I confess, one nice thing about previews is the freedom to present a glimpse of a game however it seems most befitting. As I crawled into Hellion, previewing the sci-fi survival title by Zero Gravity that just hit early access, the standard essay format seemed off. As I poked and prodded, learning Hellion’s secrets, I felt it would be better to show the ridiculous absurdity of me clumsily trying and failing at play Hellion as someone who is inexperienced at survival titles. Especially from the imagined perspective of whatever scientists could be watching me blunder pretty badly in a failed genetic experiment. So here’s how observer reports would have probably turned out if they had to see me stumble about.
Clone Logs #56249
Upon waking up from a shivery slumber with arthritic movement (note: increase pod temperature after the waking up process to above room temperature to reduce stiffness?) the clone seemed to at first have the right idea. It read the instructions left in the prescribed location on the floor to utilize them to its fullest potential. However, then the clone climbed into the maintenance ducts and crawled out the ship. Its life cycles ceased within 5 seconds of being jettisoned out the ship. After evaluation, we feel a malfunction with the cryogenic process may have caused large portions of the clone’s brain’s cells to burst and cease to function.
Clone Logs #56320
This time this clone managed to read the instructions and put on the suit. Even managed to manipulate the power input and output. However, confused, it again climbed inside the airlock and pulled the manual over-ride. Someone in the Cryogenics Maintenance Team will probably get fired if this keeps happening.
Clone Logs #56400
Our clone immediately ejected itself. A formal complaint has been sent.
Clone Logs #56405
We watched as the clone walked around the “life-raft” device. They put a suit on, inspected the power, checked all the components, tried to replace what they could, and then repeated this check-replace cycle for 10 minutes. At one point it nearly wandered into the floor due to rogue void activity induced between the zero gravity of the airlock and gravity of the main quarters. Fortunately, it righted itself before it could escape. In the end, we closed the server out of concern, considering the clone a failure
Clone Logs #57062
As connectivity initiated with the clone, it seems someone forgot to put it back in the cryogenics chamber as it was found cradling a helmet rather than in the booth. Another long stumble about the ship occurred. Sadly, it seems our instructions on transportation and life support eluded it as they failed to make either component work (even with working parts). It seems this frustration drove the clone to suicide via climbing through the maintenance ducts and out the airlock. Upon realizing the charged jetpack did not work, it took off its helmet and took a deep breath. Perhaps better instructions required?
Clone Logs #60241
We drilled our clone with the developer videos as they crawled out the pod, raring to go. At first, there were technical difficulties. Our program client kept crashing, even on the lowest quality settings, leaving no written record of what became of them. However, with a stable feed, we saw it ready the space-raft, strap itself with enough ordnance to leave the military folks blushing and eject out of the airlock.
Rather than choking or spiraling out of control, the jetpack was activated thanks to the tutorial. They also knew how to ready the local mapping system and fly for the nearest module floating gracefully in space. However, strange technology must have been utilized. An attempt to breach into the module was foiled by a door unwilling to open by both automated and manual means. Fortunately, our clone recognized a familiar build system and crawled into the ducts knowing they can by-pass doors. That said, mysteriously an invisible shielding device prevented entry.
Our clone did not consider just trying the other door. Instead, they thought to attach the module onto their life-raft, thus upgrading it into a base. We tried to advise and spur the clone on with helpful aid like “come on man, do you only have air between your ears? Just line the ship up with the door” and “stop playing bumper cars, do you think this is the fairground or something?” to no avail. It complained back at us saying “this is like threading a car into a garage while on ice, why does it have to be so hard?”, but we can only conclude the clone was just damaged through waking up from cryogenics.
It was at that point the air ran out, as they spent so long trying to get it to work and trying to break into the module. Thus it floated off into space. Another failure. So we’ve gone back to the drawing board with our recorded data, in the aim of making our clones less inept and less clumsy. Maybe one day we’ll work out how to allow them to not require breathing, but that day is not today.
I submit these reports as a trial of clone ed #0.1.3, in the hopes improvements may be created. There is hope to be had, and there is salvageable data here, but alterations will be required to reach closer to realizing our dream of space frontiersmen.
Cutting away from that, there are some parts of Hellion that sadly I couldn’t work into the gag.
For instance, there is currently no offline mode. So you’ll have to make-do with using public servers, with all the lag issues that can happen with unreliable server connection. If you’re worried about someone using a ballistic equivalent of a lead hole-punch all over your body, then fear not as space is both plentiful and dark. I never spotted even the indication life was out there. Although that isn’t to say it is impossible to play with a friend as there is a second spawning point in the base. However, considering you’ll be sharing the same ship as them (along with the same very finite resources), you may want to practice being frugal before bringing a buddy along.
There is also the question of the airlock. Right now, to leave the vessel you must use the manual controls. This presents two problems: Loss of valuable air and atmosphere, and if you accidentally leave your ship door open while manually opening the airlock then expect all your gear to be ejected into space. It would be useful to have an automated system for leaving the ship for space adventures.
I’d also like to warn that using zero gravity has a learning curve. While it would be easy to grumble about how hard it is to slap buttons while floating about, or the ease of flying past your destination with the jetpack, it seems intentional. Rather instead, it is about learning the feel of it.
Something that brings me to the conclusion. Survival titles are a common enough bunch, bursting at the seams. There are a couple of sci-fi ones in the mix, although where they embrace the fantastical of the unknown, usually leaping about exploring strange unknown planets, Hellion presents something harder and colder. It demands of you to navigate husks of those who came before you using a more hard sci-fi approach. It doesn’t dive into the absurd that the infinity of space can offer, it presents the cold reality of being lost in space with no way back.
That explanation should help you decide whether or not Hellion could be for you. There’s nothing bright, colorful and incredible here, things that may more be found in the realm of science-fantasy. Hellion is cold, dark and unforgiving, giving you only the science-fiction in a form as realistic and grim as possible. If you need a new survival frontier then Hellion may also suit you great, as it remembers to ground itself of the daft fantastical some sci-fi titles can leap to.
If you do buy Hellion on Early Access, just keep in mind that it is in alpha still. If you’re anxious then the option to sit back and see how it progresses is there. Which considering it has a long way to go (including a narrative) and is pretty strong already, I believe it is a journey worth watching.
A Steam Preview Key for Hellion was Provided by Zero Gravity for the Purpose of this Preview