By Ofisil 02.04.2017
A look at a couple of screenshots of the game reviewed here, and it will be enough to assume that this is another of those shovelware titles made for the casual mobile gaming demographic. While certainly not original, both in terms of looks as well as gameplay, that is not the case here. Unfortunately, Has-Been Heroes seems to have some bigger problems; problems that tend to appear again and again in the realm of rogue-likes. After our hand's on preview, get ready to crack even more skeleton skulls, and see why that's so.
This medieval tale of retired-heroes-to-the-rescue starts off with a small prologue that serves both as the tutorial, as well as the intro to the plot, which basically explains that three warriors must escort two young princesses… err, somewhere. It's hard to remember where, right now, as the story takes a major backseat after that. Of course, that was never supposed to be the central focus of this adventure. Instead, the concept here is to remain alive, destroy everything that stands in your way, and keep on moving while doing so.
Has-Been Heroes is a lane-based real-time/turn-based strategy mix, where each of the three heroes can attack the lane he or she is currently on, with waves of enemies coming from the right. This uses a permadeath system, though, so these fellows must try and get as powerful as possible, by collecting all sorts of items and spells, and, of course, use them as best as they possibly can while on the battlefield. Died? Rinse, repeat…
It's a pretty simple concept, yet the control scheme might feel a bit awkward at first, with the X-Y-B buttons selecting a hero on a lane, and A being used to attack. It sounds simple enough, but a major component in this game is the ability to swap positions between heroes, which feels kind of weird when doing so. That isn't to say that it's broken or bad - in fact, this is more like a nit-pick, as it will actually become second nature after a while - although it could definitely be better. Something that isn't a nit-pick, however, is that this soon gets pretty repetitive.
The monotony derives from the fact that the basic technique here is to, first, attack an enemy in order to lower its stamina pool, and, therefore, stun it, and then keep on hitting and actually start doing some damage. Not only does this make things boring, it's also devoid of depth, as the "strategy" one has to follow is: stun with the weak characters, and then kill them with the heavy hitters… and that's it. It also doesn't help that all enemies look the same - yeah, sure, there are armoured skeletons, spell-casting skeletons, and so forth, but it all boils down to skeletons.
…And yet, this can actually get insanely addicting, something that has a lot to do with the rogue-like nature of it all, and the randomness this adds into play. The party actually gets to choose a path in a simple map before reaching the boss of each area, with unknown dangers, in the form of enemy encounters, and unknown rewards, in the form of merchants, treasure chests, and so on. Furthermore, while death is the end, each playthrough will unlock a couple of new items or spells to find, as well as new heroes to select, and new enemies to confront.
Strangely enough, every single flaw mentioned thus far doesn't do much harm to the fan factor. Yes, the level of depth at hand isn't exactly worthy of an applause, but Has-Been Heroes is actually very enjoyable, despite its casual-friendly, almost simplistic design. Even better, our dear shape-shifting Nintendo Switch is probably the best platform to play this title, be it on the couch, desk, or in the bedroom. Unfortunately, there's a flaw here that cannot be overlooked, and that's the heavy reliance on the dear ol' Goddess of Luck.
That's not really a moan at the difficulty of it all, and, yes, since this is a rogue-like, the component of luck is unavoidable (and part of the fun), but it's something that's not handled as well as it should. Simply put, while strategy and quick thinking-skills are definitely required, the player is a slave to the caprices of the invisible dice rolls that decide whether the next battle will throw too many foes to handle, or if a trip throughout a map will provide the necessary tools to survive one more round. To put it otherwise, find AOE spells as fast as possible, or just start a new game.
In conclusion, skill is needed more in the map, instead of the battlefield, meaning that players need to carefully choose the path that will lead to the highest amount of possible battles, thus, to more money, thus, to a wallet ready to do some buying - but, unfortunately, nine out of ten battles will end up in defeat, while the player contemplates whose fault that was. The answer? Usually the game's.
Has-Been Heroes could be better if it had more depth, far more addictive if it wasn't as repetitive, and, most of all, an unquestionably worthy purchase if the gameplay didn't rely on randomness as much as it currently does so. Long story short: very one-more-try-ish, but also in definite need of some tweaking.