I think the first time I was introduced to the concept of playing the bad guy in a video game was Bullfrog’s classic Dungeon Keeper. In it, you play as a malevolent dungeon host you breeds nasty creatures and sets up traps to defend their dungeon from goody-goody adventurers. I think I’ve had Dungeon Keeper as a standard in my head for so long, it’s always a massive disappointment when a game comes along, promises “evil” and is just a mediocre take on an already established genre, just with an “evil” theme put on top of it. That’s Hell Architect.
Okay, maybe I’m starting off a little harsh. Hell Architect isn’t’ a bad game at all. It’s a decent 2D base building and colony management game. I love its concept: you’re the architect of hell, and you have to create the perfect torture chamber for those poor damned souls that drop into your domain. Yeah, that sounds great. But while Hell Architect certainly has the tongue in cheek humor and cutesy art style to make hell’s suffering look less hellish, it has some severely phoned-in gameplay that can best be described as “basic.”
You know when you walk into a Chinese restaurant, and they have the same menu pictures as the last Chinese restaurant, and you think, “damn, there must be a start-up kit for Chinese restaurants.”? Well, that’s what Hell Architect feels like. It’s like developer Woodland Games wanted to come up with a fun, somewhat subversive concept to build an amusing colony sim over, and hell is what they came up with. That’s great, but gameplay-wise, Hell Architect does very little to stand out from its peers, except for its sense of humor.
I really like Hell Architect’s art style, and its sense of humor. You do have to be funny when dealing with subject matter that is a little dark. I mean, you literally harvest energy from these hapless souls by either torturing them, or outright killing them to harvest their essence. Conversely, there’s a lot of work that goes into keeping your souls alive, fed, and happy—lest they be taken to that other place, and not toiling in your boiling underworld.
Building in Hell Architect works as it does in most colony sims. It’s played from a sidelong 2D perspective which, when zoomed out, gives the impression of creating a giant ant farm in a hellscape—which is, you know, pretty damn cool. You expand to make areas to create various buildings, and mine materials like iron, coal, and crystals. You use those materials, along with the suffering and essence you gathered, to create buildings to make food, drink, ways to get around, torture devices and more.
There are multiple ways you can play Hell Architect. The one you’ll probably jump into after the tutorial is the sand box mode, and honestly, that’s too bad. What they should have done was take Hell Architect’s much more fun scenarios, and chained them together to form a campaign—or at least featured them more prominently. While sand box mode gets boring quick, the various scenarios are designed to test your skills against challenges not found in sand box mode.
Overall, Hell Architect has a few things going for it, mostly its art and sense of humor. Everything else is just as basic as you can get when it comes to city builders and colony management games. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, and if the theme and genre align to sound like a fun time for you, have fun.
Hell Architect is available today for PC via Steam.
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