Welcome to the Year 2000
The same group that produced Blind Quest has another game under their umbrella titled Hell Hunter Anti Nomen. It is made by a different developer, but one under the same company. Is this another Blind Quest, or is it something better? I’ve been playing it for a couple days and have seen more than enough to form some opinions of the game. Read on to see how I feel about this latest release from Audiogames Association.
- Developer: Giovanni Debidda produced by Audiogames Association
- Game’s download page
- Price: 5,90€ ($6.97)
- Demo: Yes
- Platform: Windows, Mac, IOS to come
- Thread on audiogames.net
Note on the demo:
For unknown reasons they require an email address and your first and last name just to request a demo. This seems like overkill for a free demo, but if you wish to test the game without purchasing this is the only option. I have never gone through their demo process first hand, so I cannot write about how it works, but it seems pretty straight forward at a glance.
Developer’s Summary Of The Game
Elyon’s story is about to be told…
In our days, in a world where technology has spread worldwide, mankind can’t even imagine that vampires and all the creatures of the night actually exist.
Elyon is a dhampir and a vampire hunter and you, blood seeker, will help him to hunt Dracula, the lord of darkness.
HELL HUNTER: ANTI-NOMEN is a horror action-narrative RPG audiogame with a wide variety of immersive environments.
Explore the modern Transylvania and survive the chase of an unbeatable creature… How long can you last?
A new adventure with 100 new maps in 10 different scenarios! Over 7 hours of gameplay.
Do you have the courage to follow Elyon during his hunt for Dracula?
You will be chased by werewolves in the forest, you will need to make it through an attack of the revenants, and survive the chase of an unbeatable creature… How long can you last?
Follow Elyon in this new horror adventure, will you be brave enough?
Of course the game opens at max volume. It seems that no matter how much people including myself hate this nothing will ever change. I’m assaulted by someone telling me to input my activation code, and after doing so and turning down the volume I’m welcomed by a very familiar menu. The options are new game, load game, credits, and exit. As far as sparse menus go, this one has to win some sort of prize. No ability to customize anything about the game, not audio, inputs, nothing at all. You get what you get, and you better be okay with it because there are no other options. There will be more about this later.
I quickly realized that this isn’t much different, or a big improvement on the last “RPG” I played from this company…Blind Quest. After realizing this I tried to not let that game color my opinions, but it was more and more difficult as I played farther into the storyline. There are some improvements from Blind Quest, but they are using the same engine. An engine which is about 20 years out of date, and has an extremely low amount of room for game variation. Because of this it feels like the same thing with some minor changes.
Giving Hell Hunter a Solid Chance
Hell Hunter’s Setting & Story
The world we are presented with at the start is one of “high technology”. The people are all using smart phones, and living a valley girl lifestyle. You could draw a lot of similarities to modern life in the real world, but that is only at the start. Once Elyon leaves the first settlement, the setting takes a pretty harsh shift. The urban fantasy setting can easily be accepted through the werewolves , but after that when we enter into the wasteland it gets harder to believe. Then after the manner, when in the tourist village it is a jarring shift of setting. The previous high technology setting is replaced by a village where they have to haul water from a central spigot on the main road, and where the members of the village form a mob with honest to god pitchforks.
This is all bad enough, but when combined with the fact that it is all within walking distance of where we started the game. I can’t help but think there wasn’t much thought put into the world building. With the setting as broken as it is, the rest of the story comes into question. When the actual game play content is so limited as it is here, the experience rely’s heavily on the setting and game world. With these in question and not matching together, it makes for a pretty rough experience. It isn’t an urban fantasy setting, it isn’t steam punk, it is a modern culture that leans towards mid evil except when it is convenient to bring in technology.
The Mechanics and Experience
Though the setting is a bit of a rough patch, the game mechanics are the most frustrating part of the game. I had a very hard time playing this one. I tried to make it through in 15-20 minute play sessions, but I couldn’t do it anymore. They made me so angry I got to the ghost ship and had to stop playing because it was only compounding my frustration every time I opened the game.
The first issue for me is the voice over. It isn’t badly recorded or badly acted, it is just there, and it is not necessary. It makes everything about the game so tedious because the recorded speech is so very slow. With the game being rated as 7 hours worth of playtime, I’d bet that could be cut almost in half if the option was given to use a player’s screen reader. This is compounded and added to with the need to check items in the world more than once to complete tasks and parts of the story. You are left listening to the same thing over and over at the same slow rate…it is enough to make one crazy.
This is yet another game without open movement, and it is beyond frustrating. To move around and interact with the game world you use your arrow keys to move left and right through menu options. The different things you’ll cycle through may be objects in the room, monsters, friendly NPCs, equipment, or other things which change your environment by opening doors or something similar. You then press control or enter on the selected item to read a description or to interact with it. That’s all there is to movement, you are only moving around through menus. There is no world to actively move in, just menus in each room that limit your interactions with the game world.
When it comes to combat with monsters it doesn’t get much better. There are three directions, left, center, right, and combat is a game of Bop It. You hear an attack from one direction, and you have to dodge in the opposite direction then press up arrow to attack. If it comes from center channel then you dodge backwards because it makes sense to do the opposite direction unless it is straight on (sarcasm). Like everything else with this game, this is a very old and outdated way to handle combat, and it doesn’t even pass the sniff test of making sense. For example if a straight on attack means you can dodge back, then a attack from the right means you should also be able to dodge back. As long as you aren’t to the right you should be fine. It really is just a glorified game of Bop-it, you hear a sound and you press a certain button. Press the wrong button and you lose health and eventually die.
On the topic of health, it is also a point of frustration. Health is important in a game with combat, and something you would expect to be able to check. You can check your HP in this game, but you are only told above 75%, above 50%, and other similar asinine amounts. This is completely unacceptable and unreasonable to put into a game where the point is to stay alive and kill monsters. Not only that but you have 0 idea how much damage you do, or what the HP of the monster you are fighting is. You just smack it with up arrow spam until it dies. If this antique game engine can handle the monsters having HP, then it should be conveyed to the player, and the player should have an idea of how much damage their weapon does.
The voice acting is frustrating, but the base mechanics of the game are unforgivable. I really argued with myself on how to approach this, but straight on seems to be the only way. The year is 2021, and this game would fit right in the year 2000, but in the year 2021 it is a bad example of how to make an audio game. This company clearly has one game engine, and they are really trying to get every bit of use out of it possible. I don’t know when it was made, but it should have been retired 20 years ago. Normally with something as simplistic as this, the game play takes a back seat and the playing experience rely’s on the story instead. However here the story is fraught with its own issues, and it can’t hold the weight of the game anymore than the mechanics can. What you are left with is a new game that feels two decades out of date with a story that feels roughly patched together and which takes way too long to get through.
The Good Bits
I’m sure people are complaining about this being voice acted by the same person who does their other games, but that isn’t something that bothers me. I think the voice acting is actually better here than it is in previous games. The issues with the voice acting aren’t because of the one doing the voice over, rather how it is used to slow down the pace of the game.
The sound design isn’t horrible, but it isn’t great either. The only real use of design here is in the ambiences, and they do a good job. When they need to convey suspense the background track does what it should do to enhance the expected emotion or feeling. That being said, the ambience is way too loud in parts, and it has no adjustment, but it isn’t a deal breaker.
The overall idea is good, and it even sounds like it should be a good story…there’s just too much dropped and missed along the way to fully take advantage of the concept. The general story is original enough for me, and with some more combining and shoring up of the setting it could be good, I just don’t know if that is possible because of the box the developer is operating in. These would be very difficult to change because everything is voice acted, and any change requires more voice acting. Furthermore even if the story aspects of the game were fixed, it leaves all the mechanical issues on the table still.
I wish there was more I enjoyed about this game, but there really isn’t. I had to force myself to play it for this review, and if it wasn’t for the blog I more than likely wouldn’t have purchased it in the first place.
How To Make It Better
Scrap the engine and start working on a new one with maps and a world that can be walked around in. Take any of the games, even blind quest and give it a real world to move in and it is already more enjoyable. Audio games have advanced, and it is time for everyone (both players and developers) to abandon these menu based games.
Allow for players to use screen reader output instead of voice over, it is perfectly doable. This will allow for a smoother game play experience for everyone. The guy who does the voice isn’t bad, it is just slow and ruins the experience.
If screen reader output is refused then run the voice over through a VST to speed it up. It can be done without any artifacts to ruin the quality of the recordings. Something has to be done to decrease the amount of time listening to a super slow voice over.
Work on the plot and setting. This one is exceptionally hard to follow and believe. Even the most dedicated fantasy or science fiction reader wouldn’t be able to get behind this one. Even if this isn’t possible with the current game, it really should be thought out more for future games.
Make it a real RPG with equipment, stats, and characteristics that can be leveled up and improved. This is what the RPG player enjoys about an RPG. This is not an RPG. Shortcuts in making this genre of game are so apparent to the player, and the only way to do it right is to do it all the way.
This Isn’t Blind Quest…But
Though this isn’t the same as the afore mentioned Blind Quest, it isn’t much different. The combat is better, but the bar was on the ground, so it wasn’t hard to stumble over that one. You can interrupt some speech, so at least you aren’t slowed down quite as much…as much being the key words. The story is different, but has all sorts of discrepancies that make me wonder more about how well it was thought out.
I have tried to not let my thoughts about Blind Quest cloud this review, but they are honestly quite similar games. There were improvements made, but not as many as would be required to make a fun interactive and enjoyable game. My gut tells me this is because of the game engine’s limitations, but that is no excuse to continue putting out what is essentially the same product with a new wrapping.
Rating and Conclusion
If I had to summarize this in one sentence. This is a newly released fugazi RPG that feels like an abandonware game from two decades ago. I’m not helping my reputation of someone who is overcritical on new games, but I find it impossible to enjoy playing this. Those who know what BSG is about trust us to bring honest reviews, and if I’m being honest…I really really disliked this game. It is made for the very light gamer, not someone who want something to sink their teeth into. On the other side of the coin, those who want a good story in a game are going to be disappointed by the lack of cohesive plot and setting here. Overall I found it hard to open and play, and I wouldn’t suggest picking it up.
Rating: 2 / 10
I give it two stars for sound design. It is pretty much all stock sounds, but they aren’t badly used. Even a game with a $100,000 budget for sounds isn’t good if the content isn’t there, and it is no where to be found here.
I’m fully aware that these reviews can come across overly harsh, but at a certain point what else can be said. Beating around the bush only goes so far, and sometimes a more direct approach has to be taken, even if it is going to fuel the haters fires. After debating with myself for too long I realized this time the above had to be said.
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