You awaken in the star system Hellion from cryogenic stasis and everything is strange, in fact, you could be feeling some of the effects of Mass Effect Andromeda seeping into your thoughts as you walk around your lifeboat taking inventory of what you have and what replacement parts you have to start fixing malfunctioning systems. After things stabilize you venture outward, by opening a docking port and venting some precious atmosphere into space to see a ship, named “Mule” come into view. With no idea who’s ship that is, one thing is for certain, it is yours now. From here the choices are all on you, will you start mining to replenish your oxygen and nitrogen supply? Or will you find other modules to bring back and dock to your lifeboat to make it more like home? Or will you become the first pirate in Hellion — taking the easy pickings from other spacers that they’ve left unattended while they sleep or while they gather resources?
Hellion opens up with some of the best graphics and gameplay that I’ve ever seen on the Unity engine, in fact, if anything this game has shown me the true power and potential that Unity can yield. And while you play, everything seems surreal and almost too immersive, such as patiently waiting for an airlock to cycle so you don’t lose any precious atmosphere. But where it begins to fail is where you would expect in its early access woes.
While the gameplay itself with immersion unlike any other space game to-date, it feels like you are really in space, things are still half-finished and half-baked — such as there being no way to craft items even though there is a crafting menu available. There is also no way to repair or upgrade devices on your ship: You have to die, respawn at a random outpost, and loot the outpost of all of its modules; and then bring them back by commandeering a new Mule to your lifeboat. I would have thought that there would have been some way to upgrade modules or craft modules just starting out as having to kill yourself to respawn to bring back new modules just seems too archaic, even for early access. This also means you now have two ships to maintain.
But where this game begins to shine is with some teamwork. Once you have a few friends and a life support module that they can spawn on, things start happening at a faster rate of speed, including losing things like drills and such because a friend wasn’t watching his oxygen gauge while he was mining.
But this game has a few showstoppers that everyone should be aware of! The bugs in this game can cause you to have to completely reset, and every update so far has caused each server admin to have to reset their saves, which means there is zero persistence and one of the main bugs you’ll run into is the loss of atmosphere. This happens when you dock your Mule’s claw to your station — at first, your life support systems disable for no reason on both vessels, and when you undock your Mule loses all of its atmospheres. Early on in the game, it is almost mandatory to move your lifeboat to a higher orbit to avoid other players from scavenging your own parts so you don’t wake up to a lifeboat that is malfunctioning for lack of parts. But in order to do this, requires that you use the Mule’s claw to grapple your station and tug it to a higher orbit. This means that your maneuver can’t take longer than 10 minutes (that’s about all the O2 you have), and once you’re done, you’re going to lose the atmosphere of your ship, so you have to be ready and prepared for that.
One would think, with a massive bug of that nature, that would stop a new player from being able to proceed in the game, the developers would hot-fix that. This is not the case and this is why the game loses a full star. Even for an Early Access game, it is the responsibility of the Developers, according to Valve guidelines, to ensure that the game is playable. In its current state, and with just that one showstopper, and there are more, the game fails the most basic of Valve Guidelines. I’m sure that they will get around to fixing it eventually, but this bug and the falling through floors bug isn’t just some “minor” problem that can be shelved until the next major version. It is an issue that affects gameplay for 100% of the players, that will stop gameplay for 100% of the players and that should merit more attentiveness or at least an acknowledgment when the bug is submitted over and over again on the steam forums.
This is most certainly a game you should keep your eye on if you’re passionate about the space sim genre, but I can’t recommend buying the game in its current state because you’ll just end up feeling like you wasted $25.00 USD. To be fair, most of the bugs listed in this review are said to be fixed in the new version 0.2.0 which is why I was careful to label this review as 0.1.9.