Space, the final frontier. The developers at Zero Gravity Games are attempting to “boldly go where no man has gone before” by delivering the ultimate in hardcore space exploration with their new game, Hellion. Just released on Early Access, this game is extremely ambitious as it takes the open world PvP survival aspects of games like Rust and turns them on their head in zero gravity. Within the wide world of Hellion, players can get their space legs as they experiment with the game’s Newtonian physics and full orbital mechanics.
The very first scene of the game.
Immediately when starting Hellion, you will exit a chamber to find yourself abandoned on what is equivalent to a space lifeboat. You will get some helpful hints on how to do some makeshift repairs to the lifeboat power systems and equip an EVA suit, but then whatever you do after that is left for you to figure out. Your first thought may be “how do I do this?,” but moments like that are Hellion’s bread and butter.
You are left to explore literally everything about the game: controls, limitations, what you are able to do, what you should do. It’s because of this that Hellion has a very steep and punishing learning curve. You will have to learn all of this by exploring both the game and the community outside of the game on your own. While playing Hellion, I found myself keeping the official subreddit open on my phone, looking up how I was supposed to survive. I’m almost ashamed to admit the amount of times I had to reset because I was left floating out in the middle of space. For example, the first time I left my space lifeboat I was jettisoned out into no man’s land with almost no oxygen because I was inadvertently using my oxygen tank when I didn’t have to.
Zero g training gives you a new perspective.
Jumping into Hellion’s unique zero gravity movement can be difficult and disorienting at first. You won’t know what to do, how to stop spinning, or how to control your momentum without testing the waters in a few practice sessions first. You’ll have to get used to jumps like that though, because that is how you engage with the interesting base building mechanic. Your space lifeboat acts as a foundation that you lock new modules onto. Where other survival sims require you to build up resources to create the buildings, Hellion calls on the player to salvage pieces from long lost missions and put them to good use.
However, that’s not to say all of your resources are strictly salvage from old ships. Another big mechanic in the Early Access build are the mining missions you can go on in order to get ore and other natural resources from asteroids. With these resources you produce items such as more propellant for your EVA jetpack, or even repair full modules or ships that you want to add to your base.
You attach modules to the docks on the side of the lifeboat.
In this Early Access build of Hellion you will be able to find and pilot ships; learning to use them is vital to your survival. You can sit in the pilot seat and move around similar to the way you float in the EVA suit, but if you want to get anything done you’ll need to learn to warp. This is an area that gave me a lot of trouble as it is where the full orbital mechanics come into play.
Firstly you’re going to make sure all of the parts are functional on your ship, this includes life support, engine power, and your FTL warp drive. Then you’ll pop open the gigantic navigation menu and try to plot a realistic course for your warp fuel. To someone who is familiar with the numbers and sliders that appear, or someone who is even familiar with Kerbal Space Program, the course plotting may seem easy. However, I had to rack my brain over and over again to finally get a successful warp.
This is actually the most simple screen on the nav panel.
I finally went warp speed!
Hellion also supports full PvP servers so, while it’s a small chance, there is still a chance that you will be bombarded by space pirates. Granted, Hellion is still in its very early stages so running into other players isn’t the biggest threat at the moment, it is still something that should be prepared for. You can keep rifles in your bases and ships and you can also call in a friend to co-op defend your property. In that same train of thought though, you could co-op with friends and start your own pirate crew. As of right now in the current build, PvP combat is locked to on foot close quarters encounters, but there are plans to add full spaceship skirmishes to the game.
There are issues inherent to the early access nature of Hellion, as one would expect. There are a fair amount of glitches that I have ran into which include falling through the floor of the cargo bay and floating into space, getting launched out of the top of the airlock after opening a vent, random spinouts when making contact in EVA, and more than a few crashes when going into the options menu. While these are annoying and frustrating, these issues need to be taken with a grain of salt considering the early access nature of the game.
I glitched through the floor here.
All in all, Hellion is a game all about patience. You need to be able to take your time to learn the mechanics, learn through trial and error, as well as forgive a few glitches and crashes in order to make the most out of the game in its current state. If you take the time and become a student of the game, there is a lot to love about Hellion. The unique movement and base building, mixed in with the complex orbital systems lay a promising base for a game that seems boundless in ambition. There is a grand solar system of opportunity waiting for you in Hellion and Zero Gravity Games is just adding more and more as time goes on.
This preview is based on an Early Access copy of the game provided by the publisher.