Earlier this week HEROish released on PlayStation 4. The quirky MOBA-lite title tries to stand out by combining tried-and-true elements with deck building mechanics. This combo can be interesting, especially in this setting, because it explores a different kind of luck/strategy. With the potential to face a really good deck, or frequently get bad rolls, it isn’t enough to outplay your opponent, you need to also outwit them. However, given so many titles try to implement these mechanics and fail, is this a triumphant victory, or frustrating hodgepodge of different ideas?
HEROish starts by throwing players into campaign for a brief tutorial. Players will learn the fundamentals, along with character relationships. While none of the three campaigns are particularly long, probably an hour or so each, they focus more on jokes than plot.
Better than Nothing!
It has the same joking dialogue that has become increasingly common as of late. At times it can be amusing, though most of it comes down to introducing a plot element, followed by a joke or sarcastic statement, reaction, and then progressing onto the next thing.
What is nice about the campaign is presentation. At its core you’re playing a really long tutorial. However, instead of relying on the multiplayer gameplay loop, levels are designed around using units more creatively. Sometimes you’ll have the option to free friendly forces, other times plant bombs, or hold points to come out ahead. All of this stuff teaches players what various mechanics do so they’re prepared to take on multiplayer.
This is Fine…
While the tutorial is helpful to get ready, the actual multiplayer experience could be a lot better. For starters, everything is locked behind the level system. Want to play as Lord Marduke? You must hit level 12. Hellhounds are your favorite attack unit? Must be level six. Even basic mechanics like multiple copies of Shortbow require a specific level to unlock.
On paper a lot of these choices make sense. It’s easier to balance a game with limited options, just like it prevents players from getting lucky and having access to better units. It just sucks that there is an investment to really see all that HEROish has to offer.
Despite the grind, I applaud HEROish for giving players options. There is casual, ranked, custom, and AI modes to select. Even if you don’t want to fight someone else, experience can be earned in AI battles. This is perfect for grinding, testing decks, or just getting familiar with different mechanics. Where things really fall short are options.
Multiplayer is limited to six heroes, two maps, with cards having hero restrictions as well. Some of these make sense, you shouldn’t have access to Flynn’s attacks on Spiderbait, but it sucks being level five and the only possible difference between two King Bulvi players is a single card. These lack of options make low-level play rather straightforward.
So Many Options
I basically know what to expect from a low level player, so it comes down to build and how their cards are leveled. The latter can make a monumental difference, as can overall strategy, but it’s an experience where you need to invest considerable time to get to the “real” experience.
Difference Between a Level One and Max Level Card
There are also some annoying details, such as daily quests. Not only is three rather light, it’s entirely possible to complete them all in a single match. At least if they were longer, or deeper requirements, they would be more engaging. In their current form you might sign on for a match, unlock everything, and then play something else.
Even multiplayer itself is pretty basic. Since everything takes place on a 2D map, a match comes down to breaking an enemies defense, and then destroying their crystal. More intense battles might result in someone losing due to frequent deaths over outright attack, though these are the two win conditions. HEROish rewards risky tactics, so overwhelming an opponent is viable, though most matches will be decided by how well you understand the mechanics.
While I’m harping on a lot of the shortcomings, the actual game can be a fair bit of fun. With single or duo PVP, the numbers are low enough where even a small but dedicated fanbase can keep it alive. Some of the later cards can also have a substantial impact on tactics, making later fights a lot more engaging. HEROish also has a lot of potential, as new cards/heroes can radically change the meta.
HEROish Review Verdict
HEROish: Overall, I would say HEROish has potential. The low cost of entry, and good foundation give Sunblink a lot to build on. I do wish progression was a bit more open, or there was an easier path to experiencing all that HEROish has to offer, but at least the grind isn't too bad. For these reasons, if the genre interests you, or you just want to see what it has to offer it's worth considering. However, if you're looking for an extremely diverse and deep experience, you'll probably be underwhelmed. – Grant