Rolling Through the Deeps
Heroism is the kind of game that you want to like, and that’s not quite the backhanded compliment it sounds like. Created by indie developer Minmaxia, the pixel art RPG dungeon crawler features many hours of dungeon-delving content. And while I can’t promise you’ll love Heroism, it’s worth taking a peek.
The premise of Heroism is straightforward. You are a hero tasked with saving a small town surrounded by monsters. You do this by clearing the frankly preposterous number of dungeons in the surrounding area. Eventually, you’ll collect enough Heroism to unlock more dungeons, repeat as needed. There are randomly generated quests and technically even a storyline. However, these don’t pretend to be anything more than a justification for the player character’s endless dungeon delving. Heroism is also a nightmarishly long game, so be prepared for the long haul if you intend to take it out for a spin.
Players start by selecting from one of six classes. The options are Fighter, Ranger, Wizard, Barbarian, Necromancer or Chicken King. That last one, if you were wondering, is a strength-based character that throws chickens at enemies. The chickens always come back, so one assumes they are fine with it. Each class has a variety of unique upgradable skills, far too many to go through them all in detail. Some examples include rapid attacks and area damage for the Fighter and bigger chickens for the Chicken King.
Minmaxia specializes in dungeon crawler RPGs, and Heroism is a dungeon crawler’s dungeon crawler. If you don’t like wading through hordes of monsters for piles of vendor trash, you’re better off moving on. However, if you live and breathe sprawling, monster-filled labyrinths, Heroism is a great way to scratch that itch. The dungeons are all relatively long, taking around 20-40 minutes to complete 100%. The “Storyline” dungeons are even longer marathon runs through vast hordes of enemies.
Combat itself is pretty simple. Heroism enables auto attacks by default, and I strongly recommend leaving it that way. You can attack manually by clicking on an enemy, but enemy sprites are too small and move too quickly for that to be practical. You can set the game to auto-cast active abilities as well. Unfortunately, the AI tends to burn through them the instant their cooldown period ends.
Heroism also features an interesting take on idle mode. Instead of simply ticking up gold and XP, Idle Mode really is the game playing itself. Your character will travel across the overworld, take quests and delve dungeons all on their own. The player can even watch them do it if they want. While I’m generally not a fan of idle games, this is a sound system for automating some of the unpleasant grinding. Players can toggle it on to clear out lower-level dungeons and then take over when facing a real challenge. And you will want to take over sometimes. Heroism’s AI is basic to the point that I almost feel like I am misapplying the term.
In some games, players level up their characters by spending Gold or farming Experience Points. Heroism, however, has a more varied approach. Experience is still the primary currency of leveling up, allowing players to buy new abilities and increase their attributes. The player also collects Heroism to unlock bonuses to things like item drop rate. This also opens the next set of areas and dungeons. Characters gain XP through the usual process of questing and monster murdering. Heroism, meanwhile, comes from impersonating Sonic the Hedgehog.
I kid, but the player’s primary way to get Heroism is by hoovering up the rings blanketing dungeon floors. And that’s not hyperbole. There are thousands on every floor of every dungeon, and you need hundreds of thousands to make any real progress. If that sounds tedious, that is because it is. Sure, it’s surprisingly satisfying the first couple of times to completely clear a floor, but that wears off quickly. I would not complain, but the ring collection isn’t optional if you want to make progress.
Playing to the Beat
I’d describe Heroism’s retro pixel art as good but not extraordinary. If the Game Boy Color had a dungeon-crawler, it would look something like Heroism. The music, however, is nearly perfect, eschewing looping battle music for a proper score. My only criticism is the lack of consistency. Energetic 8-bit trumpets rub shoulders with moody, high-def instrumentals. And Heroism alternates between them seemingly at random, regardless of the area’s theme or the tone set by the previous track. Still, I won’t pretend the music makes or breaks the game.
Heroism is the epitome of a game that is not for everyone. It probably should have been called Dungeons because it’s the dungeon crawler experience distilled down to the base components. If that appeals to you, you will love what Heroism has to offer. Otherwise, you might be better off giving it a pass.
Is it Hardcore?
Heroism is a pure dungeon crawler almost completely free of bells and whistles. It’s excellent at being what it is and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.