Has-Been Heroes (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 20.05.2017

Review for Has-Been Heroes on PC

Anyone who follows the indie scene will immediately find their eyes lighting up at the sign of another creation from Frozenbyte. The publisher has good pedigree when it comes to the PC indie market specifically, and most will know of them from the critically acclaimed Trine series. Hitting Steam in March of this year, Has-Been Heroes features a familiar roguelike experience, but with a more unusual gameplay mechanic at the heart of it; namely a combination of turn-based strategy and lane-based action. Promising an easy to learn, but tough to master battle system, a ton of unlockables, and an ever-changing adventure, there seems to be a lot on offer here for the modest cost. Adventurers beware, though; this one is definitely tough, and those gluttons for hair-pulling frustration should read on.

There are some of those games that can be picked up and jumped into right from the neatly packaged tutorial to the very end without any challenge; Has-Been Heroes is not one of these.

The first warning to potential buyers here definitely comes with an encouragement about the virtue of patience. The first five or more occasions trying to work through the randomly generated maps and battles inevitably comes with a large dose of incredible frustration. The enemies seem endless and one or two hits is usually enough to finish the run.

Yes, that's right, one or two hits and it is sayonara and back to the main menu. It is a system that is well established in most roguelikes and can lead to anger or excitement depending on the personality of the player. The two minutes that each battle last can seem like an eternity, constantly switching the lanes and unleashing the attack combinations.

Screenshot for Has-Been Heroes on PC

After that initial settling in period, though, Has-Been Heroes starts to really come alive. When the mechanics are nailed down, the moves start to become obvious. Each character (and there are a lot of them to unlock) has their own sort of move set and attack structure. This is important because the general strategy involves knocking out the stamina of the many ghoulish foes along each horizontal lane with the nimble fighters and then using the tank to finish the job.

After each attack there is a cool down period, and straightaway the decision about placement and strategy. The combination works like a charm, though, with the usual criticism of boring turn-based combat being taken away by the frenetic action and the spell casting combinations.

The pace never lets up, and the amount of enemy variety means that simply sticking to rudimentary tactics will eventually get found out later down the line; which is, of course, all the more galling when one unlucky misstep can lead to the end. This really is the biggest and only main issue with the structure, the sense that on some occasions the difference between defeat and victory can be down to pure luck.

Screenshot for Has-Been Heroes on PC

This is also true of the maps themselves, which can sometimes deliver a wallop in the gut when the path chosen is a disaster and there are no stamina or merchant camps along the way. It feels a little cheap sometimes when the outcome of a game can come down to such fine margins and a factor outside of any protagonist control.

Special praise needs to go to the boss battles. These are randomised like everything else, and introduce a further layer of consideration; from bosses who have simply more health and require combination play, or those bosses who summon obstacles to attack. They are very fun to fight against, but again, oh so cruel to lose against.

Screenshot for Has-Been Heroes on PC

The question that might be being asked is, "What is the point of this?" The answer to that simply lies in fun. There is no great narrative here. It is actually obvious why a Nintendo Switch port was developed; it is the perfect title for portable play. The story is introduced in a cutscene about a group of travellers escorting two princesses to their educational academy. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but then, it doesn't have to.

This humour is complimented by the vibrant and colourful characters who pop to life on screen in stark contrast to the dark and foreboding skeletons and evil plants standing in the way of the sword. The cartoon style does much to make every character stand out - which is useful because there are an awful lot of characters to unlock, along with a ton of items and spells.

These characters are unlocked after each successful playthrough, and the constant drip feed effect of unlocks provides the encouragement to continue even after the frustrations of the challenge and the tension of fearing death at any moment.

Screenshot for Has-Been Heroes on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Has-Been Heroes delivers an excellent challenge for the player and provides the perfect blend of tension and enjoyment. The combat mechanic definitely manages to be both welcoming for newer players, while still providing scope for tactical and strategic decisions through the use of spells, combined with good lane placement. There is not a lot of focus given to creating an epic memorable quest, and sometimes luck plays too big a part in victory - but this is a minor quibble when the main entertainment comes from the gameplay, which is challenging, but rewarding, both in personal rewards and tangible unlockable rewards. For a fairly modest price there is an abundance of content on offer, and with the potential for portable play it is unsurprising a Nintendo Switch port was developed alongside the Steam release.

Developer

Frozenbyte

Publisher

GameTrust Games

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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