We recently had a chance to check in with publisher Namco and developer Flagship Studios for an updated look at Hellgate: London. The hybrid role-playing game will, as you may recall, take place in a near-future version of the city of London just after it has been overrun by demonic hordes. You'll play through the game from either a third-person perspective or a first-person perspective (the former is more appropriate when using melee weapons, the latter is more appropriate when using ranged weapons), and you'll learn a huge number of different skills, while acquiring a great many different weapons that can be customized with demonic artifacts, futuristic technology, or even holy relics, such as a fragment of the True Cross, or the finger bone of a long-dead saint.
While the areas that we were able to see were the same ones that were on display in May at E3 (a dingy downtown London area and a connected subway area), Flagship has apparently been hard at work since then cranking out content to fill out this area, as well as to fill out the game's only currently known character profession, the templar. The templar character class (one of several you'll be able to choose when you play the game) is descended from the secret society known as the Knights Templar, and its members have the ability to wear body armor and helmets while wielding a weapon in either hand, either using two melee weapons, two guns, or a sword and a gun. As we saw, it may actually be useful to split the difference by trying to use a melee weapon in one hand and a ranged weapon, like the grappler, in the other. (The grappler is a retractable grappling hook on a cable that can grab faraway enemies, including flying monsters, and drag them toward you so that you can pummel them with your melee weapon.)
In the meantime, you can choose from the game's many, many skills. The templar character will apparently have skills that focus on "auras," energy fields that radiate from his or her person that can either hinder nearby enemies or strengthen nearby foes. Even though the game will have many different skills, you'll be able to choose only a certain number of them by investing various skill points in each. With each skill point you invest, your skills will become more powerful. However, the game won't have any skills that get replaced over time, and therefore Flagship intends for all skills in the game to remain useful throughout the entire game...even the ones you get at the very beginning. And fortunately, you'll be able to adjust how many points you have invested in an individual skill anytime you wish.
According to Flagship's Bill Roper, over the course of the game, you'll uncover not only a treasure trove of weapons and items, but also a story that reveals how the demons that invaded the world actually have a hierarchy and caste system. They also apparently have motives beyond simply destroying and conquering, and you'll discover these motives while clearing out the game's instanced areas and while completing quests and missions that may put you in touch with other surviving warriors, as well as helpless civilians who are just trying to survive. Flagship is apparently even considering adding a "faction standing" system similar to the one popularized by EverQuest. The system would add to or subtract from your standing with specific key factions in the game, depending on how you solve specific quests. While the game is still relatively early in development, hopefully Hellgate: London can deliver on its promise of highly addictive hack-and-slash gameplay, a deep metagame of designing different characters with specific sets of skills and weapons, and compelling online multiplayer. The game will be done...when it's done. However, as Roper suggests, "If you're just starting high school now, chances are you won't have to wait until graduation to play."