Friday, March 24, 2017

Has-Been Heroes Review: A Little Washed Up Out of the Gate

Has-Been Heroes is a Roguelike action game with lane defense strategy elements  developed by FrozenByte and published by Gametrust. It is due out on March 28th for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Steam, and XBox One.

(The footage in the accompanying video is from the Switch release and the Switch is probably the best home for this game.)

In Has-Been heroes you initially take control of a couple of washed up heroes and their young admirer who becomes their apprentice / third musketeer. You are tasked with the ultra important job of escorting the kings 2 young daughters to their school. Along the way you are waylaid by enemies under the control of a great evil that closely resembles a purple Flying Dutchman from Spongebob Squarepants.

There are a number of rogue like elements present in this game. Each time you play through Has-Been Heroes you will be presented with a new randomly generated map that is visible in the lower right corner of the screen. Locations are represented by a series of interconnected dots. The only location you know for certain at the beginning is the boss. What type of crossroads location a dot represents only becomes known when you occupy an adjacent location. These crossroads locations can be battles, rest areas, different types of merchants, chests, and other locations you’ll unlock as you play though the game.

When a party member dies it’s game over. Sort of. You’ll start a new game and won’t be able to carry over anything you were carrying from the previous game. What  does carry over is the unlocks you acquire from collecting souls. As you kill monsters in this game you collect their souls. Collect enough souls by the end of a run and you’ll be rewarded upon death with a soul chest. What exactly is inside the soul chest is random. These random rewards are the unlocks that add a bit of persistence from run to run.

You can unlock spells such as the Quickstrike which clears your melee cool-downs, Midas touch which grants more gold when you kill an enemy. Items such as the Masters Degree which grants you more health. You can also unlock new crossroads locations, regions, and endings. As you encounter new types of enemies along the way those are also shown in your unlocks on the start screen. It’s sort of like a Monster's Manual from Dungeons and Dragons.

The combat in Has - Been heroes is easy enough to understand but hard to master. Each of your heroes occupies a lane. These lanes will be attacked by waves of enemies. Your job is to kill the enemies. Your heroes can switch lanes allowing for them to unleash combos. Each enemy has a certain amount of stamina represented by a green square. If you hit them enough to remove their stamina you’ll stun them. When they are stunned you can unleash hits on them for a lot of damage and they will be knocked back in their lane. Some boss type enemies have the ability to switch lanes too but they are the exception, not the rule.  

The key is to hit your opponent with enough little hits to expose them to damage and then swap in one of your more damaging characters for the punishing hits when your opponent is stunned. Unfortunately that’s a lot easier said than done. You can only swap a new character into a lane once the current character in that lane has performed an attack and is out of position.  

You characters also each come with one spell standard but as your progress across the map you can  find new spells in chests or purchase them from merchants. Learning to use these spells to their potential is the difference between success and failure when it comes to a boss. Also it’s easy to look at a map and follow the critical path from start to the boss and sometimes fight no battles along the way. This is a trap. Always following the shortest route will leave your characters with few extra abilities and equipment and will ultimately result with their quick demise.

Has-Been Heroes is a fun game filled with silly humor and tense action sequences. It also exemplifies one of the greatest features of the Nintendo Switch. The ability to play a game anywhere even in short stretches of time and have meaning game play experiences. While at $19.99 it’s easy to recommend adding this game as a great match to your Switch library it is also a lot of fun on whichever gaming device your prefer.

(A digital copy of Has-Been Heroes for the Nintendo Switch was provided by their publisher)

Score 7.5 / 10

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