PAX South: Has-Been Heroes Preview

As I reviewed the PAX South Expo Hall map a few days ago, I thought to myself, “well if I can’t get a hands on with the Switch at the Nintendo booth, maybe I’ll try at the Has-Been Heroes booth…”

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Has-Been Heroes is a multi-platform roguelike launching in March. I first became aware of it during the Nintendo Treehouse stream during their big New York event a couple weeks back. I’ve mentioned before but roguelikes aren’t always able to get their hooks in me and watching that initial stream, I was intrigued but overwhelmed. The developer was blazing through the combat so quickly, I had a hard time keeping up and I was just watching the game. I couldn’t imagine actually playing it. But after my Zelda demo, I decided to give it a shot anyway.

If you don’t know, Has-Been Heroes by Frozenbyte is a bit in the vein of Darkest Dungeon (which I just started trying to play yesterday on the flight to San Antonio): you have a party of warriors and placement in combat plays a huge role, as do your attacks and spells. And, as is the standard in roguelikes, death is permanent. Has-Been Heroes throws in a quirky little narrative as the premise for the game. The king of some fantasy land summons a couple of his finest warriors from the days of yore for a final quest, to babysit his kids and get them to school safely. Your three-person party is made up of a past-their-prime Warrior and Mage and one of their superfans, who fills the role of a Rogue.

In the journey to get the children to school, you’ll traverse through different routes of a procedurally-generated map. In each battle, enemies will steadily approach you and attack if they get close enough. You can (and almost certainly should) pause time to plan out your strategy of attack. Each of your fighters manages one of the three lanes of attack and can fend off enemies by cutting down their stamina and health. The real trick comes from creating effective combos with your warriors. For example, I could use my Rogue to eliminate a skeleton enemy’s stamina, making them more vulnerable to attack. Then, while the rogue is still out, I could move my Warrior into that lane (switching the Rogue into his lane) and do some heavy damage to the vulnerable enemy.

These combos can also extend to the spells. I had a particularly nice moment where I shot an enemy with a poison arrow and then followed up that poisoning with a gust of wind, which spread the poison cloud to the enemies around them. Other spells can add additional effects: lighting can chain to nearby enemies (and is more effective if the enemies are wet), spells can debuff while others will set foes on fire. Attacks and spells replenish on a timer, so time management also plays an important strategic role.

I managed to survive through my round, which was allegedly a pretty worthy achievement, but I repeatedly told the community manager Nobi (I think that was his name, you can see him in the YouTube video above) that it was only because he was so diligent in helping me out. His enjoyment and understanding of the game was incredibly beneficial because I’d have been lost otherwise (the demo wasn’t exactly framed like a tutorial).

I definitely walked away more interested in giving the game a shot when it comes out. Don’t know that I’ll necessarily wait until I get a Switch for it but it’s coming out on to other platforms so maybe I’ll pick it up on PSN.