LOS ANGELES – The beauty of Metal: Hellsinger is that, as far as I know, it’s an idea that no one’s ever tried before. It’s a rhythm game that’s also a first-person shooter: “Doom (2016) meets Crypt of the NecroDancer,” as one rep described it to me. The game was something totally new – which helped contrast it with Tower of Fantasy, another upcoming title that I tried out at the same booth. The two games demonstrate that there’s room in the industry for innovation, and room to play it comparatively safe.
I went hands-on with Metal: Hellsinger and Tower of Fantasy at the Level Infinite booth at Summer Game Fest. Level Infinite is a branch of Chinese tech giant Tencent, and can act as either an investor or a publisher, depending on the game. As such, there were quite a few different games on display at the Level Infinite booth, from the innovative steampunk crafting game Nightingale, to the tabletop adaptation Warhammer 40000: Darktide. Metal: Hellsinger and Tower of Fantasy had hands-on components, so I was able to try them both.
Of the two games, Metal: Hellsinger grabbed my attention more forcefully. This is partially because it’s hard not to take notice when your protagonist is a three-eyed, cloven-hoofed demon who wields a sword made of bone and a skull that shoots flames.
The game’s developers, The Outsiders, describe Metal: Hellsinger as a “rhythm FPS,” and the two genres are not nearly as incompatible as they may seem at first. As its title suggests, Metal: Hellsinger employs a heavy metal soundtrack, where each level has a different tune from a real metal band, written just for the game. Sections of each track loop, letting you get acquainted with the beat. Whenever you swing a sword, shoot a gun or perform a brutal finishing move, you’ll have to do so in time with the beat – and the beats get more complex as the levels advance. If you simply button-mash, your attacks will do middling damage, and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed quickly.
While Metal: Hellsinger has a heck of a learning curve, it’s hard not to be charmed by the premise. A horrifying demon with a charming Western drawl, slicing and blasting enemies in time with a catchy heavy metal soundtrack, is precisely as intriguing as it sounds. I had only a short time with Metal: Hellsinger, and I had a little trouble timing my clicks with the rhythm of each song. But I have no doubt that with enough practice (and perhaps a quieter environment than the SGF show floor), I could get the hang of it, and enjoy the bizarre story and characters along the way.
If nothing else, Metal: Hellsinger is not like any other game I’ve ever played. That alone makes it worth a look.
Tower of Fantasy
Playing Tower of Fantasy and Metal: Hellsinger back-to-back was an experience. While Metal: Hellsinger is dark, unconventional and a little self-aware, Tower of Fantasy is bright, familiar and totally sincere. It’s a free-to-play anime-themed massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, with more than a passing resemblance to Genshin Impact. The game has two main selling points that set it apart from the competition, however: an unbelievably deep character creator, and an enormous world to explore.
What immediately struck me about Tower of Fantasy is just how many millions of characters you could conceivably create. A representative showed off the character creator, which has sliders for just about every aspect of a character, from hairstyle, to face size, to nose orientation, to body type, to clothing, to the shape of the pupils in your character’s eyes. (The representative chose little hearts, which I thought was fun.) Apparently, during the game’s first live character builder demo, fans attempted to recreate their favorite anime characters, and a lot of them succeeded.
Once you have your character built, though, there’s still a tremendous amount to do in the game. With the help of technology called “Relics,” which include a jetpack, customizable vehicles, and a deadly mech suit, you can explore an open world at your own pace, undertaking a variety of quests as you go. You can switch freely among three weapons; you can clear out enemy camps for rare treasures; you can explore the game’s main hub area, which is an amusement park floating in the sky.
While Tower of Fantasy is free-to-play, the mechanics shouldn’t be too punishing for players who don’t want to spend money. The representative I spoke to said that he played for about two weeks before getting a weapon of the highest rarity – and you don’t strictly need one of those to finish the game. Power gamers could, of course, spend dozens or hundreds of dollars in pretty short order, though.
Tower of Fantasy has been out in China for about a year, and has been popular over there. The game will come out in the U.S. later this year for PC and mobile. Metal: Hellsinger will come out on September 15 for PC and consoles, and will cost $40.