Has Been Heroes is the latest game from Trine developer Frozenbyte. A departure from the series the studio is known for, HBH is a (deep breath) real-time tactical roguelike RPG with procedurally generated levels and hundreds of enemies, heroes, and spells to unlock. If I had to say it was “like” any other games, I’d call Has Been Heroes the beautiful lovechild of a three way between FTL, Darkest Dungeon, and Plants vs. Zombies. Seriously, this $20 little gem is one of the best games in Nintendo Switch’s early life. This is our Has Been Heroes review.
Has Been Heroes launches next week on the 28th of March, for Xbox One, PS4, Steam, and the Switch (which is how we reviewed the game). While there’s nothing remarkable about the visuals in Has Been Heroes, there’s a certain charm to the cartoony medieval fantasy flare. It reminds me a bit of the Bone Comics, without the titular white lead characters – and that’s a good thing.
The story of HBH is straightforward – three heroes, a young rogue and two older but not washed up adventurers are tasked with escorting the King’s twin princesses across the countryside. In so doing, an evil undead pirate kills you all… ouch. But you’re saved by the Gatekeeper, a godlike being that grants you the ability to return to the earthly plane at will because you need to go back and stop the undead menace from spreading across the world.
Deeper the Rabbit Hole Goes
It’s a Roguelike, so expect to die – a lot. Each time you do, you’ll work towards earning rewards that come in the form of more spell and item unlocks, or even heroes. This is the main form of progression in that unlocking new things means you’ll have more tools at your disposal when facing the enemies. Each “game” is a series of two randomly generated maps that branch in multiple directions. Like Darkest Dungeon, you’ll move from point to point on the map sometimes knowing what lies ahead and sometimes not. There can be helpful NPCs with items to sell, or nasty hordes of enemies trying to impede your progress.
Battles play out in real time, but can be paused at will in order to choose your next course of action. And since you control three characters in three different rows, swapping them between those rows as needed, pausing quickly becomes your friend. At first the combat seems pretty straight forward – defeat the onrushing enemies before they reach your heroes (Plants vs. Zombies style). You’ll routinely knock them back and stun them with different skills and attacks. But the layers pile on as you learn and discover more items and spells. These interact with one another – electric spells do extra damage to wet enemies, wind spells spread fire across enemies, and so forth. The more you play HBH, the deeper the rabbit hole goes.
I’ve played Has Been Heroes for about 10 hours over the course of the past week, and though I have Zelda play on my Switch, it’s Frozenbyte’s roguelike I keep booting up. There’s something about its quick pacing, randomized levels and gameplay that just sinks its hooks into you. I’ve not “won” a game yet, which is accomplished by defeating the undead pirate guy who killed you in the first place. I’ve faced off against him plenty, but the swarms of enemies and impediments he puts in your way make him a tough boss to beat. Luck also plays into the equation – as you might wind up at a boss with no good items or spells to use and if that’s the case, may god have mercy on your souls (which he will, because he wants you to go back and fight again). When one character dies, the whole party fails, or if you’re lost “in the dark”, which happens randomly, you’re sent back to start over.
You could say there’s no “beating” Has Been Heroes, but eventually you’ll either unlock every item and hero, or get tired of fighting through the levels and bosses. Since games only seem to take place across two maps, however long the adventure might take you, it can sometimes seem there’s not enough diversity in the randomly generated levels (either in scenery or in enemies). Also, the controls are a bit hard to learn, though the fact you can pause the action to decide your course helps – because if not you’d be hard pressed to ever survive even a single fight.
Final Has Been Heroes Review Thoughts
People keep saying the Nintendo Switch is light on launch games. I think they mean it’s light on big AAA games, because the Indie titles like Has Been Heroes are a bright shining light for great content on the Switch. Even if you don’t have the console, I’d suggest checking out the other versions of Has Been Heroes. If you like games like FTL, Darkest Dungeon, and other unique roguelikes that focus on strategy you’ll be more than pleased. It’ll be nice if Frozenbyte adds more and more to this game, but even if they don’t it’s a great experience. Recommended.
Editor’s Note: Has Been Heroes was reviewed with a download code provided by PR. It retails for $19.99 USD and releases on March 28th on all platforms.