Check out our review of the sci-fi horror roguelike game Jupiter Hell…
Heavily inspired by the likes of Doom, find out if the long awaited full release lives up to its forebears.
Hey how’s it going guys! This is Tom from UDS and welcome to our review of Jupiter Hell, a brand new roguelike by developers ChaosForge. Now it’s out of early access, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know before you play, and don’t forget to subscribe for more on all things gaming every single week. You’re not going to want to miss it…
Over the past five years, the Doom franchise has really proven itself to be one of gaming’s most successful comeback stories. Not only have they released two of the best FPS titles of recent times, as well as wiping our memories of Demon Rock ‘The Dwayne’ Johnson, they’ve also inspired a bunch of creators to take the source material into new directions.
One such project was Doom The Roguelike, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. But after proving to be a hit with fans, and in the effort of avoiding any serious litigation, we now have a spiritual successor in the form of Jupiter Hell.
After initially being funded via Kickstarter and being fine tuned in early access, it’s already been given official endorsement from Doom-daddy John Carmack, so you know it’s already impressed the right people.
But will taking these familiar tropes and themes into the world of a roguelike work, or will the slower, more tactical approach neither rip, nor tear? Watch on to find out…
The broad strokes of the main game are that you’re a jarhead that’s crash landed as the sole survivor in a base infested by demonic forces. You then have to make your way through branching stages, collecting new equipment and levelling up as you fight your way through the hordes. So far, so Doom. That is until you die, after which you’ll have to start the whole thing over again. And while it can get preposterously difficult, you quickly learn the rhythms and systems of the gameplay, and this progression can be super satisfying.
Fortunately, the ferocity and tempo of its forebears is there for all to see. Naturally everything is turn-based, yet there’s a real emphasis on action over tactics, which might not work for roguelike purists, but for someone like me who hasn’t played too many games like this, it’s very accessible and a lot of fun. You might not have the agility of Doomguy, but they’ve managed to transpose the fluidity of the gameplay very impressively.
I should also stress that full controller support from the offset is a blessing! If like me you’re predominantly a console gamer, it makes picking up and playing for the first time so much easier.
But that isn’t to say there’s a lack of depth, as there’s a hefty RPG element involved too. You can pick between one of three classes of soldier, and I found that the marine class best suited my skills, or lack of. But you can also select classes that are better tailored to stealth or hacking if that better matches your style.
You can then customise these skills further by upgrading different attributes as you level up. It took me time to experiment with this to find out what worked for the way I was playing, but it was still fun finding out the effect of each.
Aside from the main game, you’ve got plenty of other modes to try out, such as trials mode in which you can set your own objectives and parameters, challenge mode which sets the parameters for you, and endless mode which is pretty self explanatory. It all helps to mix up the standard formula, so if you get a little too cross after dying for the upteenth time, they serve as a nice palette cleanser.
As for the story, it’s… there, but barely. Much like the likes of Doom, it’s mostly found through journal entries in terminals, but even then it’s really nothing more than set dressing for the action. This isn’t really a problem though, as it’s going to be hard to get too invested in any game with permadeath, and it does let the gameplay stand at the forefront.
Then we get to the aesthetic. This is naturally where things become incredibly derivative, which depending on your outlook will either be a winner or may rub you up the wrong way. For me, the references to properties like Doom, Evil Dead and the like were of course gratuitous, but they did put a smile on my face. What was a bit more grating was the dialogue of our protagonist, voiced by none other than Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard himself – Mark Meer. But while there’s obvious pedigree there, he comes across as just an imitation Duke Nukem, and I eventually found myself having more fun playing it on mute.
When it comes to the level design, it’s serviceable. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the likes of Hades and other visually striking games of recent time, but by comparison Jupiter Hell looks a little grey and bland. It definitely fits the world and tone of the experience, but on a personal level it just didn’t blow me away.
Jupiter Hell is a difficult game to review. It can be great fun, and balances accessibility with a depth to please genre newcomers as well as veterans. But unfortunately by leaning too much into its influences, it struggles to establish its own identity. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still worth a play, even if it’s just for a few rounds between larger games, but I don’t think it’ll go down as one of the all time greats.
But what did you think of Jupiter Hell? Please let me know in the comments below, I love reading your thoughts. And while you’re there, please consider subscribing for more video game content every week, or visit upsidedownshark.com to find out more about everything we’ve got going on.
But until then my name is Tom, this has been UDS and we’ll see you next time.