Book of Heroes is the latest game in The Dark Eye fantasy universe created by Ulrich Kiesow and launched by Schmidt Spiel & Freizeit GmbH and Droemer Knaur Verlag in 1984. Incredibly popular in Germany, the setting received a number of video game adaptations such as Drakensang (2008), Blackguards (2014) and many others. Developed by Random Potion Oy and published by Wild River Games, The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes invites players to Aventuria to your party and venture forth to raid dungeons, scour forests, fight bandits and more.
Reading the description of the game on Steam, I expected to find something like Dragon Age: Origins. Launching the game for the first time and jumping into character creation seemed to agree with my expectations:
Character creation offers you seven choices, starting with that of a race. Book of Heroes allows players to choose from one of the races living in Aventuria: dwarf, elf, half-elf or human, each with their own strengths and weaknesses that will affect the effectiveness of your class/profession.
Speaking of classes or archetypes, there are four: Scoundrel, Warrior, Guild Mage or Blessed One with the latter being something alike to a Priest or a Cleric and drawing power from serving to a deity. Once you have decided your character’s class, you take it a step further and specialize in one of the three available professions. For example, Warrior can choose between Knight, Mercenary and Wandering Sword while Scoundrel’s professions consist of Assassin, Bounty Hunter and Rogue. Professions give your character advantages, combat techniques such as weapon mastery as well as special combat abilities and skills. On top of that, you get to decide the origins of your character, which will further affect your skills.
Story-wise, you can also decide on a so-called Twist of Fate, something that happened in your character’s past and that affects them to this day either via providing a special new quest or by providing something like extra poison resistance. It is further enhanced by choosing an Ideal – a force that drives your character forward, like finding the glory in battle or searching for wealth. The last but not the least is a choice of Mission – your character’s game-long personal quest. As you have gone through the entire process of character creation, you get a shot of your avatar’s character sheet with all their stats, skills and more. After short customization of appearance, the game actually starts…
And that’s about all the good I can say about it.
Visually, the game is well-polished but outdated with graphics being roughly on the level of Sword Coast Legends but with none of its visual effects and less smooth animations. There are nicely drawn loading screens, though?
The gameplay itself is very rough, especially when compared to cRPGs released in the last few years such as Pillars of Eternity, Divinity: Original Sin 2 or Pathfinder: Kingmaker. You have direct control of only your own character – and there isn’t much to do besides running and clicking on enemies. The combat itself is not engaging or fun.
You can hire up to 3 henchmen to assist you in combat, except they’re controlled by AI. You have a way of “suggesting” an activity to them, true. Whether they will follow it or not remains a mystery. Due to this lack of control, it is entirely possible to find yourself alone as your supposed allies either leave to explore the rooms up ahead or simply stop moving altogether at some point. The mage henchman has suicidal tendencies and keeps on jumping into every melee combat, ending up dead most of the time and needing resurrection.
The story is non-existent in the game. You start in an Inn, get to a mission board and choose one of the procedurally generated missions to take: kill wolves/bandits/goblins/undead in forest/cave/dungeon. After completing the task, you claim your meager reward and return to the inn for another quest.
After finishing a mission, you get a choice of three cards that improve your characters stats. The problem? Those are completely random and are not tailored to your choice of the profession at all, making in-game progression feel rough and uninspired. With no sense of accomplishment coming from getting your character stronger – or attempting to – what is the point behind farming the missions?
Perhaps it could feel different if you grab a couple of friends and dive into randomly-generated dungeons together, but as it stands I can not recommend The Dark Eye: Book of Heroes. The game is in full release on Steam and costs $30 – and as sad as it is to admit, there are better RPG to be found for that price.
Note: a review code was provided by the developer.