Review – Down to Hell

Down to Hell is, unfortunately, putting me in a situation that I don’t typically like to be in or like to put indies in. When I got the review code, which I’m always grateful for, it was clear that Down to Hell was an Early Access Steam game and that the full game would launch on August 30th. The Early Access state was pretty rough and I thought it wasn’t fair to judge it just in case the full version fixed a lot. And I was right, the full version is a drastically better game, but it is still very much unfinished. Our thoughts at WTMG is that Early Access games get previews and we only score the full game. Unfortunately, since the dev has now marked the game as the full title, I have to score it based on what I got. So let’s go down to hell and reluctantly review this game.

In Down to Hell you play as a knight with a troubled past who is on a hell-bent mission to slay as many demons as he can. During a long and gruesome battle, the knight is worn down and is about to be slain. Just before his death a mysterious stranger arrives and casts a spell to dispel the demons and save the knight. After saving the knight, the stranger is taken by a demon and your mission now is to save your savior. Luckily, this means you still get to slay all the demon scum in the process of your rescue mission.

Down to Hell

Your new mission isn’t all that different from the original. Kill demons.

Let me first state the things I enjoyed about the title, because I do think it can grow into something good. The environment backgrounds are something that I absolutely love. As a fan of dark, gory, metal imagery, Down to Hell nails those aesthetics within its backgrounds. It’s as metal looking as its soundtrack, which leads me into my next favorite aspect.

The music is a dream come true for fans of heavy metal. With tracks from Decapitated and KORONAL, it is always ready to melt your face off, especially during the boss fights. However, it’s hard to fight the bosses when you just want to head bang the whole time. The boss designs themselves are also tough and brutal looking, which fits their arena and music well.

Unfortunately, this is where the positives end. The general gameplay is a very simple and shallow 2D hack ‘n’ slash combat style. You have a light, heavy, and magical attack and the animations resemble your standard low budget Unity assets. The Unity description can be applied to the character designs as well. The levels are laid out with multiple layers so there is a bit of exploration encouraged, but it’s as simple as traveling back and forth and unlocking gates with switches. Exploration is encouraged because the only way you can level up is by finding chests.

Down to Hell

The boss designs and imagery are about as heavy metal as it gets.

Chests can be found from unlocking a portion of the level or engaging in combat trials. The combat trials boil down to fighting off waves, killing a set amount of enemies, or just surviving for a set portion of time. Chests offer three random attributes to upgrade which range from: total health, total mana, mana regeneration rate, attack power for various moves, total health and mana potions, and more. That is, if the upgrade even works.

This now leads me to the various bugs I experienced. I had a few of my upgrades not even take effect. I had chosen to upgrade my total health potions to hold a max of four, but resting at check points would only refill it to the base three. Boss and enemy glitches are rampant, and exploits are a plenty. The second to last boss unfortunately glitched out and froze in place which is a shame since the boss fights are the only time the combat is fun. There are also text alignment issues, as well as subtitles that don’t match the voice acting.

I could go on more about the things that scream out that this title is still very much an Early Access game, but I think you get the gist. The most glaring issue being that the actual game isn’t even finished and ends after chapter two. In the Early Access build they had a character menu that showed additional magic moves and swords, but in this build none of that seems available. With some more time in hell to cook, as well as bug fixes, and general updates to the mechanics; Down to Hell could be something great like Slain: Back From Hell which also had a rough first outing.

Graphics: 6.0

Visuals are a mixed bag ranging from basic 2D Unity character models to fantastically detailed Hell-ish backgrounds.

Gameplay: 1.0

Extremely basic hack ‘n’ slash combat, bad hit detection, and shallow upgrade mechanics.

Sound: 6.0

General sound effects are nothing of note, but what shines here is the soundtrack. The heavy metal featured here is blood pumping greatness.

Fun Factor: 1.0

There are brief moments of fun, mostly during boss fights. Unfortunately, the poor gameplay, bugs, questionable design, and the fact it is an unfinished product drag it down.

Final Verdict: 3.0

Down to Hell is available now on PC.

A copy of Down to Hell was provided by the publisher.