In the good old days, deciding whether or not to buy a game was largely based on one’s ability to judge it by its cover. If you were to do that with Has-Been Heroes, you’d likely slap yourself.
What Is It?
As a hardcore gamer with a strong appreciation for an interesting story, solid art design, and overall difficulty, Has-Been Heroes looked like the game for me. I couldn’t be more wrong.
Developed by Frostbyte, the guys responsible for the impressive and puzzling Trine games, Has-Been Heroes follows a group of ragtag heroes past their prime as they’re employed with the task of bringing a couple princesses to school. Along the way, things get crazy and the story throws an (un)predictable twist–an evil ghost pirate to kill.
Why Should I Care?
As stupid as the story sounds, its colorful hand-drawn comic style visuals keep things interesting, as the art style could actually encourage you to keep playing just to see what things look like, if you can motivate yourself enough to do so.
Has-Been Heroes is hard, and once you start to actually get a grasp of the game’s mechanics, its roguelike gameplay will continue to punish you.
The game’s battle system in some ways resembles Square’s iconic Active Time Battle system, but it has a tactical mix to it as well. Your party of three does battle on the left side of the screen, while enemies on the right side of the screen slowly come at you. Each member of your party stays on one lane and is activated with either the A, B, and X buttons and after attacking, the game pauses and you have the option of switching spots with another party member for a follow-up attack.
Pausing is actually an essential skill in the game, as it allows you to really plan out your actions as you progress.
All of this is too complicated for its own good, and the game eventually presents enemies too numerous for you to worry about. When I first got into the game, I was beyond confused with the game’s controls, after I got used to how the game handled, it just became excruciating. I found myself thinking more about what I was supposed to be pressing rather than the move I had to make next, which was extremely frustrating. It makes you wonder what kind of people the developers had working in QA, because if I had to demo this at any sort of gaming convention, I’d probably be yelling at the guy showing me how to play.
It even gets to the point where it’s difficult to just travel. The bottom right hand corner of the screen shows a randomly generated map, with the point obviously to get to the end with all these branching paths hiding anything from more fights to treasure. It was probably out of the question, but Has-Been Heroes is better off just being a sidescrolling action game rather than the Darkest Dungeon imitator we have here.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
The game being hard isn’t what brings it down. We all love a good challenge. It’s the fact that so many factors go into the actual gameplay, and it simply isn’t worth the effort. It’s stressful for no reason, and it’s unfortunate because of how much I enjoy different “out there” ideas.
The best roguelike games work because they’re simple to play and it’s easy to see why you died. Take Spelunky and Rogue Legacy for instance. The best RPG’s work because their simplicity make them therapeutic. Has-Been Heroes is none of these things, making your $20 best spent somewhere else.