While you might think that ruling over the souls of the damned would be a thrilling experience, Hell Architect is a far more simplistic and casual experience than you may be expecting.
Genre: Strategy, Simulation
Developer: Woodland Games
Publisher: Leonardo Interactive
Release date: 18 August, 2021
I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of colony builders over the years that have ranged from Banished to Dwarf Fortress and beyond. The skillfully designed titles offer countless hours of entertainment, though the genre is a minefield where a single wrong step can result in you wasting too much of your time trying to find the depth in a poor attempt at a clone. Fortunately, the strong entries like those above make it worth the risk. Unfortunately, Hell Architect falls somewhere in the middle and isn’t likely to leave a lasting impact even if it offers a few hours of entertainment messing around in it.
Cookie Cutter Design in a Bizarre Setting
Hell Architect tasks you with managing your own little corner of Hell. You’ll be ordering your sinners to dig outward on 2D levels to make room for new structures and to harvest valuable resources. As you find success, your number of sinners will grow and you’ll become more efficient at these activities.
Your sinners have a set of needs that require production chains and constructed buildings to fulfill. While it’s not anything new to have to meet your residents’ needs in a colony builder, I found myself struggling to find any innovation here. It feels like a missed opportunity given the setting. Why is it that we have to satisfy the needs of the sinners when thematically they should be beaten and broken cogs in the Hell Industrial Complex? It doesn’t help that it’s quite easy to meet these needs as long as you continue to upgrade and adapt your infrastructure for new sinners.
Building a base and positioning your structures seems to be an afterthought as well. Most of your time is spent managing your resources, not expanding or upgrading your territory. I found that in order to enjoy this title at all, I had to boost the game to its maximum speed so that it didn’t feel like an idle game that should just be left on while I did something else. There’s an early rush where you’re trying to set up your basic food, drink, and rest structures for your sinner, but after that’s done, the experience slows down significantly. From the moment I had my sinnes’ needs met, I found myself waiting for something more to happen and nothing Hell Architect threw at me changed that very much. There’s some advancement with new resources and buildings that trickle with each scenario but the core gameplay, while not terrible, was certainly uninspired.
Production Chains and a Lack of Logistics
Production chains exist in Hell Architect, in theory. Many of your production buildings can be upgraded to superior versions that improve their efficiency. Your latrines, for example, can be upgraded so that more excrement is produced each time one of your sinners fires off a deuce. This results in more of the base resource, excrement, being produced so that you can have another worker use another structure to turn it into dirty water. This can be processed into a moderate number of drinks for your sinners or it can be further processed into clean water and even coffee and whatnot down the chain for more and more effective uses of excrement. This chain sounds fairly standard, except perhaps for the fact that your drinking what comes from turds, but you drink what you can in Hell.
The key problem with the production and processing of goods becomes apparent quickly if you’re a veteran of colony builders that focus on resources; there’s no real logistical system whatsoever. Though some structures require a sinner to work them to process one resource into another, there’s never any transport between them which cuts out an entire part of the genre that would stave off some of the idleness that comes with this title. The meat that you grow will instantly teleport to whatever production facility it’s being processed at without ever having to physically move from one place to the next.
Hell Architect isn’t the worst game that I’ve ever played, but it’s certainly not the best either. Its simplistic design lends itself to casual play that is guaranteed to bore strategy gamers looking for a more intense challenge. Though its humor adds a light-hearted feel to it overall, it piles on to the rest of the title’s image of being a fun little diversion instead of a game that will be referenced for years to come. If you’re looking for something to pass the time, Hell Architect may give you that, but it’s unlikely to hook you for any length of time. The price tag may be the greatest sin of all here though, as there are plenty of superior titles available out there that won’t hit your wallet anywhere near as hard.