Smashing Skellingtons: 20 Minutes Of Hellraid

Fans of Lighthouse Customer will know there are currently a lot of fantasy combat games currently fighting for your attention in Steam Early Access. Son of Nor has telekinesis; Lichdom: Battlemage has thousands of numbers and stats; In Verbis Virtus has voice-activated spell commands. Hellraid, by Dead Island developers Techland, is going another route: what if we just made some swords and axes and then, you know, made them look really good?

Well, that sounds nice. There’s twenty minutes of new, developer-commentated video below.

First-person melee combat in games is still a darn-hard problem, and for every stabby-satisfying Dark Messiah of Might & Magic there’s a woolly-wavy Skyrim. From the video, I’m concerned that Hellraid’s impacts lack impact, as sharp objects bounce off enemies with large numbers of hit points. I do like the pace of the combat though: a proper need to block, to predict enemy attack patterns, and to time your attacks carefully dependent on the type of weapon you’re wielding and the speed of its swing.

Also ice attacks. I want to make enemies slip on their butts and go tumbling down mountains, as that’s the other Dark Messiah of Might & Magic thing that no game has properly provided since.

Hellraid is due to enter into Early Access later this autumn before its final release sometime next year, so there’s still time for swords to be sharpened and polearms to be made pointier. Other things I am looking forward to: that it has an arena mode, as well as its missions, and that it can be played in co-op with up to four players. You can learn more about its Heretic-ways in our interview with Marcin Kruczkiewicz from back in April.


  1. Fontan says:

    Kicking enemies off mountains, into spikes, etc. That’s something else every game after Dark Messiah should have.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Indeed. I’ve been dying for a new FP HacknSlash since Dark Messiah.

      • Steed says:

        It’s nice to see so much love for DM:M&M. Really enjoyed the game in general, especially the combat. Come back for a play through once every year or so, usually melee spec.

  2. Freud says:

    I don’t think melee combat works well in first person view. Third person view works much better.

    • Anarkopsykotik says:

      Chivalry works great IMO, and in fact I thought a singleplayer game with it’s mechanics could be quite fun.

      • untoreh says:

        Do you know that chiv has left right and center 3rd p? Also wotr/wotk zooming in results in a 2nd I view. Game play wise 1st and 2nd pw should give better aim and would be better for 1on1,, group fights you need the extended fov granted from 3rd pw

    • GepardenK says:

      Play Dark Messiah, make a melee focused character, be converted: First person + sword = awesome

    • Fenix says:

      Condemned: Criminal Origins basically invalidates that opinion.

      In fact, I am a little disappointed in the lack of mention so far, Condemned’s melee combat felt soooo good.

    • Simbosan says:

      Have to disagree, first person is a prerequisite for immersion (for me anyway), 3rd person means you are just playing with a little doll with battleaxes (again, personal feeling). Ever since Ultima Underworld, FP melee is just my favouritististimustis… it is! It’s the immersion that gets you jumping out of your skin when a skelly pops out from a hidden space, that makes your hands sweat with tension on a good level.

      3rd person feels like I’m playing with Barbietrix/Kendornyte

      • Wret says:

        That’s actually something that irritates me in alot of first person games. You play the entire game FP, then you get in a turret or vehicle, or pull out an axe, suddenly completely disembodied.

  3. SkittleDiddler says:

    I totally forgot this game existed. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Steed says:

      Indeed, I thought this had silently slipped into the night and development ceased. Fingres crossed it’s a good spiritual successor to DM M&M

  4. Bradamantium says:

    Looks like the same kind of ponderous, weightless whacking action from Dead Island, complete with spring-loaded boot. But I’m more lenient to first-person dungeoneering than zombie smacking so we’ll see how this turns out. I just wish hitting a zombie-monster with a battleaxe did more than bounce the enemy off the ground. Skeleton bone showers are cool though.

  5. LTK says:

    Yeah, the combat here looks quite reminiscent of Skyrim to me, and not in a good way.

  6. XhomeB says:

    Are there any puzzles in this game or is this a simple hack&slash (linear at that, it seems) ?

  7. PopeRatzo says:

    How would a skeleton, which by definition has no muscles, be able to swing a sword?

    Asking for a friend.

    • bosseye says:

      How would a skelly wobbler be able to even retain a human form given that it has no way to hold its bones together! Logic be damned, cheeky magic, thats how.

      Also those ‘Brittle Skeletons’ seemed to be anything but.

      Looks very generic and a bit repetitive. I got bored after a couple of minutes.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        “Also those ‘Brittle Skeletons’ seemed to be anything but.”

        I thought that, but did notice they took more damage than a non-brittle skeleton.

        Excuse me, I have an adenoid inflaming appointment.

    • Eagle0600 says:

      You could ask the same question of regarding how they move at all, and the answer is probably the same: Magic. Exact answer depends on setting, of course.

    • Freud says:

      I think it has something to do with the moon, magnets and gravity.

    • DanMan says:

      Nanomachines, son.

    • Spacewalk says:

      A wizard did it.

  8. Morovski says:

    again with the demo on a console! argh! Why, Why, Why?!

    analogue stick is so slow!

  9. JimDiGritz says:

    Wow. That game looks so utterly generic.

    • Flank Sinatra says:

      Except for the minimap, it looks just like Skyrim. Actually, with a boatload of mods, Skyrim looks better.

  10. Jason Moyer says:

    Less Heretic and more Hexen please.

  11. Utsunomiya says:

    Eh, I guess it looks dungeon-crawly enough, and there are skellingtons populating those dungeons, which is nice.
    And Lord, it reminds me of Skyrim much. And I don’t think that it’s a good thing.

    EDIT: Actually, I kinda retract my last statement – with a dev’s heavy use of dodge mechanic it really began to look like that new Shadow Warrior game. Which is good.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Shadow Warrior was a lot of fun. I actually felt fatigued after some of the rooms in that game.

  12. DarkHamlet says:

    I think Mount & Blade has ruined melee combat for me. Can’t go back to Skyrim-style combat anymore.

    • WiggumEsquilax says:

      Combat made from the union of Skyrim with Dead Island isn’t even a pale shadow to Mount & Blade, Chivalry, and War Of The Roses/Vikings. Judging by RPS these commenters, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

  13. Bull0 says:

    Huge disconnect between the minimal impact shown when you’re hitting them and the bones blown to the four winds at 900mph once you’ve knocked off enough hitpoints to kill them. Looks like a bad Skyrim.

    • Leb says:

      That’s what I was thinking. That and the players axe seems to reach twice as far as the viewmodel would imply

  14. WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

    Dear God in Heaven, someone’s actually COPIED Skyrim’s moronic left-middle-right draining healthbars?! AAAAAAARGH WHY WON’T THEY JUST DIE ALREADY!!!!1

  15. Christo4 says:

    I wish it had some kinda of parry mechanic like dishonored.
    That would have been nice.
    Otherwise, i’ll wait to see how it ends up.
    So far it seems interesting and the spells are rather original i guess. I just hope the melee will have a bit more depth than slash slash block slash kick.

  16. Jockie says:

    It looks very much like Fantasy Dead Island – similar combat system and enemy design (in terms of moveset). I don’t have a problem with that so much as the coop in Dead Island was quite fun but they need to tighten up the melee impact for sure. Also, despite their boasts of concept art designed by a real architect(!), and gothic stylings, it all looked incredibly brown to me.

  17. Lemming says:

    Wow, I thought this was going to be a worthy Hexen/Heretic successor but that looked seriously sluggish.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      We’ll get a new (good) Hexen right after we get a new (good) Doom.

      I’ve had my fingers crossed for that day for so long they’ve merged into one useless lump.

  18. ArtyFishal says:

    I’m hopeful, but Techland’s games have always been only almost good, and they have not let met their potential. Maybe this breaks that trend, but I suspect not.

  19. ItalianPodge says:

    Watching this it really made me think that it would be nice if the enemy were “better” at fighting but could only take one hit. So you get into some fairly long standoffs while trying to find a gap and then when you eventually get through you win.

    Having lots of enemies that are easy to hit and die after a lot of those hits really reduces the reward of getting a hit in.

    • rcguitarist says:

      I agree.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      I’m sure the Dark Messiah mention ratio for this comments section is high enough already, but let’s bump it a little further – play Dark Messiah. With a decent melee build character, you can fell most foes in a single hit to a head, neck, etc, and combat becomes about GETTING those hits.

  20. Reapy says:

    The death/physics effects are really floaty. They should crank up the small enemies to the same weight as the huge blinded guy when he falls over to give those death shots a bit more oomph.

    Otherwise seems ok I guess, characters may be generic I guess but I like the setting so is just fine for me, but the melee looks to be just dodge back, power attack over and over again. There doesn’t seem to be any ‘art’ to the fighting, but maybe it feels better than it looks.

    I like the genera and theme, but will probably wait on a sale to try this one out.

  21. rcguitarist says:

    I hope they improve the AI because it looks awful. Saw several enemies just standing there swinging away while the player way nowhere near. I just cracked up laughing at the enemy at 7:26. The developer must have been embarrassed about that.

    Also, you have to love(i say that sarcastically) the famous Techland game feature of getting hit and falling on your ass, then while you slowly get up all enemies are nice and wait until you get back up to resume attacking you. haha

    • K_Sezegedin says:

      Eh, Dark Messiah’s AI was also pathetic, and that game managed to be engaging in spite of it, also in spite of its utter genericness.

      I wish this looked better, but it might be just good enough to scratch that no-nonsense first person Hack and Slash itch.

      Combat here looks at least as good as Messiah’s., – anyone who thinks it has less impact needs to play Dark Messiah again.

  22. DanMan says:

    The enemies on fire are like: “Nah, I’m good. Just let me do my job, mkay?”

  23. abrokenchinadoll says:

    Damn, those are some strong wooden planks.. lol. Blindead dude was like ripping into them..I was kinda hoping it was guna crash on him lol.

  24. Nest says:

    Looks like it might be fun. I hope the whole game won’t be in the Orange-Teal color scheme, though. It’s been done to death and gets irritating really fast.

  25. Monkeh says:

    Was quite looking forward to this game, but it really does lack impact and I’d say compelling AI, so my expectations have lowered quite a bit.

    Ah well, here’s hoping they make the best of it.

  26. HumpX says:

    The game they need to emulate is “Blade of Darkness”

  27. GirlzRKool says:

    Looks like an early (read: first) level. Skellingtons etc.

    Not seeing TES comparisons, aside from–maybe–player animations.

    Would wait to see later level playthroughs/snippets before casting stones.

  28. Arnkell says:

    If the Single Player story is immersive and the horribly ugly red “hit” sprites are removed, maybe this game could come to have better fighting mechanics than Skyrim. As it is right now, it reminds me too much of crappier 1998-ish swordgames, like “Rune”.

    If this game has an insect or “one type of animal enemy for 50 minutes straight”, like Rune did, forget it.