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Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is a hybrid rogue-lite, town builder, and isometric 2-D exploration game. If you’re a fan of rogue-lites or a fan of games like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, then this is a game that’s right up your alley. Whenever I look at a new rogue-lite, it’s a challenge to separate it from the juggernauts in the genre like The Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon, but every entry has its own charms and mechanics that separate them from the pack. Rogue Heroes takes a few elements from other genres, not changing too much, but the sum of all the parts is a simple and enjoyable experience.
The story that drives Rogue Heroes is a standard-fare fantasy trope. There are four titans that were locked away in four dungeons by a goddess and the seals that are keeping the titans at bay are weakening, which is causing monsters to run rampant around the world. The hero is tasked with not only slaying the four titans, but also rebuilding the ruined town. The gameplay loop will be very familiar to rogue-lite fans. You start in the town, travel to the dungeon, either clear it or die, and then return to the town for upgrades. There are a couple types of currencies used in the game. Gems are the primary currency for the permanent unlocks, and coins are used in the dungeons to open chests (which contain gems and special equipment).
The overworld map is very reminiscent of a 2-D Legend of Zelda Game. There are low-level enemies, bushes and rocks to harvest for money and resources, and the usual item-based blockades to fence off more difficult areas. There are fast travel points, so jumping back into dungeons is simply if you prefer rather than walking and fighting your way through. The overworld map is static, so there are no worries about having to find the dungeon entrance again if you die.
The meat and potatoes of the game are the procedurally-generated dungeons that house the four titans. Again, the dungeons will feel very familiar to 2-D Zelda titles. The items are even very similar including trusty standbys such as a bow, bombs, and a grappling hook, and permanent versions of the items can be unlocked as you progress through the game. The first dungeon’s enemies are standard-fare bats, skeletons, and rats mainly. Like most aspects of the game, the dungeons don’t offer anything new to the formula, but they are very clean, and the random layouts and room types keep the runs fresh.
It’s highly unlikely that you will complete the dungeons on your first attempts, and that’s part of the rogue-lite formula that fans will be familiar with. While the ultimate goal is to defeat the titan, the goal for each run should be simply to collect as many gems as possible in order to upgrade your town. In the dungeons you can also spend gems to unlock fast travel statues to skip floors that you have previously reached. I’m personally mixed on this mechanic because skipping floors will mean that you’ll have fewer resources, but if you’re powerful enough, skipping the floor will speed up runs to get to the final boss.
The final “phase” of the game is character and development of the town, Intori. Intori begins very bare bones, with only your house and a single other structure. Once you start earning gems on the dungeon runs you can unlock other buildings, including a blacksmith, a tailor shop, a farm, and even residences for the townsfolk. The placement of the buildings doesn’t have an impact on the town so you can feel free to develop as you’d like. I chose to have a central hub of businesses and let the residential buildings fill the outskirts. You can also choose to upgrade and decorate your personal house as well, as building a field that will generate income for you. The special buildings are all used to upgrade your starting stats and open up new mini-quests. One of the most important buildings is the tailor shop, as the tailor will allow you to unlock new classes to play.
The first class can simply be bought from the merchant, but more advanced classes are earned as you play through the game. More often than not, all it took was a class change to overcome a difficult hurdle, or to defeat a particular boss. While all of the classes have their strengths and weaknesses, none of them felt truly over-powered compared to another, so you can really choose one that fits your playstyle, or the best to overcome your next obstacle. Rogue Heroes definitely felt like there was a larger grind than other rogue-lites, and the items don’t flow as quickly when compared to The Binding of Isaac or similar titles.
I’ve mentioned a few times that Rogue Heroes draws inspiration from older Legend of Zelda games, and while it’s not a bad thing to pay homage to an all-time great game, it makes it difficult for the game to really stand out. The town building portion feels a little similar to a Harvest Moon game, but is very bare bones. Again this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as there are many games that try to cram too much into a small package. Rogue Heroes succeeds because it embraces the simplicity of its formula.
Rogue Heroes also has a co-op mode that supports up to four players, and while I didn’t get a chance to play co-op myself, I did watch some streams and read some impressions about co-op. The general consensus seems to be that the co-op mode is fairly fun, but a bit buggy. Upgrading the town progresses faster in co-op as teams contribute the buildings, but each player gets to choose their upgrades individually.
I definitely recommend Rogue Heroes if you’re a fan of rogue-lites or old school exploration games. Rogue Heroes doesn’t do anything that will wow you or push the limits of gaming, but what it does, it does very well. The graphics are crisp and clean, framerate is stable during fights, and the music fits the tones of the environments perfectly. All-in-all, it’s a neat little bundle that ends up being a lot of fun, and that’s what really counts when it comes to gaming.