Being able to play a roguelike with friends is a nice inclusion. However, with only a few dungeons to clear and classes that don’t feel as distinct as they could, there’s room for improvement.
Type: Single-Player, Co-op
Genres: RPG, Roguelike
Developer: Heliocentric Studios
Publisher: Team17 Digital
Release Date: 23 February, 2021
I’ve played a decent amount of roguelikes and dungeon crawlers, but they’ve always been a solo experience for me. When looking into Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos (RH), I became intrigued because it can be played with 1-4 players, both online and locally. This idea was quite novel for me, so I was all too happy to try this game out, playing parts of it both on my own and with another person joining in. Was our experience in RH a heroic venture or did it fall into ruin?
In spite of the potential for multiplayer, RH works off of a familiar foundation. Across the land are a handful of procedurally generating dungeons, with the bottom-most floor guarded by an imposing boss. Beating bosses is rewarded with recognizable tools such as a hookshot, bow and arrow, etc. which will allow for further exploration of the game. However, even before you defeat the boss, you’ll get small tastes of those items through one of the ways RH functions as a roguelike. When opening chests and clearing rooms, you’ll occasionally get random glass items and stat increases. They don’t break if overused, but both the glass items and stat increases are only available for this attempt at beating the dungeon, disappearing if you die or after you beat the boss.
With the gems obtained from the dungeon, players will be able to purchase a range of upgrades and items to strengthen their character. The options available depend on the state of the hub village, which you can build up with gems. By purchasing more buildings, different options will open up, such as getting stronger sword attacks from the blacksmith and health upgrades from the clinic. There’s a lot of these to invest into, so you’ll have to make multiple trips into dungeons to acquire enough resources, creating the simple reward loop of dungeon crawling to build up the village to do more dungeon crawling.
After completing a tutorial over the game’s controls and basic mechanics, the bottom right corner displays relevant control prompts on the main screen. For instance, if you’ve picked up an object, the controls will change to show how it can either be thrown or dropped. With how instructive RH is, there’s not much need for an overview of the controls, and I didn’t experience any issues with them.
Amongst supernatural beings, there are 4 goddesses and 4 titans, who are currently stymieing each other’s powers. These events happened long ago though, with the goddesses’ sacrifice to imprison the titans fading into obscurity and mythological status. Explorers rediscover the land of Talos, displacing the locals, and causing havoc, which starts to unseal the barriers holding the titans in place. With their power leaking out, they infuse monsters with their aura, in order to fully release themselves. You receive a divine edict from the goddesses to save the world and maintain balance. It’s a fairly standard story for a game like this, though it is kind of a bummer when both the titans and goddesses speak to you as a disembodied voice with no avatar or icon.
Usually I either like or dislike the graphics in a game, but in this case, I’m rather neutral towards them. The use of pixel graphics is sufficient to get the point across with all of the background objects, and the enemy designs are distinct enough that you shouldn’t confuse one enemy type for another, except perhaps for one skeleton warrior vs another. NPCs are also reasonably distinct from one another. Overall though, I just find the graphics to be average, without any outstanding traits to them.
There’s no soundtrack available for RH, and when I played the game specifically to listen to the music, I noticed how subtle it is. It really fades into the background and didn’t hold my attention unless I went out of my way to hear it. The tracks sounded alright, but they don’t carry much weight to them and are largely forgettable. One aspect I like with the sound effects is how it provides cues on how enemies behave and are about to attack.
- When playing with other people, it’s possible to split up in a larger room, which will zoom out the screen. However, some large rooms will take this to the limit. It’s functional, but it’s a bit bothersome that the POV doesn’t split apart if players go too far from one another.
- There’s a good amount of quality of life features included. Having warp pads from the get-go, an auto-generating dungeon map, being told the room is cleared of enemies and hidden chests, the ability to buy shortcuts to lower floors of the dungeon, etc.
- Even if you spend gems on another player’s save, you’ll still benefit from it. For instance, buildings purchased on theirs will be applied to your town, as well as any upgrades. Also, completing side quests also showed up on my save file.
- Multiplayer functionality is currently a mixed bag. Playing with someone else generates dungeons that reflect the # of players present, as pressure plates require all players to stand on one of them, and the gem drop rate seems to increase substantially. Plus, certain resources are shared evenly, such as gems and health refills. However, other items appear unique to each person, such as glass tools, keys, and temporary stat upgrades. Depending on how the dungeon generates, there will be altars available to revive fallen players. It’s hard to ascertain, but floors might be made harder for multiple players.
- There’s 9 classes available, including the DLC bomber class. However, though there’s differences between them, some feel redundant. For instance, the Hero and Knight classes are both tanky builds with minimal differences. Additionally, they don’t change gameplay as much as I’d expect. The mage’s and ranger’s primary attacks don’t change into a magic spell or bow and arrow, they still swing a sword. The bomber also doesn’t get bombs! In spite of a range of enemy attack patterns, there’s no class that really centers around long-range moves. The Reaper is pretty awesome though, if not broken.
- The difficulty isn’t well balanced. For example, enemies and traps can deal massive amounts of damage, especially on the 3rd floor. However, boss attacks do substantially less damage, and feel much less challenging than clearing the dungeon. Conversely, the final boss fight was distinctly more difficult than any prior boss fight, and is a jarring shift from before.
- The game borrows pretty heavily from Zelda: A Link to the Past. With some of the items and features not being that prominent in the end result, I think it’d have benefited more from doing its own thing. After all, when I was checking the game out, these features weren’t on my radar in the slightest.
- Room layouts aren’t as varied as I’d hope for a game centered around multiple forays into randomly generated dungeons. It would benefit from a greater range of options and versatility.
- The skeleton salesperson in dungeons disappears immediately after you talk to him and move away. However, if you buy something from him, access your inventory without moving, and talk with him again, you can use a health potion on hand, and buy another serving. There’s also no reason for only one person to shop from him, as he’ll stay in place as long as someone’s talking with him. He’s the primary place to use gold coins, so it’d be wise not to waste it on chests in dungeons, as they only drop gems.
- The stats I would focus on upgrading first would be health from the clinic, stamina buffs from the gym, and sword attacks from the blacksmith. These are all useful regardless of the class you play. Buying a bottle is also prudent as it can be refilled and reused endlessly.
- Follow the main quest markers on the map, as you can otherwise waste time exploring areas that you’ll have to come back to again.
- When entering the dungeon, you’ll lose any gems in your possession, so try spending as many as you can in town.
A decent number of people have expressed problems when playing with others online, and during an initial coop attempt at the game, I hadn’t experienced any of these problems. An attempt later on did crash the game though. Plus, when playing on my own, I had a glitch with a floor trap and was completely unable to leave the room or escape the dungeon, having to restart and lose all progress. Seeing as how the game released recently, it’d be worth waiting a while to see if these matters can be smoothly resolved before picking up a 4 pack for you and your friends to play. If going that route, I’d suggest playing RH fully as a coop game, as there’s not a whole lot of content to spare. It gets more mileage with procedural generation and being a roguelike, but there’s still only 4 dungeons and an optional endless variant to play through. I primarily enjoyed my time with RH, aside from the accursed swamp, and would recommend holding back for a sale.