after a while, but taken into consideration that this is just an alpha makes us look forward to further updates.