Has-Been Heroes (Xbox One) Review

By Nikola Suprak 04.10.2017

Review for Has-Been Heroes on Xbox One

Frozenbyte sort of hit gold with one of its earlier releases in Trine. It was a slick mix of action and puzzles that worked well, with some new and interesting mechanics. Since then, the company has been struggling a bit on the release front, with little more to show than a couple of so-so sequels to the original title and a couple of other minor titles that bombed both critically and commercially. Perhaps it was the risk of becoming a has-been itself that led to the development of one of its newer titles, Has-Been Heroes. The has-beens in Has-Been Heroes might be has-beens, but perhaps the company behind it is not just yet.

Things are not going well for the has-been heroes when the game starts. Most of the crew is either missing or dead, and the ones that are still around sort of lazily sit around the house all day dreaming about former glory days. Finally, they are called upon by their king to perform one more great and heroic action, which turns out to be… escorting his daughters to school. This sounds like an utterly trivial task, but apparently the king built his castle on the wrong side of town because in order to get to school his daughters need to pass through at least two different monster-infested areas. Home prices by good school districts must even be rough for kings, apparently. Now, the fearless knight, wizard, and rogue must battle their way through countless skeletons and other baddies on the most dangerous walk to school ever.

While there are other heroes to unlock along the way, you initially start out with a knight, wizard, and rogue because apparently the developers here really like what they had in Trine or maybe they didn't realise there are more than three different classes of characters. Each has a unique advantage in combat, and while the rogue can hit a bunch of times in quick succession, the knight can then unleash one powerful attack that can knock back stunned enemies. They can eventually be swapped out for other characters of similar classes as more and more are unlocked, each one with their own advantages and disadvantages. The way each is integrated into the battle system is actually quite interesting, and it is worth taking the time to really figure the ins and outs of the mechanics because there is a surprising amount of fun to be had when all of the characters can be used optimally. The game does an abysmally poor job explaining things, though, so it is probably worth everyone's time to go look up how to actually play the game properly once things get started on some outside website.

Screenshot for Has-Been Heroes on Xbox One

It is a bit hard to describe how Has-Been Heroes plays, because there is no easy comparison for it. This is a great thing, and new and innovative approaches to gaming are always appreciated, but at the same time it might be hard for some people to get into this right way, especially taking into account how bad a job the game does of explaining everything. It sort of feels like tower defence meets real-time strategy, meets turn-based RPG, and somehow the big chewed up mess of genres actually works fairly well once the core mechanics can be figured out. Enemies move from the right side of the screen, slowly making their way up to the intrepid heroes, and they need to be vanquished (or at least pushed back) before they reach the fighters. Some fighters can take a couple of hits before getting killed, but others only have a single hit point before bowing out. Multiple enemies come down in three different rows, each one of which has a single fighter in it.

After one of the heroes makes an attack, they can be swapped to a different row, and then can be moved again to completely rearrange the heroes' formation, if wanted. There is a lot of strategy here where it comes to positioning the troops in the best way to avoid getting hit while maximising damage. Enemies typically have a certain amount of stamina and cannot be damaged conventionally until that stamina is depleted. By attacking, taking time to plan out the arrangement of the heroes, and then attacking again, it is possible to take down even the strongest of enemies that the game can throw their way.

Screenshot for Has-Been Heroes on Xbox One

The combat takes a little while to get a hang of, but when it clicks everything actually works really well. Planning out a strategy as the battle unfolds is satisfying, and figuring out the perfect time to stun an enemy and then come in with a big hit can be very rewarding. It is a great mix of fast-paced action and more methodical strategy, and the mixing of various genres work well here. Spells and items can help shape the battle, as well, and while every character has its own starting set up, various power-ups can be picked up along the way. The bosses here are particularly enjoyable, each with a unique battle plan that will require a unique strategy to overcome them. Particularly, before someone's first couple times through, the formula here is very addictive and many people are going to find themselves sucked into "just one more run" before ultimately realising it's 3 a.m. and the sun is about to come up.

There are also various roguelike elements that have been thrown in to keep things interesting on repeated play-throughs, and Has-Been Heroes is certainly all about repeated play. If even one of the heroes falls in battle, it is game over and time to start again from the beginning. This is likely to be frustrating for those that aren't a fan of roguelikes and will certainly drive away more casual gamers, but really it is all part of the challenge. Things need to be completed in one go and even one little screw up will get the poor has-beens kicked back to the beginning.

Screenshot for Has-Been Heroes on Xbox One

Of course, like any roguelike, there are plenty of random elements along the way that can make the quest much easier or harder depending on one's luck. Maps are random interconnected spaces, with some spaces leading to enemy encounters and others to treasure of some sort. There is a huge variety of spells or items that can be found that make subsequent encounters much more manageable, so it is imperative that you choose the path forward well. It isn't always possible to backtrack, so sometimes enemy encounters can be avoided and sometimes they can't, and the little bit of randomness here does help to make subsequent play-throughs more manageable.

By far the biggest issue here, however, is the repetition. The game is certainly interesting at first, and it is fairly fun getting a hang of the combat and figuring out how to get past all the game's big bad bosses. Unfortunately, it commits one of the key sins of roguelikes and very little is done to differentiate subsequent play-throughs from the first. That isn't to say that nothing changes, as each play-through usually has a unique assortment of environments, enemies, and spells to find along the way. Even with all that changing, though, things simply do not feel different enough. Enemies are not very well varied and no matter how they draw out the random assortment of points on a map, it doesn't change the fact that the heroes here are basically travelling to the same locations over and over. Battles all play out in very similar ways, and after the third or fourth play they really begin to feel like a painful slog.

Screenshot for Has-Been Heroes on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


While Has-Been Heroes can draw someone in really quickly, it will wind up losing them just as fast. It's fast and fun, and the mix of roguelike and pseudo-tower defence elements actually work quite well together. The core concept here is entertaining enough, but the lack of variety winds up souring the experience sooner than it should. It doesn't quite capture what makes other roguelikes so addictive, and after it's all finished for the first time, there isn't a tremendous amount to see again in subsequent plays. It is still good for a quick run through every once in a while, but these has-been heroes will likely become has-beens in your gaming library all too quickly.




GameTrust Games





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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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