DISCLAIMER : For this review, we were provided with a game code from the developers at Woodland Games. This has no impact on the opinions expressed in this article. Thanks to WoodLand Games.
Developed by Woodland Games and published by Leonardo Interactive, Hell Architect is a brand new management sim released today! Likely with doses of inspiration coming from games like Dungeon Keeper and Fallout Shelter this is definitely something to keep an eye on for any fan of the genre.
At least those without weak stomachs.
Hell Architect sees you play as a newly hired devil put in charge of building and managing various circles of the underworld. You’ll be managing the day to day of your sinners’ eternal damnation in this morbidly funny simulation. By building a range of torture chambers to gather suffering, meat farms for food and water squeezers for water, you will be able to create your own perfect design, all while trying to keep your bosses happy and you off the chopping block. The game presents the management of Hell as a very corporate affair, with the hierarchy to match. Lucifer is the CEO while other well-known figures of demonology turn up such as Belial, Samael, Lillith, Azazel and… Frank? Okay, maybe he’s not as well known, but he will be to you. With your faithful assistant Bob at your side, you tackle a wide range of scenarios, all the while getting to know your eccentric co-workers. Who, by the way, have some great voice acting to carry you through your workday.
But your coworkers are secondary to the sinners put into your dubious care. To get into the nitty-gritty of the gameplay, you’ll need to extract suffering from your sinners while keeping them sane by meeting their needs. If you fail to do so, they will lose their sanity and pass into Limbo, where you’ll have to buy their souls back. A sinner will need food, water and rest, and you’ll need to maximise the suffering you get by building the torture chamber that matches what each sinner is most scared of. For some this will be blood, others will be most affected by fire, and it’s your job to make sure there’s a place for them to go. There is quite a bit of humour derived from the names of these guys too. Most times you’ll start with biblical figures like Eve and Matthew but as you progress you’ll get ‘Legends’ to turn up like Nero or Jack the Ripper who each have their own cool effects on the sinners around them. Don’t worry, we didn’t spot anyone too upsetting or recent in the roster. Additionally, in a livestream yesterday, Woodland Games put out an appeal for their community to submit ideas for new ‘Legends’ to add to the game. If you’re interested in that, definitely head over to their discord here.
With a very in-depth tutorial, Hell Architect is very easy to understand once you’re taught the ropes. The game has two main playing modes, the campaign which is a selection of multiple scenarios, and Sandbox mode, where you can build and shape your own version of Hell with no limits.
With suitably atmospheric music which is not too overbearing, the game is a strangely calming experience that really does help you sink hours into developing and upgrading your devices. I appreciated hearing it adapt and change depending on what you see on screen such as when a sinner climbs into a torture machine you’ll often have additional tunes to the already charming jingle.
The art depicted on the main menu of the game is a wonderfully disturbing hyper-detailed rendering of the characters in-game. In contrast to this, the playable art is much different, showing a cartoonish take on gore and pain, similarly to that of the 2000s fan favourite Happy Tree Friends. This art style uses its simple, cartoony aesthetic to take the edge off. The sinners, devils and imps all have cute designs fitting to their personalities which helps you appreciate the work that’s gone into crafting their character. As the art and animation are so smooth, it’s so easy to forget that this game was created by an indie developer, calling for a huge congratulations to every person who helped develop and create this amazingly wicked project.
Of course with this being from a small developer there’s bound to be bugs, but I can honestly they were relatively minor in comparison to the success in execution found here. There was the odd spelling mistake here and there which I’m sure will be fixed in incoming updates as they’ve already proven to update quickly. In the short time that I’ve had with this game, I’ve already seen an update that fixed some minor tidbits.
The only negative I can really mention is a small loss of voice acting in places and that I was a little confused when I first loaded the game up. Conventional wisdom would say that one of the top buttons would be to start a new game or start the tutorial but here it’s a ways down the menu. It only stumped me for a second though and it wasn’t long before I was stuck into building my first circle.
In conclusion, if you’re a fan of management sims or this aesthetic Hell Architect is an absolute win and is definitely one to add to your library. I’ve personally sunk about 20 hours into this game already and I’m ready for more.