Has-Been Heroes Review

By Cindy Minguez, 2 years ago
Has-Been Heroes is the latest offering from Frozenbyte, the minds behind Trine. The adventure has a fun premise, nice animation, and an innovative battle system, but are these enough to make the game a keeper? Well....maybe not.

Has-Been HeroesHas-Been Heroes

As the game begins, you're treated to a montage of epic deeds performed by the kingdom's heroes of yesteryear. Fast forward to the present and a call goes out from the castle — a call for the heroes to serve their great kingdom once again. The last two heroes left, both now old, race to answer. Joined by a young wannabe, the heroes are given their heroic task: take the young princesses to school. Unbeknownst to them, a great evil stands in their way, a dark force that your heroes must face if they're to deliver the princesses safely to their destination.

The prologue serves as the game's tutorial and it's here that one will first experience frustration with the title. Has-Been Heroes' battle system uses lanes; think of a multi-lane side-scroller with three horizontal lanes stacked on top of each other where each hero will inhabit a lane. The controls are very non-intuitive and it is frustrating trying to figure out something as simple as how to cast a spell. The tutorial can be replayed as many times as you wish, but you may still come away from it feeling as if you're not sure exactly what to do because it simply doesn't do enough to get you ready to go.

This game is all about strategy. Enemies have green squares on their life bars that represent how many times an enemy can block before you start eating its actual life. Those with high stamina (blocks) will make the rogue your best friend. With her multi-hit attack, she can knock out the stamina bars. After one character attacks, he or she can be traded with another so that the attack can continue and you can then switch to a heavy hitter like the warrior to finish the enemy off. At least, that's how it's supposed to work, but it doesn't always. There's a cool-down period for each character, so if the one you need isn't ready yet, you're out of luck. However, the process of attack-switch is saved from being completely maddening by the handy Pause feature. After each attack, your heroes will automatically pause while you think over your next move.

Each hero occupies a lane.Each hero occupies a lane.

There's another aspect of the game that isn't explained anywhere in the tutorial. You will progress along a map on the lower-right of your screen. Using the right stick to choose your destination, you then use the right bumper to move. Your goal is to hit as many crossroads as possible on the way to the boss (marked at the end of the map). Traveling over any area of the map twice uses a candle. If you run out of candles with no new avenues to travel, it's game over. The developer leaves a lot for gamers to find out the hard way.

Several possibilities exist at each crossroad - a battle, a vendor, a treasure chest, or nothing at all. You can buy keys, items and spells. However, the game is quite frustrating here, too, because what you get at any of these vendors' stalls is completely random. If you buy a non-elemental spell, the vendor spins a crank and a ball pops out with your spell, reminiscent of a game of Bingo. The Charm spell is wonderfully helpful (it has an enemy turn back on his fellows, not only causing damage but also slowing them down), but it just couldn't be bought. Items are the same. You also can't see what an item does until you own it and that can be really important information in this game. The item will belong to whichever hero picks it up and there's no way to trade amongst them, so if you happen to pick up something with your rogue that would have been great for your mage, tough luck.

All of this luck-based randomness doesn't help with an already difficult game. Bottom line, this game is just stupid hard. Dying is part of the game's mechanic. The title expects players to die, die, and die again. When any of your characters die, it's Game Over and you have to start again. Each time you go to heaven, the souls of your defeated enemies fill soul orbs. Each time you fill the soul orb, you unlock more items and spells. The huge number of blank spaces waiting to be unlocked is astonishing. Even understanding this, however, doesn't help make the game more enjoyable.

Bosses are tough.Bosses are tough.

The achievements aren't easy either. Seven of them are for finishing the game - one time, two times, three times, up to seven. Seven more are for filling the Soul Orb, the final one for filling the orb 100 times. This will take a huge number of playthroughs because each time the orb is filled, it requires more souls to fill it the next time. The remaining 11 achievements are for unlocking skins, heroes, and everything in the game. Since each filled orb only unlocks two items at a time, you can count on this achievement taking quite a long time. If you're a completionist, don't take Heroes lightly; it will be both time-consuming and challenging to finish.

Summary

Has-Been Heroes is an initially appealing title that quickly becomes bogged down by a lack of good instructions, too much luck-based randomness, and permadeath that never quits. The clunky controls are very non-intuitive, making it hard to get comfortable with gameplay. The game does have a huge number of unlockables that fans will enjoy discovering, but for anyone struggling with the game's difficulty, it's doubtful that most of these goodies will ever be seen. For those who enjoy rogue-type games and don't mind a stiff challenge, this title could be a gem. For those of us defeated by that boss just one too many times, however, Heroes is an exercise in frustration.
3 / 5
Has-Been Heroes
Positives
  • Fun characters
  • Unique battle system
Negatives
  • Clunky controls
  • Not enough instruction
  • Stupid hard
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent almost 8 hours clobbering skeletons before inevitably being cut down by a boss, winning only 5 of the game's 26 achievements. An Xbox One download code was made available from the ID@Xbox program for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Cindy Minguez
Written by Cindy Minguez
Cindy has been writing for TA/TT for three years now and is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueTrophies. She's an English instructor at a small college and considered a remarkably cool teacher for knowing all about Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Diablo III.