Hell Architect Review (PC): How About Some Iron Maiden?

Go to Hell! ...and create build mouthwatering torture devices for those 'orrible sinners in fiendish management game Hell Architect.

Hell is for heroes – design heroes. Hell Architect is the devil’s playground for new gadgets and structures that make the occupants’ stay as miserable as possible. Lovely. Where do you fit in this chain of torment? You’re the feng shui master.

An internship, if you will, you’re enlisted by Lucifer’s minions to ensure your circle of Hell runs efficiently. Sinners will slowly trickle through the gates of Hell, for whatever reason – theft, murder, jealousy, using cheat codes… Your job is to assign tasks like food and water preparation to mining tunnels and structure placement. Oh, and you also inflict their suffering.

Hell Architect is very similar to a typical management sim, and perhaps the most recent comparison would be Hammerting. But what makes this game different is the innovative structures, dark comedy and presentation. With the latter, the art style is juxtaposed with the brutality by showing cute storybook-like characters donned in tiny fig leaves. Note you can remove these to expose their chipolatas and wobbly bits. You’re going to Hell.

Hell Architect Review - Killer Driller
Killer Driller. Source: Steam

Hell Architect Review

As Hell is eternal, there needs to be some direction for the game. This comes from scenarios. Each scenario has an objective, such as mining so many crystals or building a particular structure. However, these objectives often spiral out of control, and you’ll soon be jumping through plenty of hoops until success. There is a story arc here as each scenario you complete awards you in a promotion, thus new gameplay mechanics in the next scenario.

Lucifer’s minions will give you a task, and gradually that will evolve. These sections include talking heads, fully voice acted and fiendishly good – the humour in these bits are brilliant. My only complaint is there can sometimes be a delay when they occur, and it’s not always clear what to do with the objective. Also, time doesn’t pause when they’re speaking, so if you’ve sped up gameplay to fast-track a building and your sinners are on the brink of dying, you may lose a couple.

Minions are advisers, while the workhorses are your sinners. Regardless of their sins, they’re all treated with contempt, but you still have to keep them alive. This comes from creating production lines for food and drink, and places to rest. This is a fine example of the humour once more; to quench the thirst of sinners, you’ll have a toilet that stores all the excrement, which transfers to a water squeezer. The remaining liquid then goes into a bucket so they can indulge. This process makes Bear Grylls look like a gourmet chef. To expand, the early food production line has them eating out of a trough, but gradually they get things like a dive bar and swank canteen. They don’t deserve it.

You Dig?

Hell Architect Review - Sinners are all mine
These sinners are all mine. Source: Steam

Besides mining for dirt, coal, metal and crystals used for research and artefacts, the key function of sinners in Hell Architect is the currency they produce: suffering. There will be a considerable amount of torture devices on offer and more to research, from the simple iron maiden to furnaces and waterboarding. Place a sinner in one, and every cycle will award suffering that can be used to build new structures. A sinner can’t die through torture, but if they don’t get food, drink, toilet access or a bed (read: cardboard box) to rest in, they’ll die. 

Sinners will improve their skills if you get them doing the same thing, i.e. digging, so if you lose a ‘star player’, you can resurrect them if you have the proper structure in place. Additionally, you can hire legends – real-life historical figures that can boost production, as well as minions that inspire your workforce for a brief time. The cost for these may include suffering and other materials, but usually, essence is required, which can only be sourced from sinners through sacrifice. 

This is another morbidly amusing feature from Woodland Games. Right-clicking on a sinner will bring up a sacrifice ‘verb wheel’ where you can do anything from eye-gouging to infestation to achieve your essence. It’s the next step up from blowing Lemmings up.

By Mammon’s Empty Sack

While Hell Architect justifies being in my ‘stoked list‘, there are a few minor shortcomings. First of all, ignoring a few set pieces and a wicked selection of torture devices, it’s much of the same throughout. I welcome this, but some may find it quite repetitive. It’s also a quiet game. Zooming out from the map will more or less mute any effects, but there’s no ambient music during gameplay – that was noticeable. The only reason I knew my speakers were on were from the excellent voiceovers from the minions. It’s a small sacrifice for an otherwise excellent game. At the very least, the visuals and humour set the tone consistently.

Hell Architect Review - Staycation
Staycation. Source: Steam

There aren’t that many scenarios in the game, but you can play at a leisurely pace and continue playing after completing it. Why would you do that? Because Hell Architect is so much fun, and you might be a few more sacrifices away from building a new structure or configuring the perfect production line. Still, there’s a sandbox mode where you can do that, which I left to last and was bloody marvellous. The hours I’ve spent in this game in such a short amount of time has been worth it.