Hell Architect Review: Welcome to Hell
Ah, you must be the new worm that wriggled its way down into these godforsaken bowels. Welcome to hell, kid. Don’t read too deeply into that phrase, it’s just an expression we have around here. Anyway, lower hell hasn’t been attended to in awhile, so looks like it’ll be up to you to keep things running smoothly. If you do a good job, I’ll be sure to take aaaaaaaaall the credit for your hard work. And if you do a bad job? Heh. We’re in hell, kid. Use your imagination. Now, get to work! These sinners won’t suffer on their own!
So begins Hell Architect, a positively sinful city-builder developed by Woodland Games and published by Leonardo Interactive. Available on Steam for $24.99, Hell Architect promises players the ability to create the hell of their dreams… or nightmares. Although Hell Architect had something of a rocky launch due to some Kickstarter concerns, the hell raiser quickly rose from Mixed reviews to Very Positive in the span of a few weeks. Despite any perceived initial issues, seems like players now are having a hell of a good time.
Hell Architect has players taking on the role of a newly appointed manager of Lucifer Corporation. Those who enjoy a good storyline can play through the campaign, which will have players fulfilling requests from more established demons, like constructing a statue of Beezlebub as per your manager Frank and the HR manager, Lilith. Players who don’t want to feel too chained can skip the scenarios and head straight to the sandbox, where full freedom awaits. And with three difficulty modes to choose from, Hell can be as painful or as painless as you want it to be (for you).
As for those pour souls doomed to spend eternity in the hell of your making, Hell Architect artfully toes the line between too cute and too cruel. Each game starts off with a handful of sinners, all there because they’ve committed one of the seven deadly sins in their lifetime. I appreciated the fact that it was just left at “Pride” or “Envy” and not a specific sin that got too creatively grotesque in its details. Despite their deeds in life, these people are now dead, and their souls are doomed to do your bidding until the end of time.
What does this mean for the sinners? Well, unfortunately for them, the currency down here is suffering, which the sinners generate by building, then utilizing a torture device that is designed for pain beyond measure. Iron maidens, furnaces, and vats of boiling oil are but a few of the horrific methods of torture sinners will be subjected to for all eternity. Each sinner will have a specific torture that will elicit more suffering than normal, so be sure to take a look at their stats to create a personalized hell for each of the condemned.
Of course, the sinners will also have to have their needs met in between all this suffering — what, you think we’d just torture them without letting them get a good night’s rest? What do you think we are, some kind of monster? It’s critically important that sinners eat slop, drink recycled urine, use dirty latrines, and sleep in cardboard box huts — that way, they can be primed and ready for a full day’s worth of agonizing torture to generate even more suffering.
As time goes on, you’ll gain more and more sinners that’ll enter through the gates of hell, so you’ll need to keep expanding your little layer into a fully fledged circle. Have sinners dig tunnels to not only expand your square footage but receive resources like dirt, metal, and coal, necessary to build more structures and fulfill more goals. Don’t get too carried away with digging, however — the AI isn’t the best when it comes to the sinners. They’ll place digging as the highest priority, even if you’ve told them to go suffer in a torture chamber. The game will even advise you not to worry about sending them to the latrine or food stall, suggesting that they’re capable of taking care of themselves, but leave them to their own devices and they’ll head straight to limbo. If you’re really looking to get carried away creating your own slice of hell, I advise waiting until you have about 9 or 10 sinners before going to town on digging or other non-torturous activities.
After playing Hell Architect for a few hours, researching, summoning demons, and seeing some familiar faces (Elizabeth Bathory defffff deserves to be here, wow), I started thinking about how this game would play out if you took the hell aspect out of it, and I felt like it was an extremely basic city-building experience. It’s easy to get to a point early on where you don’t even have to do anything for stretches of 10 – 15 minutes at a time (grateful for that speed up button!). Now, granted, I don’t think that’s a bad thing — sometimes you need a game that’s a step above an idle title after a long day at work — but it’s worth saying that there isn’t a lot of depth and complexity here just yet. The developers are coming up with a lot of updates in the future that they hope, in their words, makes this hellish title “spicier”; until then, Hell Architect remains a surprisingly chill experience.
Hell Architect makes the macabre somehow a bit more palatable with its devilishly cute art style and relatively lighthearted dark humor. Although fans of similar titles like Oxygen Not Included will likely have their interest piqued, the selling point of Hell Architect isn’t in its gameplay, but in its theme. Players hoping to take their sadistic tendencies out on poor, unfortunate souls — and some deserving familiar faces — will have a gruesomely good time with this one; those looking for a deeper, complex layer of hell to call their own will have to wait for an update or two.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Leonardo Interactive; Developer: Woodland Games; Players: 1; Released: August 18, 2021; MSRP: $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Hell Architect provided by the publisher.