Indie RPG Treasure
A few months ago I had the privilege of reviewing a lovely old-school style RPG called Heroes of Steel. While it was only the first episode of the game, I had a blast. So imagine my sheer delight when I got the chance to dive back into that grim underground world filled with peril and adventure. In addition to the standard version, the developer launched a version called Heroes of Steel Elite. The game is delivered in episodic chunks for a dollar per episode. Strangely, there seems to be no particular reason to buy the Elite version of the game beyond a desire to support a burgeoning developer. The cost of the Elite version ($3.99) is the same as downloading the free version and then purchasing each episode.
That being said, the game is still an absolute treasure and a must-buy for any dungeon crawling enthusiast. Picking up where the first episode left off, it isn’t long before your heroes are embroiled in combat with dire foes again. Moving on to a darker, more dangerous section of the underground you’ll face foes both familiar and new. With all the spiders lurking about in the game it was only a matter of time before some terrifying, spider-worshipping cult was added into the mix. The enemies are tougher this time around. Not only are they higher level but the AI has been refined to be more subtle and strategic. It won’t completely annihilate players but you will definitely need to rethink your approach to some battles and situations.
Glory Abounds in the Depths
In case you’re new to the site and didn’t see our review for the first episode of Heroes of Steel, it’s a standard, old-school style RPG experience. Both titles are set in an unusual world where an uprising amongst the gods rained destruction down on the surface of the world. A cataclysm that forced humanity to seek shelter in mysterious underground labyrinths and caves. The game is a combat-focused, turn-based RPG. Its party based with each member of your crew having access to an array of customizable skills.
As befits an episodic experience there are new dungeons, new side quests and boatloads of new loot to collect. I also opted to check out the new alternate characters available. The basic game comes with four characters that all fit into the standard party format. You have your burly warrior, agile thief, pious cleric and puissant wizard. For two dollars per character you can sub in a slightly different character for three out of the four slots. The biggest difference is that each of the three substitutions is a more melee focused subtype of their existing role. The rogue can still spot and disarm traps, the paladin dishes out healing as well as smashing with a hammer and the sorcerer can toss lightning or channel it through his blade.
There are still some rough spots to the game. Traversing from one end of an area to another still takes quite a lot of time. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if not for the fact that treasure chests are often tucked down winding passages and in corners, giving you an incentive to explore every inch of each area. The sort of instantaneous fast-travel system that is a common feature of modern RPGs would have been welcome.
My biggest gripe is still the skill interface. At first it’s not an issue as each character generally only has a few skills to employ in combat. As you progress you’ll unlock various attacks, curses and buffs. Unfortunately there are only three shortcut slots. This is particularly annoying when utilizing the rogue character as in addition to all the combat abilities there are some utility powers that allow you to scout for danger, disarm traps and pick locks meaning that you’re either going to have to reorganize the shortcuts frequently or spend a lot of time poking around in the skill menu. In a game that is focused entirely on use of combat skills having a sleek UI that allows players to optimize their gameplay is crucial and Heroes of Steel could have easily sacrificed some screen space to make this happen.
If you played the first episode of Heroes of Steel I highly advise you to check out the second episode. The story continues to have the same gritty, dark vibe of humanity struggling to survive against terrible odds. Adding in dozens more dungeons and hours of gameplay to what was already an exciting, robust experience makes the package of Heroes of Steel Elite a must-have for RPG aficionados.
Expanding on the exciting story and challenge of the first episode, Heroes of Steel Elite might not be a slam dunk for your wallet, but it’s a home run for the fun zone.