Review code for Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos was provided by Team6.
There are more Roguish games on the Switch than there are atoms in the observable universe. It seems like every day at least a couple thousand appear on the e-shop, so it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the overabundance – even as a die-hard fan. Rogue Heroes – Ruins of Tasos is the latest game to climb over the rotting pile of failed Roguelites in an attempt to make an impact.
Not Just A Roguelite?
Combining modern Roguelite trappings with classic, SNES-era Zelda, Rogue Heroes comes out swinging. Anyone who has played ‘A Link To The Past’ will be right at home here. Your unnamed Lil’ doodah wakes up in his bed and is promptly told to go be the protagonist. You have a large, varied world to explore, four dungeons to conquer and plenty of gubbins to collect to help you along the way.
The world of Tasos is absolutely brimming with life and charm. It gets on its grassy knees and begs you to explore all of its mounds and shrubberies. You might be told to go North-East from the get-go, but you are absolutely free to go wherever you want. Rewards for your endeavours are frequent, and whilst many locations are locked behind broken bridges or fallen rocks, even as a naked chap, there is plenty to do and find.
This is made even better by the quests you can pick up. Some of these points you toward your overall main goal, others task you with finding lost villagers, or solving a riddle in a Graveyard and cleansing a mausoleum. The world is wonderfully realised and is much more than a side-hoe to the dungeoneering. There is always something to do, or find, and I found it to be a refreshing change of pace after I spent a few hours banging my head against the dungeon door.
Difficulty In Droves
That’s because the dungeons are really difficult – this is a Roguelite after all. Dungeons are split into several procedurally generated rooms, with each room containing a number of exits, enemies, challenges and secrets. Enemies hit hard, health is not massively common and the deeper you go, the harder everything gets. Combat is smooth, with attacking, blocking and basic evasion all being effortless. It keeps everything feeling fair, even when an enemy can hit you for over half your health (if you’re not prepared).
You’re not meant to beat a dungeon on your first attempt. Dungeons contain a gem-like resource that is required for practically all of the game’s progression systems. Collect these, die, spend them, try again. It’s a tried and tested formula, but there is an extra layer of depth here that most Roguelites don’t have. Rogue Heroes has a lot of skill-trees and STUFF to spend your gems on. If you want to upgrade your character, invest in one of the many trees. If you want more trees, invest in building to unlock them. New characters? Find thread, spend gems on a building and then more gems on the class. It’s a tad overwhelming but forces a lot of weighty decision-making which is engaging in its own right.
Dungeons aren’t just combating encounters, however. There are plenty of puzzles to be solved. Some of the bigger rooms even have multiple puzzles. You are rarely required to complete them, but the reward for due-diligence is usually a higher gem payout. The game informs you when a room is fully ‘cleared’, so I never found myself spending more time in a room than was absolutely necessary.
How Are the Bosses?
The bosses in Rogue Heroes aren’t a highlight, mostly because everything else in the game is so good. That being said, these are still extremely fun. These guys have a lot of health, require a fair amount of pattern learning and a hoot to blaze through. It took me many hours to get to my first boss, and when I got there, I was not disappointed. That bugger killed me, obviously, but the fight was fun and I was psyched to get back there and whoop his ass.
What makes Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos truly spectacular, is its co-op gameplay. The game can be played with three other players either locally or online (I was unable to test it online), and is much, much better than I expected. Playing with more players adds new rooms to dungeons that require the party to work together to overcome. There are puzzles designed specifically for this. The whole game – open-world included – is free to be explored with a band of mates, and it’s well worth doing so.
The biggest flaw, in my opinion, is the story. It’s there. It exists. But it’s just fluff. The world was slapped around by some evil dudes, some not-evil tarts decided to stop the evil, now the evil has returned. It’s just bog-standard set-dressing – but that’s fine. It does what it needs to do. Rogue Heroes is clearly about the gameplay, and that gameplay is solid gold.
It also helps that the game is gorgeous. Every dungeon room, every enemy, every section of the world has a beautiful pixel style that oozes character and charm. Lighting in particular is very impressive, with certain areas requiring a lantern to properly see, and the lighting of sconces to illuminate the room. Even the animation, as basic as it may be on sprite-based models, are top-notch. I never felt an enemy hit me with a cheap shot, as everything has a noticeable wind-up.
I am a sucker for good sound design, and Rogue Heroes nails it. The game is filled to the brim with ambient sound effects that bring the world to life. The sound of my iddy-biddy footsteps tickled my brain in just the right way. The music is charming, but comfortably in the background when exploring. When you’re in dungeons, the music hangs back and uses a selection of drums and simple chimes to instil a sense of foreboding. This isn’t a soundtrack you can hum along to, it’s there to set the scene, and it does it perfectly.
Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is a game that, honestly, took me by surprise. I am feeling the strain of an oversaturated genre, but this game feels so fresh – so different – that I couldn’t help but fall in love. There are a few niggling issues here and there, but overall, this is a fantastic game for fans of quality Roguelites or classic Zelda (ideally both). Whether it’s a solo run, or a group adventure, this is worth playing.