EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
Everyone Wants To Be The Hero
Man, living in a fantasy world must really suck. I mean sure, it’d be cool to be able to sling magic bolts from your staff, hang out with your pet griffon, and throw down a few mugs of mead with your buddies Johnny Swordfire and Princess Lightbringer, but it just can’t be worth it. It doesn’t seem like you can go a week without some ancient evil wanna-be dark lord stealing one of the seemingly hundred of precious gems or scrolls and holding the whole realm hostage. Thus is the case in developer Games Hut’s new roguelike hack-n-slash Herolike, in which you’ll play the titular hero trying to once again defeat evil and bring peace to the lands.
Like many roguelikes, there isn’t much in way of a structured, cohesive story to be had here. There are bits and pieces about good guys and bad guys, and you’ll get the occasional boss battle, but there isn’t much tying them together. That’s ok though, because these aren’t the types of games you generally jump into looking for deep narratives. When you pop in, your first choice is which class you’d like to play as. Right now there are only two- the melee dwarf guardian and the (awesome looking) dark shaman. As you’d probably expect, the warrior likes to get up close and personal, and the shaman has an impressive set of spells which work best as you hit and run. Both classes are fun to play, but adding a few more should be a priority. In a game like this, where you’ll be dying and starting over hundreds of times, would benefit from a few more character choices to keep things fresh. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be full separate characters, but some more unlockable abilities and avatar skins would work well too.
Choose Your Own Heroic
How you’ll progress through Herolike is actually kind of interesting, since it’s not all combat-based. Your “map” is basically a choose-your-own adventure board that lets you choose (normally) between jumping into a friendly, hostile, defensive, or gamble encounter. While hostile and defensive encounters are both different formats of combat, friendly instances switch you over to a short text scenario where what you choose to do effects your reward or penalty. It might be choosing who to aid in a conflict, how to answer a question, where to walk, etc., but it’s always just a under a minute or two long, and is a nice diversion from killing things. Unfortunately, while the idea is nice, there just isn’t enough content there to make it work yet. I saw my first repeat scenario after only 10 or so encounters, and they play out exactly the same with the exact consequences every time. As I played on a little more, I was frequently seeing the same situations come up two or three times in the same playthrough. The last type of encounter, gamble, is one that’s nice in theory, but which I didn’t like the execution of at all. The idea is that what you get is completely random. It could be any of the other three encounter types, but the difficulty and rewards are also random. It might be incredibly difficult with no reward, might be very easy with a huge payout, or anything in between. The thing is, when I’m playing a roguelike with permadeath I don’t like surprise situations where things are so hard I really can’t win. If it was always optional I’d say sure- risk it if you want. However, sometime you have no choice but to take a gamble, which is frustrating.
Art of Combat
Of course the big question is whether or not the combat is any good, because if it isn’t, nothing else really matters. Thankfully Herolike is a few control options away from being a really good time. There’s nothing complicated about fighting. Each of the classes have a main attack and four specials. There are a bunch of great looking enemies to run around closed environments to slaughter, and the specials are logical and effective. Leveling up also lets you up certain stats to improve movement, damage, health, and man, as well as boosting specials to make them more effective. These RPG elements are light, but they should be in a game like this. Progress is fast, and your increased stats are immediately noticeable. One thing worth noting, however, is that the strength stat seems a bit overpowered. Upping it increases both health and damage, which seems to be way more bang for your point than just mana or speed.
With quality combat and leveling-up systems in place, I would love if the developers added the option to remap buttons since I really don’t like the controls as they are. I know it’s not super rare in the genre, but I can’t stand when movement and attacking are both tied to the left mouse button. It’s hard to tell exactly when an enemy is going to die, so all too frequently I’d find myself trying to attack from afar, only to suddenly start sprinting into danger because the target died and I clicked the ground. At least give players to option to use WASD movement.
Structure Of Society
Last, there’s a town building element that was a totally unnecessary, but absolutely welcome addition that helps give the game another layer of strategy and replay value. As your character progresses, you’ll earn building resources and gold that you can spend in a town hub area to build weapon and armor smiths, statues that grant you extra lives, buy consumables, and more. What makes it cooler is that this area persists to your next character once you die, so instead of starting from complete scratch you’ll have more and more resources to draw from each time. I haven’t played enough roguelikes to know if this is completely unique, but it hasn’t been present in the ones I do have experience with, and I thought it was a great addition to the experience.
A Potential Hero
Herolike isn’t a game that you’re going to want to sit down and play for more than an hour or so at a time, but most roguelikes aren’t. What it is, is a fun little game knows what it wants to do, and does it well. There are certainly things that Herolike could stand to improve on, but luckily they’re almost entirely tweaks and small additions instead of major game overhauls. Despite being in Early Access, the experience already feel very polished and complete. If the issues discussed above get some attention, Herolike should be a game worthy of your attention when it releases proper.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.