Back in the 80s, a horrible, wonderful plague began to devour the quarters of America's nerdy youth. That plague was called Gauntlet. The formula was simple: You and your friends are one of four characters adventuring through a dungeon and taking the loot. This is a bit before my time, but I bring this up to emphasize a point: the complexity of the game isn't indicative of its quality. Granted this is from a time when games weren't typically very complicated, but there's a reason Gauntlet excites everyone's dad whenever they go to a retro arcade.
Take Gauntlet and put it in the Hadron Supercollider with The Binding of Isaac and you have Hero Siege by Panic Art Studios. This is one that I will definitely be coming back to in my free time. Is the story minimal? Yes. Is the inventory so tough to navigate it makes Borderlands look like Diablo? Oh yeah. Still, I can forgive it its flaws because it gives me what I want: Raw satisfying combat and destruction.
Hero Siege is available on Steam for $5.99
I think there's something involving a story around the hub town and generic bad things going down…? There is a story, but its a story in the vein of Borderlands, albeit without the sense of humor. What I mean it it's unimportant. You get quests to either kill things you would kill anyway or gather something or rescue someone which requires you to kill things. It's just an inoffensive and honestly irrelevant excuse to hack and slash your way through hordes upon hordes of enemies, and in a game like this that's really all you need.
The game plays like your average twin stick shooter. Move around, shoot the monsters, try your best to not die in the process. The controls work equally well with keyboard and mouse or with a controller, I didn't have many problems with either control scheme. Each character also has their own selection of talents, which are spells and special attacks you can do which cost energy. I have buttons on the side of my mouse I could map these things to, but on the keyboard they're mapped on numbers one through four. I could see how that could be a bit annoying to deal with, especially when you're dealing with a lot of enemies and can't take your fingers off of a button.
There's a good variety of characters to play as and each one has their own selection of talents, stats, and voice lines whenever you enter a stage or dungeon. I mainly played as the Viking and man was that a good choice. He took most damage like a champ, he could cut through enemies like wheat, and I loved hearing the gruff voice lines. My personal favorite was when he entered a dungeon he might say "This play may be my tomb…" then he would laugh maniacally.
They are really toeing a fine line with the DLC in this game. On one hand, it is a cheap game I enjoyed and I'd be willing to throw them a few dollars if it helps them keep the lights on while they develop more of the game. I only played the basic version and it seemed complete until act 6, at which point you need to buy The Depths of Hell DLC for the next act. Then apparently for act 7 you the Wrath of Mevius DLC. They're 2.99 each, 4.99 for the collectors edition, and though that seems like a good price that's either half of the cost of the game or one dollar shy. You get more than the level, you do get a new costume and a new hero, just proportionally speaking it seems a bit odd. This isn't the worst pay model I've ever seen in my life, but I just really can't decide how I feel about it.
In the base game, there are five acts, each with five levels. The levels all fit a motif, like the forest, the tundra, or a desert. Each Act has a decent variety of enemies and even some random dungeons. Dungeons are little instances that you can enter, you'll need to solve some puzzles or kill some enemies, then you get a relic to help you out. The first four levels end with a random boss, and the final level of each act has a set boss that is, and let's be honest here, ridiculously hard. For perspective, the final boss of the second act is Death. Yes, death, and he has a one-hit kill to close out the second act. This is not a game that waits on you to be all ready to get into gear. If you aren't ready, it won't hesitate to have a spider come and rip your face off. This brings me to…
Roguelike…? Kind of…?
This is a game with a lot of trial and error. You will probably go into an area at some point thinking you can take the enemies only to find out that one has a freezing attack which holds you for just long enough for some skeleton to come and take off all of your skin. When that happens, you will keep any equipment, money, and experience you gained up until you died, which keeps your character improving. You will, however, lose any keys, buffs, and relics you may have obtained in your journey. I actually really liked this aspect of the game, it meant my character kept improving no matter how bad a run went. Maybe I got debuffed to the point where I couldn't use my shockwave attack so I was never going to get anywhere, but I could have gotten a new weapon or armor that will help in the next run or maybe I gained a level which unlocked a new talent. This is what makes a good roguelike, it lets you make progress even if you're stuck in an area.
More than a few RPG elements
Though it has elements of roguelikes and twin stick shooters, I found Hero Siege to be, more than anything, an old-school RPG. By that I mean an RPG so old school it would probably make a family dinner a bit uncomfortable after a few drinks. Whenever you gain a level you can put two points in your attributes, which are (I believe this is what they're called): Strength, Endurance, Armor, and Health. You also get one point to put into a talent, which is more like your increased critical chance or your healing spell. The talent trees are incredibly basic, but they are functional. It isn't going to boggle your mind with levels of customization, but at the same time you will feel your character progress and get stronger as time goes on. It doesn't have the most intricate RPG elements I've ever seen, but it's perfectly fine as is.
So I've been frothing at the mouth with how much I love this game, let's offset the tone of this review a bit. The inventory is an absolute wreck. In each section strong items go on top and that's it. You don't get to see the stats except how they'd compare to what you have in general, and if you want to get more in depth you need to compare each item individually with what you have equipped. And since you can't do a simple mouse interface on the inventory screen you're pressing a bunch of buttons on your keyboard to open and close windows individually, which makes the whole system a kind of disorganized mess. It's even worse in multiplayer, where they don't seem to be in any particular order. This is also one of those games where you will spend a lot of time in your inventory trying to find what works best, so this may drive you a bit crazy.
Much like other Gauntlet-likes, this game has local and online multiplayer, and I did a bit of a foray into both. Both are cooperative, but both lent themselves to completely different experiences.
The local multiplayer was fun enough, but it was basically dropping my one friend's new character into the single-player world of my viking. The experienced worked fine overall, but the pacing in this became all sorts of weird with each of us needing to constantly check our inventories. It would go from fast-paced action to a few minutes of each of us leveling up and checking our equipment. Even if both players could access their inventories at once to halve the time it took of faffing about with numbers, that would really help the pace of the local multiplayer.
I disliked the online multiplayer at the start because it made me create an account on Panic Net. I've never made a game so I don't know how hard it is to just hook it up to Steam, but I still hate whenever I need to make another account just for the multiplayer function of one game. The servers aren't exactly the most lively, but I did manage to wrangle a few others into a world with me where we had a lot of fun carving our path of carnage through the enemy ranks. The pacing issue I have with Local multiplayer wasn't even in this one, when you do your thing it shows what you're doing in a bubble over your head and you just stand there as you do it. Other players can go on their merry way.
Graphics and audio
It's standard RPG maker graphics and rather generic music. Nothing to write home about, except as I said a few of those voice lines from the Viking made me chuckle. The graphics and audio do well to make the combat punchy and satisfying, but they don't go above and beyond. I will say this though, as can be the case in games like this, the screen can sometimes get a bit busy, especially in multiplayer games. A few times when I was doing the local multiplayer my friend died just because she was trying to figure out what was going on. It wasn't unappealing to look at there was just a lot of attacks and bodies flying. I realize I am complaining abut the chaos being too chaotic, but perhaps just taking some attack visuals down about half a notch to a notch could help with deciphering what's happening.
Though it wasn't an experience that blew my mind or gave me much of anything new, I can see myself returning to Hero Siege. The potential for casual wanton chaos is just too high and too appealing for me. Sure, the story isn't compelling, you hit a DLC paywall for the final stages, and the inventory is unintuitive. Those are some flaws and if those are key points for you, maybe look elsewhere. However, if you're just in the mood to smash things without much need for deep thought or strategy, or even if The Binding of Isaac has stopped doing anything for you, I can definitely give Hero Siege a thumbs up.
|+ Wanton destruction||– DLC paywall|
|+ Equipment Variety||– Messy inventory|
|+ Challenging levels||– Generic graphics and audio|
|+ Worthwhile character progression|