Next Up Hero perhaps had the biggest presence at Play NYC this year. The game is a fascinating mix of a roguelike, action game and a multiplayer game, all of it with a slick visual presentation and well-polished, addictive gameplay to boot.
Next Up Hero is the first game by developer Digital Continue, founded by Joe Tringali, the former co-founder of 5th Cell, known for the Scribblenauts series. The game takes place in the Spiral Shards, a series of procedurally generated maze-like dungeons filled with monsters. Your objective is simple: kill all the monsters and move on to the next dungeon.
Of course, like all roguelikes, you character is expected to die, but thankfully death is not the end in theory. The major hook in Next Up Hero is that all dead heroes, both your own and from other players online, leave their “echoes” on the map, giving the player a chance to revive and recruit them to fight for your cause! This can turn the tide in battle, from having these echoes of dead heroes swarming enemies, to using their essence to call upon special abilities or even ally monsters called Ancients, large creatures that deal massive damage or even save you from death.
Of course, the heroes also need to be diverse enough to take out these monsters. A total of nine heroes have been created, each of them with an assortment of weapons and abilities. Fight up close with swords or your fists or shoot them from afar with boomerangs and rocket launchers. You even have laser turrets and bongo drums on some characters to mix it up. Each hero has several abilities attached to them besides their standard attack, somewhat reminiscent of the abilities found in a MOBA game.
The heroes also have other unlocks as you progress through the game, including character skins and bonuses to collect to upgrade your hero. To get these unlocks, you need to earn prestige—bonuses for slaying tons of monsters, surviving boss battles, or simply getting through levels as quickly as possible. Prestige leads to more powerful versions of your heroes, and with that, also unlocks more challenging levels in the process.
One of the cooler aspects of Next Up Hero is the online community presence. This not only extends to the use of echoes on the map, but also the online showcase of the game. Online lobbies, for example, can be a mix of community groups or private matchups, allowing players to control how many people are participating on their maps. Digital Continue will also have community goals and Challenge Trials on a regular basis at launch, reminiscent of the challenges found in games like Overwatch to encourage the community to participate for more rewards and experience.
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Much of the game has been shaped by fan feedback, most of which has been shaped by its closed beta launch at RTX earlier this summer. An Early Access version is slated to release on Steam later this year, and the feedback from those sessions will lead to further updates and changes to the title before its official launch next year. As a bonus, 50 fans who provide the “most valuable feedback” to the team will receive three-day passes to RTX 2018, a free year of Rooster Teeth First, and a free copy of Next Up Hero on the platform of their choice!
Next Up Hero is planned to be fully released for all console platforms and the PC in early 2018.