Heroes get old. Everyone gets old, but heroes can’t quite continue to do their job once they have trouble lifting their weapons. Despite this, Has-Been Heroes sees a group of elderly adventurers set out on one last quest. Is it a quest worth watching, or are these heroes past their prime?
Once upon a time, a group of heroes saved the world from various villains. Unfortunately, they’re now old and all the heroes except the Knight and the Monk have gone missing. These two, accompanied by the young Rogue who idolized the old heroes, are given one more job from the king: escort his twin daughters to the academy. Things go wrong right from the outset when a meteor falls and instantly kills the entire party. Thankfully, the Gatekeeper up in Heaven has problems of his own, namely a great evil has spread and captured some souls that should be in Heaven and he needs heroes of his own to stop them. Now, the party now has two jobs. It’s a silly story that mostly just serves as flavoring for the rest of the game, but I can at least appreciate the humor that the interparty arguments can bring.
Your party of three will appear on the left side of the screen, and each character gets a lane all to themselves. By selecting that character, you can then have them fly down the lane and attack the closest monster to them. At this point the game pauses, allowing you to have another character occupy their lane so you can set up combos and try to hit the monsters with as many abilities as possible. These basic mechanics form an interesting foundation, but (as is normal for roguelites) the further in you go the more you discover.
One of the most important mechanics is stamina. Each enemy has blocks of stamina next to their health bar, and you knock one off every time you strike them. You can only hurt their health when you get rid of all their stamina. Each character also strikes a different number of times for each attack, each knocking off a different amount of stamina. If you knock an enemy’s stamina to exactly 0, you can stun them and deal extra damage that causes them to permanently lose a stamina point. It’s a smart system, one that quickly brought in an interesting level of tactical play of trying to move my characters around and make sure I was always lining up attacks that could exactly break that stamina.
You also have spells that appear as scrolls on the bottom of the screen. At any time, you can access these spells and have the character cast it. Spells work on a cooldown timer, but you earn souls as you kill enemies, and these souls can be used to bypass the timer and get a free cast. Each character has five spell slots to equip the scrolls you find, and some of these spell slots come with bonuses. For example, one slot may make it so any projectile placed on it hits a second, random, target. Another makes it so any water magic used in that spot generates a puddle on the target it hits.
The combat system has a lot of hidden depth that isn’t quite explained by tutorials or notices in-game and you do have to spend a little time experimenting and learning what each ability does, plus all the hidden properties that are present. For example, I mentioned water spells before. Any enemy hit with a water spell becomes wet, as does any enemy that walks through a puddle. If you then cast a lightning spell it will automatically arc to those enemies to deal some extra damage. Figuring out little systems like this can greatly boost your chance of survival.
You’ll need that extra survivability, as Has-Been Heroes is a hard game. Part of this is just from the smart enemy design that was made to challenge you. This especially shows at the boss fights, when you need to think up some creative ideas to hurt the bosses. Knocking out the boss’ 50 stamina before he reaches you isn’t really plausible, but you can exploit enemies that explode into a freezing wind to buy you a few minutes to wail on the boss. On the other hand, there were times the challenge comes just from the game overwhelming you. At times, the game hit me with an overwhelming force that felt impossible to overcome with the mechanics at my disposal. It’s disappointing when my run came to an end because I just couldn’t handle the game deciding that 50 armored skeletons seemed like an appropriate spawn.
Between battles you’ll run around on a map, hitting various important areas up that have a chance of being events or stores. You’ll find people willing to sell you items for the gold you collect, or treasure chests just waiting to be plundered, or even little mini games where you can earn good items by selecting the correct option. At the start of the game, there are only a few different kinds of events, but that’s where the aforementioned souls come in. Every time you die you can bring all your souls to the Gatekeeper, and if you collect enough you’ll unlock more events, spells, and items that you can find to assist you in your quest.
It helps that Has-Been Heroes is a clean looking game, as getting all the information I needed from enemies wasn’t difficult at all. Simple bars next to them clearly show exactly how many more times I have to hit an enemy to stun them, while easy to spot cooldown timers keep the interface from getting in my way.
By the end of my fifth or so run I was thoroughly enjoying my time with Has-Been Heroes. By the end of my tenth run, I was considering all new ways to approach my runs. By the end of the twentieth run, I had to kick myself off the game because I really do have to get to other reviews done, plus write this one tell you that Has-Been Heroes is totally worth playing. I was taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed the game, and I think anyone looking to hire these heroes may find them more than ready for another quest.
An addictive and entertaining roguelite, Has-Been Heroes has some novel ideas that makes it an absolute blast for when you have 30 minutes to kill for another run.
- Entertaining Characters
- Smart Central Mechanics
- Each Run Adds More Great Tools for Future Runs
- Nails that Addictive 'Just One More Run' Quality
- Doesn't Explain All Elements Very Well
- Sometimes Goes for Cheap Difficulty