Review: Has Been Heroes (Nintendo Switch)

Has Been Heroes: Official GBAtemp Review

Reviewed by Tom Bond, posted Mar 31, 2017, last updated Mar 31, 2017
Has Been Heroes is the latest game to come out from indie developer Frozenbyte. Featuring a combination of strategy, action, and rogue-like gameplay, your mission is to...take twin princesses to school?
Tom Bond

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Has Been Not So Fun

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Has Been Heroes is an...interesting game. It starts off with a little introductory cutscene that explains a bit of the world; heroes and monsters used to be everywhere, heroes eventually overcame the baaad monsters, and peace reigned in the kingdom! Wooo! But after a while in those peaceful times, those heroes retired and did whatever it is retired heroes do. Some years later, the King calls for a group of heroes to come to the castle, because he needs very important work done. That work, you ask? To...take his daughters to school. Yep, that’s the super important task the king needs done. So you meet your first heroes, a Rogue, a Monk, and a Warrior, and you’re off to take those girls to school. But oh no! An evil wizard is summoning monsters and is gonna destroy the kingdom! So now you have to fight monsters while escorting the princesses. Boo. And that's it, that's essentially the story of the game. 

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Anyways, after a cutscene showing your heroes being revived, we’re finally able to start the game. The gameplay seems a bit simplistic at first; there are 3 lanes for 3 characters that you control with a corresponding button. Each map is randomly generated, with various points of interest scattered across the map like a rest area, shops for spells, chests, or some games of chance. You also get two different area "aesthetics", a snowy forest and a dark swamp-like area, but as far as I know they don't really change anything and is purely visual. You start off with the Rogue, Warrior, and the Monk, but throughout Has Been Heroes you’re able to unlock other characters which can be swapped to when you get a game over or start a new game. Combat takes place through random areas in the map, with a boss battle at the end of map area. Unfortunately, combat is where the game has it’s biggest flaw and it’s for mainly one reason: it’s too damn hard. One of the biggest reasons for this is the tutorial, or lack thereof. Before you start the game, you're given a basic run down of combat with one character only. You choose their lane, attack with A, and wait until you can attack again, and sometimes you can use spells or swap lanes...and that's it. That's the tutorial. They don't tell you that when you swap lanes with a character far away, that character can do damage to other characters while they run back to the starting area. They don't tell you about damage multipliers, elemental damage/effects, status icons or anything important that might, y'know, help you fight battles.  

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But let's start going a bit more in-depth with the combat itself, which is where a majority of Has Been Heroes takes place. Your 3 characters are on 1 side of the screen, and enemies continually spawn on the other side. Each enemy has a specific number of Stamina points, and each character you control has a certain number of attack points they can use, as well as Stamina points that also “shields” you from attacks and spells they can use with various effects. Battles end in two ways, either the timer at the top runs out of time and the enemy starts retreating, or you simply beat the enemies before the time runs out. The ideal situation for combat involves using your characters to hit the enemy for the same amount of stamina points as they have attack points, which will stun them, and then swapping lanes with another character to hit them and do some damage to them. If your attack points are over their stamina points, you do however many hits of damage you have left in your character vs their stamina, and if you attack under you just lower their stamina points, do no damage and the enemy just continues coming at you. And here’s where one of the major flaws is present in the game; you can only swap characters after attacks, and only if the character moves forward in their lane to give characters “room” to swap. This means if an enemy spawns with 3 stamina points in the same row as your character with 1 attack point, you have to attack it once, do absolutely no damage, switch to your character with 2 attack points just to stun them, then swap again to your other character with 3 attack points so they can then attack them and do actual damage. There’s no other way to swap your characters, basically meaning you have to waste your entire turn just to do some minor damage to an enemy “because RNG”. 

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“But Tom! That doesn’t sound so bad! Early fights are probably only 2 or 3 enemies, so you shouldn’t have any problems wasting a turn or two while you get the hang of things!”. And that’s where you’re wrong, voice in my head. Once you finish the tutorial, you’re thrown directly into the fire. My very first normal battle had 20+ enemies spawn in during the whole session, each with random stamina points (usually 1-3), with 5-10 coming at you at the same time, all of which can easily kill you in 1 hit if your character runs out of stamina. And here’s where flaw number 2 enters the mix: If one of your 3 characters die, just one, it’s game over. You can’t make a last-ditch effort, you can’t revive them or save them, you can’t just continue with two characters until the end of the battle, you just straight up lose. And in typical rogue-like fashion you have to start completely over. So no spells you collected, no items, you’re starting a brand new game. And you lose a lot. When travelling through the map, the 1 rest point you might come across is the only places you can restore stamina (that I’ve found, anyways). So if you go through 5 consecutive battles and find you have no stamina or health, and the only way forward is a boss battle...you’re guaranteed dead. "So why don't you go back??" Well, because like some rogue-likes, you can’t go back without using an item (in this case, a candle) and you only get 1 so you can only go back one space. Now don't get me wrong here, I really like the combat system on it's own. It's a really interesting system, and requires a lot of strategic thinking and tactics, but unfortunately practically no difficulty curve of any kind and poor RNG just ruins the experience.

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Now what about the boss battles? Well, those are also randomly selected from a group of boss enemies, and they're just as impossibly hard as normal battles are. One of the bosses just summons dozens of "low-level" skeletons while coming at you at the same time, so you're left juggling 20 skeletons and a big boss that will kill you outright while you're busy trying to kill everything else. Another boss is more of a "magic" user, and just moves between lanes while hidden in "shadows" and can only be attacked as he reappears...which is a bit difficult when you consider he has 6+ stamina points at any given time so you're basically using all of your characters to stun him for a short time, miss the opportunity to attack him, and then he comes and kills you even if you manage to hit him a few times because RNG simply isn't in your favor. I've only gotten passed the first boss battle a total of 1 time, and that 1 time was purely because I got super lucky with a spell recharge time. 

Verdict
Pros
+ The combat on it's own is interesting and intuitive.
+ All the unlockables promise a different game each time you play.
Cons
- The difficulty curve is nonexistent, it's simply "hard".
- The tutorial on it's own is absolutely bare bones and gives no real information beyond "hit A to attack".
- Enemies and bosses will one shot you.
- RNG is pretty much against you the entire time.
7 Presentation
Presentation-wise the game is alright. I've only come across two different visual settings, a snow area and a dark swamp area, so it's a bit simple in that regard. But the game looks fine and isn't ugly looking by any means.
5 Gameplay
Unfortunately, Has Been Heroes has a lot of flaws in it's gameplay design. Combat is simply too difficult from the start, and ends up being more frustrating than it is fun after dying for 2 hours straight.
8 Lasting Appeal
If you're ok with getting your ass handed to you, Has Been Heroes is a pretty lasting game. It's a rogue-like and everything is randomly generated, so you'll usually never come across the same map twice. With all the heroes you could potentially unlock and all the spells and items scattered around the place you're always guaranteed a different play through each time...that is, if you can make it more than a couple battles.
6
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Overall, Has Been Heroes is...ok. If the RNG was fixed up a bit and the difficulty curve was altered so you're gradually introduced to the game, it would be a pretty good rogue-like. As it is now, it's simply too frustrated and luck-based to be up there with other great rogue-likes like Rogue Legacy or Darkest Dungeon.
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