Ratalaika Games know their audience well. Over the past few years they’ve published a tonne of games from a myriad of genres and they all share one thing – Easy trophies/achievements. For a few quid and a hand full of hours, you can pick up the likes of 36 Fragments of Midnight, Midnight Deluxe, InkSplosion, Devious Dungeon or Super Destronaught DX and have a new Platinum trophy to add to your collection. The quality of these games varies greatly and unfortunately, Heroes Trials (from developer Shinyuden) falls on the lower end of this spectrum. With a nonsensical story line, shallow and imprecise combat and rough visuals, it’s a shade of the games it’s attempting to emulate.
In Heroes Trials you play as a pair of siblings, Elia and Zoel, one of whom is skilled with a sword & shield and the other who’s trained in magic. They’ve both been training to become the hero of a fantasy villags and at the point you take control of the pair, they’re about to embark on their final trial. This final test involves traveling to a number of dungeons, fighting past everything you find there, to find an item or magic spell which will assist you in the next dungeon. The plot is almost entirely told through notes left for you in each dungeon, except for a hand full of cut scenes at the start and end of the game. The biggest issue with the plot is that within the last half an hour, the game attempts to do something meaningful. Unfortunately, because it doesn’t lay any of the ground work to build any kind of relationship with the characters, it falls totally flat.
The game design leaves a lot to be desired too. Mimicking old school Zelda, the game is played in an almost top down aspect. Combat devolves into little more than button mashing at any of the 10 different enemy types in the game because other than sending projectiles at you, they’re almost all as dumb as a post and just walk towards you. The combat gets even easier if you’re using the wizard character and decide to spam the spells. There’s no limit on how many fire/electric/ice projectiles you can blast off so while it’s quite difficult to find the right angle to hit an enemy (something that’s true of the sword wielder too) once you do you can just tap away and kill from distance.
Puzzles in the game are as bland as using a spell on a black orb which changes colour when you use the right spell/attack and often don’t offer a hint on which spell is correct, leaving it to trial and error. The only other test on the grey matter is getting around the obtuse level design of some of the dungeons that’s very poorly signposted. The game is only 5 hours long and most of that time is spent walking. Walking from one dungeon to another. Walking through a town that seems to have one 2 inhabitants. Walking along a winding path that goes back and forth, back and forth. Much of the walking is compounded by the marker on the mini-map which doesn’t always offer much assistance and can send you on a wild goose chase (unfortunately that’s not a cool side quest searching for wild geese).
To be fair to Heroes Trials, it does try to add some variety during 2 of its dungeons. In one dungeon, a wall appears behind you that will kill your would-be heroes if they touch it. This wall crawls upwards, forcing you to walk ever upwards – but when the wall moves slower than your natural progression anyway, it’s hardly a trial. Secondly, during a fire dungeon, you can use the ice spell to freeze some of the lava pools separating platforms to create walkways. While this has been done many times before, it’s still nicely implemented here.
The most interesting moment of the entirety of Heroes Trials is in the last 15 minutes, when it challenges you to be restrained during combat or force a restart. Unfortunately, that’s too little, too late.
Visually, Heroes Trials is substandard. Some dungeons are too dark. The open air environment is poorly detailed. It simply looks unpolished in a lot of areas. The last area of the game, a tower, is a stand out environment in the game, finally adding depth and some charisma to the proceedings. Again, it’s too little, too late.
This isn’t helped by the audio. While the music used is fine in and of itself, it’s often hard to hear it over the din created by monsters being hit or spells being cast, all of which are too loud for the game as default. What’s more, each monster type has one audio bite that’s used every time they’re hit and they’re awful and repetitive.
With awkward combat, subpar visuals, inconsistent level design, a narrative that seems to remember that it should exist moments before the game ends and audio mixing which is all over the place, Heroes Trials isn’t a good game. It’s not even an average one. None of this will matter to the games target audience – trophy hunters looking for an easy-peasy Platinum trophy to add to their collection – but as a game to be played rather than a collection of virtual tin cups, Heroes Trials is a difficult one to recommend.
Heroes Trials is available now on PS4, PSVita (review version), Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For more information, please see our review policy.
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