The problem with releasing a roguelike style game in 2017 is that there are many stand-out games already, such as The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon. Has-Been Heroes manages to stand out from the crowd but not always for the best of reasons.
Frozenbyte, who had excellent success with the release of the Trine series, have tried something very different with their new title. Has-Been Heroes is a mix of Plants vs. Zombies lane battling and the FTL style exploration. You would be forgiven for thinking that this is starting to sound really good and you wouldn’t be wrong… At first.
The unique battling system sees you controlling three characters on three lanes (much like PvZ) and you tab patterns of buttons to chip away at armour on enemies followed by their health. This is all explained in a small tutorial section before you embark on a grand quest for the king of the land!
Each stage has a map you will traverse that has points of interest on it much like FTL that can either be a shop, battle, or maybe something different entirely. At the end of each stage is a boss battle and when you get to your first one (IF you get to your first one), you may start to see problems arise.
The challenge even in the first boss is quite extreme and you may start to not only want to bang your head against a wall but also that of the characters on screen. After around 10 tries I managed to surpass the boss and reach the second area which, much like the first area, I progressed through swiftly to another seemingly insurmountable boss fight.
This is where I almost became a baseball star using my controller as a ball. I didn’t know what I did wrong as I treated the boss like any other fight but I would just lose, and then fail again and I didn’t know why I was failing. I think it would be unfair for me to criticize the game too highly based on this as games like Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy all have steep learning curves but I always felt like I knew what I was doing wrong when I would completely fail in those games.
What Has-Been Heroes does very well is the art style. Immediately on entering the game you are treated to beautifully drawn images and a style much like a Saturday morning cartoon show. Each new character you unlock through various ways is unique and offers a different look but also a new interesting way to play – if you can survive the game’s bosses to be able to unlock them.
In the end, Has-Been Heroes feels like an ambitious Roguelike that although handles very well and has a gorgeous art style is held back by the unforgiving difficulty levels which could turn many players off from it after only playing a few times.