Reviewed on Nintendo Switch, also available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC
Has Been Heroes caught my attention right away when it was announced. It is a game about a group of washed up heroes given the task of escorting the king’s daughter’s to school. I am definitely a sucker for games with a sense of humor, but once I got over the humor in the game’s premise the experience turned sour.
You can’t really talk about this game without first defining the idea of a “rogue-like”. This is game genre where a significant portion of the game play elements are random. Games in the genre are designed to be replayed over and over again chasing high scores. The random elements in these games are often combined with extreme difficulty.
Heroes exemplifies the rogue-like genre. Every time you start a game the map is random. The goal is to traverse the map and clear through five bosses to help the princesses get to school. To do this, players will have to navigate maze-like maps and try to reach as many locations that contain treasures as possible without having to backtrack. (Crossing over a piece of the map you have already walked through will end your game unless you have a special item.) When players die in the game they have to start over. The only type of progress that carries over are item and spell unlocks. The means that, in a way, as you “progress” through the game it gets more random as the vendors and treasure chests have a wider variety of items and spells.
The rogue-like elements definitely make the game hard, but the challenge involved in playing these types of games is part of their charm. They are popular because they reject some of the recent developments in game design that are there to help make experiences more accessible to players. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate well to gaming as a family.
The biggest problem with the game is the unintuitive control scheme. The combat is based on swapping the three characters in your party between three lanes on the screen. Yo have to swap them around in order to manage skill cooldowns and to have weaker characters that can attack multiple times soften up the defenses of various enemies so your more powerful teammates can take them down for good. The issue is that this is all done with the various face buttons on the controllers. The control scheme feels like it was duct taped onto the game to avoid using a touch based system.
In fact, the touch controls on an iPad might have made the game more enjoyable and, at least a little, less confusing and that gets to the heart of it. This feels like a mobile game that was full of potential that was switched into a console game during mid development.
Is it a family game?
Has Been Heroes is rated E 10+ by the ESRB. The content descriptors at: Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language (the word Damned appears in the text).
This is an action strategy game where players control a team of heroes, albeit washed up ones, as they do battle with fantasy monsters like skeletons and man-eating plants. The action is viewed from the side and is abstracted by the cartoonish graphics.
Damage dealt to enemies during combat takes the form of flashes of light and hit-point numbers floating up from the various monsters’ heads.
Can a kid play it?
This is, honestly, where the house of cards starts to fall down. The controls for this game are incredibly difficult to learn, Each of the games three lanes is assigned to a different face button on the controller. In order to proceed through the different fights you need to select one of the lanes, trigger an attack from the hero in that lane, and the swap people into that originally selected lane. The method used to facilitate these lane changes is confusing and often needs to be with extreme precision in order to make sure that enemies don’t reach you.
I have a difficult time imagining that many kids will dedicate the time needed to master the game.
Has Been Heroes has an awesome premise, but it is simply too awkward to play for it to be enjoyable.
Disclosure: This review was written based on a review code provided by the developer.