REVIEW: Has-Been Heroes

Has-Been Heroes is a unique blend of lane-based and JRPG-style combat, with rogue-like elements and a ton of things to unlock.

Steam: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Action, Indie, RPG, Strategy
Developer: Frozenbyte
Publisher: GameTrust Games
Release Date: 28 Mar, 2017


Has-Been Heroes is a unique lane-based game with some rogue-like elements from developer Frozenbyte.

In Has-Been Heroes you take control of a pair of legendary heroes who are past their prime, and one eager young rogue keen to experience a life of adventure, and accept your most important quest yet: to escort the kingdom’s young princesses across the land to school. On the way you encounter hordes of undead led by an evil ghost.

Gameplay Video


The game is played in 2D, from a side-on view. Characters and enemies are drawn in a cartoon-like style, with basic animations. Backgrounds are a bit bland, but get the job done, with a different look to each level.

There are animated graphic-novel style cartoon cut scenes to move the story along, too.

One disappointment with the graphics is that the characters’ appearances don’t change as they equip items. There are a lot of different items to unlock and collect, but they don’t have any visual impact. There’s also not a lot of variation with enemies: you’ll mostly see skeletons, skeletons, and more skeletons, with only a few different enemy types. It fits with the plot, I suppose, but a bit more variation would have been nice.

There’s a low-quality texture graphics option available; beyond that options are only vsync, resolution, and full screen / windowed mode.

“Has-Been Heroes plays like a cross between Plants vs Zombies and combat from a Final Fantasy game.”


Sound effects and music are typical of the fantasy genre, with powerful musical pieces befitting an epic quest or battle, interspersed with jolly travelling-style music. There’s nothing that stands out here as being particularly good or bad, but they’re professional and they suit the game well.

Character voices are gibberish, which has a certain appeal, and there are a few very short spoken pieces.


Has-Been Heroes plays like a cross between Plants vs Zombies and combat from a Final Fantasy game. Each level has a number of battles, which are divided up into three lanes, with one of your three heroes in each. Enemies approach slowly from the right and as your heroes’ attack cool downs expire they can attack the front-most enemies in their lanes. There are also various spells that can be unlocked and collected, each of which has its own effects and cool-down timer.

Making the combat much more tactical, though, is the ability to swap heroes after they have attacked. The game pauses on each attack, and you can move heroes about between lanes, allowing you to focus attacks on one particular enemy, or spread them out more evenly across the approaching horde.

Furthermore, each enemy has a certain number of stamina points, and each hero has a certain number of actions per attack. Match the number of attacks with the number of stamina points and you stun the enemy, providing opportunity for a quick hero lane swap and follow-up attack to do increased damage, and sometimes permanently reduce the target’s stamina.

Doing damage to an enemy knocks it backwards a short way, too. This is good because if one gets all the way to your heroes at the left side of the screen then they’ll take hits and quite possibly die. When that happens to just one hero, it’s game over.

Although combat is the core of the game, there is a bit more to it than just battle after battle. Each level is procedurally generated and presented as a map made up of encounter nodes and roads between them. You start at the left of the map and choose a path through the nodes to the boss fight at the end, but you don’t know what a node will contain until you move to an adjoining one. Other than battles, you can find empty areas, chests, camps, merchants, and more. But be careful: although the game will let you backtrack over your path on a level to reach unexplored nodes, each time you cross your previous path you’ll lose a candle. Run out of candles and it’s game over.

As with many recent games with rogue-like elements, game over in Has-Been Heroes is really just the beginning. Depending on how well you did, you’ll unlock a number of spells and items that you can find or purchase in your next game. So although each time you start a game you start from scratch, you’ll have a better chance of finding more and better improvements each time you play. Do well enough, and there’s a whole host of heroes to unlock, too.

It’s unfortunate that the game mechanics aren’t explained very well. The tutorial introduces some of the basics, but that’s all. There’s no information provided about the level map, items, spells, chests, or any of the non-combat aspects of the game. Importantly, backtracking on the level map and the candles aren’t explained at all, leaving new players with no idea what’s going on, and there’s no information at all about unlocking spells, items, or characters. The interface, though it looks nice, also provides little in the way of helpful information.

The game also becomes quite repetitive early on. Even though levels are procedurally generated and you can pick your path through each level, the lack of variation in enemies and no hero choice, at least when starting out, makes it a hard slog for beginners. Stick with it and you’ll start to reap the rewards, but it’s a shame the developers didn’t provide at least a couple more characters to choose from at the beginning.

Pros and Cons

+ Unique combat system
+ A LOT of unlockables
+ Steam Achievements and Trading Cards

– Game mechanics are not explained well, or at all in some cases
– Repetitive; little variation in enemy types


Has-Been Heroes is fun, but flawed. The unique game mechanics are interesting, but the lack of information provided to players in the tutorial or game interface make it quite hard to pick up, and the lack of variation in enemies makes it feel repetitive quickly. If you have the time and motivation to go the distance, though, unlocking the vast range of items, spells, and characters will keep you playing for a long time.

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