I hadn’t heard of Finnish studio Frozenbyte‘s Has-Been Heroes until it was announced it would be on the Nintendo Switch. This weekend at PAX South, I had the chance to play this game, on the Switch with a Pro Controller, and I came away pleasantly surprised and eager to learn the intricacies of the game proper. The Pro Controller for Switch feels amazing by the way. Check out the trailer below and read on for some hands-on impressions.
Has-Been Heroes is a side-scrolling procedurally generated rougelike with perma-death. When watching the ads for this game, it is hard to tell exactly what is going on. Luckily in the game there is a way to pause the action, take a breather, and strategize. Before we talk strategy, let’s break down exactly what Has-Been Heroes is and what “side-scrolling procedurally generated rougelike with perma-death” means.
At the onset of the game you have three characters. They are your standard thief, warrior, and wizard. The three are tasked with escorting their king’s twin princesses to the Princess Academy. Seems easy enough, but the Academy is on the other side of the kingdom, and the path there is wrought with all manner of skeletons and other foul demons. So, it is up to the three charges to get the kings daughters there without so much as a scratch.
On the journey to the Princess Academy you will travel to 14 regions, each one with their own procedurally generated levels. The enemies, item placements, spells, and path you take are all randomized making no two plays identical. This also ensures that you can’t rely too heavily on a single tactic. The amount of spells and combinations thereof is staggering. In the video below, the developers show us just how big the list will be in the final game.
Each of your chosen hero characters, of which there will ultimately be 12, occupy a lane on the left side as enemies march from the right. Using a combination of physical attacks, special abilities, and spells, you’ll have to clear the lanes to advance to the next area. You’ll have to juggle stamina, cool-downs, and positioning or risk one of the heroes dying, and like any good rougelike, one death means game over. It may sound annoying, but in practice it works. Like Dark Souls or other “difficult” games, I found that no death was anyone’s fault but mine. Each new try was a only chance to get better.
Watching the trailer to this game may lead you to believe there is no way you’d be able to manage everything that is going on, but there is a way to pause the action and formulate a coherent plan of attack. But even then the best laid plans have ways of unraveling. You’ll have to be ever aware of all the moving parts, and with flashy spell effects and detailed attack animations— all running at a buttery smooth 60FPS at 1080p, 720p on the un-docked Switch— being able to pause the action is a welcome addition.
Has-Been Heroes will be available on the Nintendo Switch on March 28th, just a short while after the console launches. It will also release on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One on the same day. What system will you geeks be getting this game for?