Hellpoint is the impressive debut title from Canadian developers, Cradle Games. I wanted to know more and who better to ask than Matt Boudreau, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Cradle Games.
Hellpoint clearly sits in the Souls-like genre. Fans of the genre will instantly understand what to expect but how would you describe the game to your grandmother?
Hey mémé! (we call her mémé in our family) remember my music from the devil that you couldn’t stand? Well, I made a video game out of it! Yes, it is horrible but people quite like it. You play as this strange man exploring a space station that orbits around a black hole. There’s all sorts of sci fi swords and guns and huge monsters like an evil buddha and a jester with six arms that rips off his hands and throw them at you. Haha, I know it’s gruesome but you still raised me well, don’t worry. Your beef stew is delicious!
What other Souls-like games did you draw the most inspiration from and what elements of the genre do you think Hellpoint improves upon?
Our main inspiration was always Bloodborne. I’m a sucker for Lovecraftian horror and I loved the speed of the combat and how it incentivizes the player to always go towards danger. But very quickly we’ve put all inspirations on the side to really immerse ourselves in our own universe and come up with our own convoluted and obscure system of systems. The way the space station orbits in real time around the black hole and dynamically triggers a ton of events keeps the experience unpredictable and also personal for each player. I think overall we made an experience that is more accessible to a wider range of player skills and also we made the multiplayer much easier to use with split screen and online. You can play the entirety of the game without interruption.
Hellpoint allows players to adapt their play-style according to their armour and weapons - Can you tell us more about how this works and what we can expect?
It was always a priority for us to offer many possibilities for character builds and “fashion”. You can create characters that are widely different with each playthrough, from bounty hunters to creepy Hellraiser or tough space marine or a cosmic demon, etc. Depending on what RPG character you have in mind, it’ll demand you to explore the station levels in a totally different order since the world is quite open. Also, each weapon has their own XP bar that unlocks special abilities the more you fight with them.
I’m intrigued by the special abilities that are hidden in each weapon, tell us more about this feature – anything we should look out for in particular?
There’s a mix of dedication and free exploration with weapons. You can switch your “upgrade chip” from one weapon to another so you’re not stuck with one weapon the entire game. But you’re also rewarded if you keep fighting with your favorite weapon. You can unlock abilities like weapon throw, backstab, special dodging, or open a crevasse to hell underneath your enemy, etc.
The lore behind Hellpoint is fascinating, what sources did you draw on for your inspiration?
Good question… I don’t enjoy a lot of stories, I rarely like the message that they give. A universe appears in my head and I just write whatever I can see in there. A lot of current events inspired me (well, that was back in 2016) as well as perhaps other more age-old stories about this obsession that exists in mankind to constantly want to transcend its creator I suppose. After a while I realized that I got pretty close to the source of what appears to make these cycles happen over and over again so that was a fascinating journey for me. Not reinventing the wheel but maybe dusting off a couple of old lessons we might have forgotten.
Hellpoint looks absolutely breath-taking and the levels are vast, what visual tricks did the art team use to overcome the confines of the Irid Nova space station and how long did it take to create the environments?
We spent a lot of time and made many experiments to come up with a solution that is both easy to produce and impressive to explore. The result was a decision to use a lot of strong lighting tricks and purpose mixed with a type of “brutalist” architecture to create that contradictory feeling of grandeur and oppression. It suited itself well to a modularity technique which we needed to apply since we’re not a big team, and also it made it very easy and fun for me to hide a ton of secrets and make these cool little sections of platforming and exploration. It was a huge endeavor nonetheless that required a couple years to complete, debug and package but we’re all very proud of the results.
The game’s soundtrack is quite haunting and works well with the sound effects to create and uneasy sense of dread when exploring the dark labyrinth of Irid Nova. Who penned the score and where else may we have heard their work?
The whole soundtrack was created by our eastern European composer duo Niko and Miko. That’s Mikolaj Holowko and Nikola Jeremic. We came up with a tense sci fi orchestral soundtrack with mixes of tribal drums and very unorthodox time signatures. I’m more of a musician myself and I’ve put these guys through quite a creative gauntlet so I’m very grateful they’ve put up with it and the result is really goosebump inducing, which I really enjoy.
There seems to be quite an army of enemies to encounter in Hellpoint. Please can you share some details about the different types of bosses and what players should expect when encountering them?
There are dozens of different enemy types in the game each one with their own backstory, but the three main families of monsters are the Thespians, the Archons and the Demons, which are born out of treachery, nihilism and suffering respectively. Each one have their own particular personality and array of strength and weaknesses so the player can adapt to each before entering their domain. Defeating the boss of one family creates an imbalance of power so different environments in the station can be populated by different enemies when you revisit them.
So, Cradle Games, eh? Give us some background to the team. It seems clear to me that the talent’s been in the games industry for some time, what other games have you guys worked on before?
We each have quite different backgrounds but we’re all located in Québec City, Canada. We’ve been working in the game industry for 15 – 20 years on games like Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed, Spider-Man, etc.
Where next for Hellpoint? Are there any plans to add to and expand the universe or are you guys secretly working on the next project?
I can’t announce anything quite yet but we’re very, very busy! So, stay tuned.
So now you know… a huge thank you to Matt for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.
Hellpoint launched on February 26th on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Pre-orders are open now.