SelectButton’s Early Access reviews provide valuable insight on a work in progress. The game will be reevaluated once officially released, as the review below is based on the Early Access build of the game at the time of the review’s publish date.
HellSign legitimately caught me off guard. This surprisingly deep action role-playing game (RPG) is a visceral approach to the supernatural investigation and elimination process. You're not a fun loving Ghostbuster in this game, but rather the victim of a HellSign and you're dealing with some seriously dark things. Don't expect the demons and other forces of darkness to go easy on you, in your attempt to rid the city from their influence.
And what an influence. The game consists of you traveling to points across the city to scout, sweep, or hunt down paranormal foes. Sweeping involves gathering signs of an infestation - clues in the form of ESP recordings, photographs, ectoplasm, and other items that allow you to deduce what's taken residence in the house and killed the occupants. Sweeping consists of you doing a simple sweep through the premises, clearing out any creatures you find. And hunting is essentially the combination of both - figure out what's haunting the place and eliminating it. It's fascinating how much goes into determining not only the type of monster you are dealing with but the best way to kill it. You have a journal where you take your discovered clues and use them to figure out what unholy being is there and the best method for getting rid of it.
Using a traditional mouse and keyboard control scheme movement is handled by the w, a, s, and d keys, with your actual view being manipulated by a mouse cursor. HellSign uses an isometric view, similar to many classic action-RPG titles. Using the number keys, you can select your weapons, items, and other investigation tools and traps. Equipping a weapon gives you the ability to sprint with shift and combat roll with the spacebar. Shooting/Researching is done via the left mouse button, but you can press and hold the right mouse button to "more accurately target." It honestly takes some time to find the sweet spot of combat - I sucked at it no matter what I did, and I ended up giving up on attempting sweeping missions because I'd get decimated.
Aside from the annoying combat aspects of never hitting the damn ground-based creatures, the user interface (UI) is cumbersome. Some screens do offer an "exit" option, but there were many I swear I could not find. I always ended up reverting to just hitting the escape button in order to continue unabated. Being in Steam Early Access as well, there were some things I noticed, like some skills required being level 99, but I'm assuming those are still being worked on and will be in the full version of the game.
The attention to the audio in the game is excellent and probably the game's best aspect. Voice actors, ambient sounds, using the parabolic mic or the EMF reader. All of it. Even the music, while repetitious, is still well done. Aside from the focus on supernatural and boogiemen creatures, the audio pieces really tie this game together. Horror and supernatural are built on an ambiance, and as you steadily explore the houses and bodies, the sounds inside and out help to amp up the situation. Especially during any appearance of an enemy.
I think HellSign has some outstanding pieces and I'm curious to see what a final, polished product will look like. The game looks good, even though it regularly recycled environments, but some odd visual hiccups still occur (especially during reloading). Once the game has been fleshed out and finished, I think it'll be a solid title that will interest many.
Note: HellSign was reviewed based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided by the publisher.