It became very clear to me early on that it wasn’t that Has Been Heroes was bad. I was just really bad at it. For the same reasons I shy away from bullethell games, I was really really bad at this one. So take everything I am saying from the perspective of someone who appreciates the game, but who struggled and screamed at it several times.
Whose Lane is it Anyway?
Flagged as an Action, Strategy and RPG, Has Been Heroes has a silly enough concept that roped me in, at least initially. Ages have passed since the great heroes of the land disbanded, no longer needed in this era of peace. The King summons forth the band of old to escort his daughters to school as the roads grow more and more dangerous. Disaster strikes, and the band now faces a world in chaos, battling the villain and his bizarre (if at times adorable) minions.
The mechanics are fairly basic, if a bit frantic. You go out with three heroes. Each hero occupies a horizontal lane. Monsters march toward your heroes from the right side of the screen, and if you do not slay the monster before it gets to a hero, that hero takes damage. If the hero takes enough damage, the hero dies and the game restarts. You deliver attacks by simply clicking on the monster, often resulting in blocked hits, damage, or the precious stunned condition. You rapidly swap your heroes around between lanes so they can help kill monsters or get out of harms reach. You can also activate spells and abilities as you unlock them.
The game is set in a series of randomly selected and generated maps. As you progress you find treasure, upgrades, monsters, and merchants. Eventually you find your way to the level’s boss, square off against them, and proceed to the next map. As you kill monsters you collect gold and energy to acquire soul orbs. On the (very frequent) death of your party, the soul orbs you’ve collected will unlock new items and abilities that can be found on your next play-through.
So, it is very rogue-like. Repeated death, over and over again, each subsequent play through making you stronger. The game is very unforgiving in many ways, which leads us to a matter of instruction.
No Potion of Clarity to be Found.
This game does not hold your hand. In fact, the game is very short on instructions, and that leaves players on their own in figuring out many of the more nuanced mechanics. Sometimes I was left wondering if what I was seeing was a newly discovered mechanic or a bug, for example when I noticed I sometimes damaged enemies while I switched lanes quickly in a fight.
As it stands now, when you open a chest and pick up a new item, there is a floating question mark that you can never seem to mouse-over. Wisdom would indicate that the question mark would reveal details of the item, so you could better assign the character to pick it up. But that questionable bit of punctuation remains elusive, so I was left just guessing which gear would be better for each character. For what it’s worth, once the gear or spells are in their appropriate slots, you can clearly see the benefits they give… But once they’re equipped, you can’t re-equip them to a different hero.
The game is saddled with a clunky UI in other areas, as well. This is particularly the case when it comes to interaction with non-combat NPCs, where the game can be a bit strained to figure out where you want to click because there’s no real prompting. You figure it out eventually, but mostly trial and error, as the game doesn’t offer much direction.
Combat in Has Been Heroes is considerably better, even if it’s not for me. Attack and spell cooldowns are easy to monitor so timing is simple to handle. This is helpful considering how often I would just start screaming “Nooooo Skeletons stoppppp!” at the screen as they marched to bring about my inevitable demise.
It takes a bit of playing around to get a handle on the fine art of switching lanes. I feel like there should be an easier way than the drag method they are using, but the only option that springs to mind is a ‘click-point-switch’ method, and that could wreck the pacing they are trying to establish.
Fun Art and Cute Foes
Matching the goofy premise is the equally comical art work. If you’ve seen other reviews of mine, you may realize that cartoony artwork never hurts a game in my eyes. I love the art for Has Been Heroes. The backgrounds, the characters, even the NPCs all have a cohesive aesthetic theme, and are a lot of fun to look at.
Bad guys are distinct, which is actually really important on a fast paced playing field like this. The ability to identify specific enemies, target them, and know what they are capable of makes or breaks this game. Fortunately, despite it’s clunky UI, the graphics work to improve the game. It would have been easy for them to skimp on this and it was likely the smartest design move to have such a strong focus on art style.
Old Heroes Die Hard.
Again, I can not stress enough, I was really bad at Has Been Heroes. But looking past my own frustrations, I can see the merits of the game and the system. By accident or design Frozenbyte has made a comical yet unforgiving meatgrinder. People who enjoy mastering a system and risking it all with every battle, with the added fun of a well executed random rogue-like structure, are going to love this game.
Even overlooking a lack of instruction, the UI is hard to handle at times and the game is only saved by the distinctive graphics. Ultimately, I’d say Has Been Heroes is a decent game.
Has-Been Heroes earns a solid 7/10.
Review by Old Man Mordaith
Edited by Jesse Roberts
This game was received for free and given by the developer for this site to review.