Down To Hell Early Access Review

PC/ 2D Hack 'N Slash

The Basics

A love-letter to metal music, Red Dev Studio S.A. have crafted a side scrolling, 2D hack n' slash, where you assume the role of a lone knight on a murderous mission. Using a combination of parries, light and heavy attacks and blood based magic, you'll tear your way through a heavy metal inspired world, upgrading your knight as you go. Read our interview with the team here.

Story & Flow

The story is a simplistic one thus far; a knight who is a known bastard with mysterious powers lives for the thrill of the kill; "war was all he knew..." intones the narrator in the beginning level. Despite being shunned by the elders of his village for his power (or perhaps due to it), he inevitably becomes an unstoppable killing machine. A roaming abbatoir, he enters a land that he refers to as his new home, a land "filled with demons," and gets to doing what he does best, which is killing everything that moves.

When he ends up in over his head, he's saved by an equally mysterious girl with powers of her own. Initially thankless (even after she is kidnapped Princess Peach-style by a freakish looking demon), he's more or less guilted into rescuing her by a strange old man, even though half of the reason he goes after her is seemingly to prove what an exceptional butcher he is. This knight clearly does not give a fuck, and that seems to be the point.

The story in the earlier parts of the game is rote for the most part, but it's spiced up by the clearly metal slant to the narrative, and sentences like, "The land was filled with demons, and he was one of them," and "He was in the forest for the first time, but he felt no fear, only blood; at long last he felt like he was home," made me smile. It's so over the top metal in a Dio (or at times, Cannibal Corpse) kind of way, that the dialogue lands instead of coming off as just cheesy. That said, the game is clearly in Early Access and needs some polish; there are spelling mistakes, and some of the English is a little rough and could use a once over. Still, you can see what the team is trying to do, and it mostly works.

The game plays out in linear fashion for the most part; you steer your badass looking knight from left to right, hacking your way through demons large and small, gaining XP and making your way towards the boss. Blood seems to be a big theme here, as your magic and upgrades are tied to it, and there are story elements that tie into blood as well ("...he felt no fear, only blood"). Throughout the 2.5 hour or so playthrough of the first chapter, there are numerous references to blood. Your dash is a "blood rush" that has a cooldown bar, which keeps you from just rush-dodging over and over again, adding a bit of strategy to the proceedings, which I appreciated. Especially on the rush-heavy first boss, it made me really think about when to dash and when to just run to dodge, and I was punished over and over for getting scared and hitting the dodge, only to leave me near-helpless to the bosses' next attack.

Besides your sword, there is a scythe you can buy with XP that adds some layers to the combat, in addition to magic you can acquire and upgrade; there's a blood skull projectile with a cool-down meter that you begin with, a blood force field to protect you from damage and even a badass wolf made of blood that you can unleash on your foes. Mainly you'll rely on close-combat, which is a necessity. as much of the combat is wave based, with two blood force fields that drop down on either side of you, giving you a little arena to fight in. You have to either take down X number of waves, or survive for a set amount of time.

The walls of the blood field hurt you if you touch them, so you again have to manage your dash and skyward enemies without leaving yourself open to the foes on the ground. You also have a parry that is pretty tricky to time, especially when enemies on all sides of you keep teleporting in and attacking you immediately. I ended up using it sparingly, as the combat is fast and furious and it was often easier to rely on dodging, jumping and hacking away. The parry isn't useless, however, and it may become more necessary with future enemies.

Graphics & Sound

The graphics and sound are stellar, and really shine, especially for such a small title. The background ambiance is chugging metal for the most part that blends well into the beautiful settings and backgrounds. However, when you reach the game's hulking bosses, it really kicks up a notch, and makes the battles more intense. 

The graphics are great, and the art style fits in perfectly. The world is bleak and menacing and the enemy designs are gory and twisted, often coming across like a fusion of man, nature and demon. 


For a $10 EA title, there is a lot to like here. There are some nitpicks like the lack of frequent checkpoints (especially after dying on a boss) the lack of an ingame menu (unless you arrive at an upgrade station) is confusing, as it seems you would want to see your upgrades and gathered XP as you go along.

That said, if you are into metal, and looking for a 2D hack n slash, Down To Hell might be just what you're looking for. The combat is frenetic, the world is gorgeous and the soundtrack is stellar.

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