bhlaab's Hedon (PC) review

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A MooD Piece

Hedon is a lot like the original Unreal. It's halfway towards being an immersive sim, but lacks the 'sim' parts and any RPG elements. What it comes down to is wandering around semi-large but bespoke levels solving light switch-and-key puzzles, usually with the aid of text logs full of tedious lore. I'm not the biggest fan of Unreal and, as a result, I'm not the biggest fan of Hedon. There's a lot of aimless meandering, too many jumping puzzles, and some unfortunately obtuse progress-blockers here and there.

Let's start with the positives. Hedon makes great use of the GZDoom engine, with fantastic attention to detail and seamless use of trickery to simulate things like rooms on top of rooms. I could understand some trepidation towards paying for a Doom WAD, but Hedon covers its origins shockingly well and conveys a sense of coherent place within its maps. I dig the atmosphere, which channels the sort of dark titty rock fantasy you'd see in the likes of Heavy Metal. The music, done by the composer of Unreal (naturally), fulfills this atmosphere perfectly. The character art I'm less fond of. I don't mind the concepts the characters are built on, but the execution of their graphics looks a bit amateur, particularly when the characters start animating (not all of their frames line up).

The weapons are a creative and satisfying bunch, although I disagree heavily with the choice to add a reloading mechanic to what is essentially very Doom-y gameplay. Where the game really fails for me is in the bestiary and combat. The bad guys just don't play off of each other very well. For most of the game you're going to be fighting the same three variations of 'scrawny monk dude' over and over and they don't inspire interesting choices or tactics; any weapon will do to take them on. Aesthetically, almost all enemies are the same size, color, and humanoid-shaped making them visually indistinct as well. The few examples of off-type monsters Hedon provides rubbed me the wrong way. The fire breathing dogs are too fast and aggressive. Adding them to a battle just made things messier rather than more interesting. The shield-bearers are too restrictive; their ability to switch on total damage negation for all weapons at a whim just pulls the brakes. The flying metal ball enemies are the worst. They're like the kamikazee drones from Duke Nukem 3D except smaller and harder to hit. A lot of the setpiece fights occur in boring, large arena-like rooms that don't do the flimsy combat design any favors. In general, player damage seems a bit high. One attack from a lower-tier enemy can send you from full health and armor to 70%.

The story is pretty boilerplate and can be invasive. One interactive dream sequence in the middle of the game is extremely irritating, sending you on non-euclidean switch hunts and having you fumble around a pitch black cave before forcing you to sit and wait through lines of dialogue that you almost definitely don't care about.

Hedon works best as a sort of mood piece. It's more about the intricacy and verisimilitude of a game world built on a beefed-up Doom engine than it is about nailing its mechanics. The fact that it gets about halfway there with its mechanics should probably be seen as a bonus. Results may vary.

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