Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is a new action RPG with roguelike elements combining combat, top-down exploration and procedural dungeons. There’s also elements of town building here where you can build up your village, or just relax and fish for a while. If you’re a fan of A Link To The Past then this one will be right up your street.
The game is set in Tasos, which was destroyed by the war against Titans hundreds of years ago. The people of Tasos managed to lock away the Titans in four dungeons across the land and Tasos slowly grew back to its former glory. As the years have gone by and the strength of the magic started to weaken, the Titans strength has started to grow once again and they have unleashed beasts across Tasos, leading the people to flee. Soon the Titans will be free on Tasos once again, and it’s your job to stop them. It’s all fairly standard fantasy hero fare to be honest, but the scene-setting through the mock stain glass windows and the story at the beginning of the game really got me in the mood for some adventuring.
Rogue Heroes is a neat pixel-art adventure. On first inspection this looks very similar to classic Zelda games, however, the roguelike elements do mix things up a little bit. For example in the first dungeon, I was surprised to get the grappling hook, bombs and arrows all at the same time. Pleasantly surprised I might add as this gave me all the necessary tools I needed to beat the first boss.
There’s a variety of environments in the game from classic green farmland, swamps and snowy mountains. The enemies are varied and offer a nice challenge, and because it’s a roguelike you’re going to need to watch your energy meter and be wary of dying as you’ll lose the gems you’ve built up. As you progress through the game though there are some items that persist through the runs of the game. Rogue Heroes does a pretty good job of rewarding players when they do die, offering permanent upgrades that help you out each time. As each run goes by you build up your town allowing you to increase stats like health, stamina, powers and attack perks.
As you accumulate and spend your upgrade points across your character you progressively get stronger. This eases in the player who may not be used to this style of game, but it does have a disadvantage as later on in the game things do get much easier, whereas ideally, the game should be getting progressively harder as you progress.
On the face of things Rogue Heroes looks like another classic top-down pixel-art RPG, however, the town building element of the game is really good fun, and it’s a nice distraction from the action if you want to take a break. There’s plenty of NPCs in the game, including dogs (which you can pet), so if you want to wander around and enjoy a Stardew Valley-type experience for a few hours between dungeon crawling then you can. If you want to chill out and just fish for a little while, then that’s available too. This element reminded me of A Short Hike, it was a pleasant, gentle break from the sometimes frantic action the game throws your way.
The game can be played with up to four players in co-op mode. Four players in total can get a little busy, but having one other there to help out is pretty good. This is a great game to chill on the sofa with if you have a significant other, after a hard day’s work and you’re looking to wind down. The pixel art, Zelda inspired world will instantly relax you and solving the relatively straight forward puzzles together is a good time.
The overall design of Rogue Heroes will definitely give you Zelda vibes. Everything from the items, character and overworld shouts Nintendo, but that’s not such a bad thing. Game shave has been here before tried and failed, but Rouge Heroes does a good job of emulation and there are enough differences in here to make it feel unique with the Roguelike elements. I wish it didn’t have Rogue in the name, it could stand up on its own two feet with a better name.
The world of Tasos is well put together like a big mass of tiles waiting to be discovered. We start out on our main little town and very early on we’re directed to the first dungeon and given a few side quests to take on. The design of Tasos is nice and you clearly get directed where to go, but you are given enough room to explore as to not feel too directed – Heliocentric Studios have done a good job with the design.
The structure of Rogue Heroes is nice too. Rather than direct you from one Dungeon to the next in a big endless battle sequence, you have time to explore and find the swathe of secrets on offer around Tasos. There’s swamps, villages, forests – many of the locations you’d expect in this type of game and the designers have packed the game full of secrets and side quests. You can pick and choose to do the main dungeons or the side quests and get to know the array of NPCs back in your little home town base.
Intori Village is where you wake up in classic hero style and very early on you start to build up the tools you’ll need to help out later on. When you first wake there’s a man called Griff out there wanting 80 coins and directs you up into the northeast to collect them. There was a slight quirk here when I went back to the village with the 80 coins and he didn’t recognise the fact that I had them – I’d be cutting down bushes and attacking buffalo looking things for about 15 mins. I had to go through my first iteration of the dungeon and die for the first time to get the response I was looking for. I didn’t come across too many bugs, but this one did seem a little strange.
Back to Intori Village where you can build up the town to include a blacksmith, shops and a farm where you can plant and grow food. It’s a game within the game itself and very reminiscent of games like Animal Crossing or Spiritfarer. Intori Village works well into the gameplay loop as Griff will help you build up tools and skills in exchange for gems and items you find out there in the dungeons. There’s plenty of items to find like the hook shot, boomerang, bombs, bow and arrows and magic wands – the standard hero toolkit. Each item has it’s own upgrade path and can feel a little overwhelming at the beginning. In an effort to be different or have a unique selling point the game can very complex sometimes.
As well as the various items and the upgrade paths, you also have classes in the game. At first, these are locked off to you, but they become available later on. There are classes like Ranger, Knight, Mage, Pirate, Witch and Reaper. The classes aren’t too different, but it’s nice to mix and match and switch things up a little if you get bored of a single class. I like having classes in this type of game. Normally in an action RPG like this, you are the hero, and you are one particular style – but I like the fact you can select different classes, even if the effect on the gameplay isn’t huge. I’d like to see more mainstream titles take on this approach cough Nintendo…
One of the biggest features of the games is the dungeons and the Titans. The dungeons themselves offer a good challenge, die and you’ll be back before the start and have to do it all over again. The dungeons are procedurally generated, so every time you go in it’s going to be a different experience. Puzzles are good which include moving blocks and finding keys to open locked doors, as well as hidden surprises like arrows being shot from holes in the wall and laser beams coming from evil eyes. The puzzles and enemies aren’t too obtuse, but they are not walk in the park either. The team have struck a good balance with the difficulty and I find myself jumping back in often to play the dungeons over.
There’s a lot to like with Rogue Heroes, but it’s not all positives. The main story and cast of characters lack personality and don’t really grab my attention. This may be unfair to compare to characters that have been in my life for the past 30 years and are competing against nostalgia too, but the story didn’t grab me. There’s a lot of positives in the game, but I feel it could have been much stronger with a better story, delivery and also a better name for the game itself. Rogue has appeared in so many game titles, and you don’t need to point this out. By playing the game we’re going to know it’s a roguelike. Having more Tolkien or George RR Martin-Esque names like The Lord of the Rings, or the Song of Ice and Fire… something a little grander. Even the Ruins of Tasos would have been better than Rogue Heroes.
Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is a very good Zelda-inspired action RPG and brings things into the modern era with roguelike elements. The dungeons are fun, there’s plenty of secrets to find and it’s a great time playing with friends or family as couch co-op or online. It can be overwhelming at times through the skill trees and side elements to the game, but you can always kick back and go fishing if things get a little much. If you’re a fan of top-down action RPGs then I’d give this one a go.
Developer: Heliocentric Studios
Publisher: Team 17
Platforms: Nintendo Switch and PC
Release Date: 23rd February 2021