Hektor (PC) - ReviewDan Carreras , posted on 07 April 2015 / 4,081 Views
“Where am I?”, “Didn’t I just come down this corridor two minutes ago?”, “Why am I at a dead end?”. There were many times I asked these questions whilst playing through Rubycone Games’ first title, Hektor, and many times they were answered, although not not satisfyingly so.
The story revolves around a mental patient - referred to simply as patient 98 - who happens to find himself within a facility called Hektor. The facility seems to be vacant, and it’s up to you to uncover the story behind this institution, whilst at the same time fighting your own mental illness. It’s through your mental illness that Hektor differentiates itself from other first-person horror games of recent years, introducing a procedurally generated world that changes every time you turn around. This is both refreshing and confusing at first, with exploration taking a weird twist when you happen across the same room from a different angle at times.
Whilst this procedural system sounds fantastic in theory, its execution is slightly off. With only so many rooms being reused, you’re bound to come across the same assortment of rooms time and time again. What starts off as confusion soon turns into annoyance as you repeat the same fully explored rooms. Coming across a new area within Hektor is great, but once you’ve seen all of the rooms and become used to the repeating hallways some of the game's mystique is lost.
Throughout the environment you’ll find collectibles and various scattered notes which help to flesh out Hektor's backstory. Sometimes these are just mundane items, like a receipt for some of the items you spot in the room you’re in, but other times these notes will more personal in nature, such as letters between friends in the facility or official notes from the doctors. You’ll need to collect as many of these as possible if you want to properly flesh the story out, as traditional story sequences are few and far between. Rubycone Games have always said that the story would be fluid enough for players to draw their own conclusions, and it shows, as many players will undoubtedly fail to find sufficient collectibles to conclusively resolve the story.
The monsters - the centrepiece of Hektor after your struggles with patient 98's own mind - end up feeling more like obstacles in the way of your goal rather than actual frightening beings. For example one of the monsters, called the hunter, resembles a vulture that is far from pleasant to look at, but it is so fast that I never bothered to avoid capture once I was spotted by it; it was easier to just restart the section I was currently in rather than attempt to outrun the beast. I think this is fundamentally flawed game design - I should have been afraid of encountering the game's monsters, not relaxed about being killed off just so that I can attempt the section again.
It's also a shame that, apart from the initial jumpscare of first encountering a new monster, there’s nothing inherently scary about their models. At times these creatures also feel too contrived - the screamer, for example, is impossible to avoid at times, often spawning in the middle of your designated path and not moving until you approach him. Also, in what appeared to be a game bug, the screamer would appear before my very eyes, somewhat ruining the immersion of the horror theme.
For all my misgivings about Hektor's monsters and the annoyances of the title's procedural generation, there is still horror to be found in the game. Every smash of the lights, scream from an unseen monster, or subtle sound effect helps to create a game environment that is packed full of atmosphere, and a scary one at that. What little music you do hear at times is also fantastic, consisting of orchestral notes that sound like they’d be at home in an AAA title.
Rubycone Games should be congratulated for this debut effort; they've managed to develop a fairly consistent and unique horror game. However, for as much as Hektor is a good first outing, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that I wasn’t really scared very often - indeed towards the end I was more frustrated than nervous. Overall Hektor is nifty, but flawed, and the £15 asking price for a two hour game will be too steep for many gamers. Fans of the horror genre will enjoy Hektor's new ploy for originality, but it ultimately could have been so much more.
This review is based on a digital copy of Hektor for the PC, provided by the publisher.