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Hero's Realm: Old-School Gameplay meets New-Age Awesome

  • Aurabolt
  • 03/28/2009 12:52 PM
RPGs have gone through many phases in the relatively short life-span of the gaming industry, much like the whole genre. While the genres of first-person adventure and real-time strategy came into the spotlight in the early 1990s, RPGs developed from world-driven story-lines with a nameless hero thrown into a dangerous environment with a free-form objective in an expansive world, to character-driven story-lines with unique settings and flavor than their predecessors. This new take on the genre focused much more on specifically defined characters and their well-defined abilities in a world that was governed by their actions and beliefs, their personality and mannerisms (if any) firmly established, unintentionally sacrificing gameplay at points to tell a story. It was clear that both forms flourished in their respective domains; low-character depth RPGs moved from the consoles to the personal computer with games such as the Elder Scrolls series, System Shock, and the Ultimas while the character-heavy games-such as the Final Fantasies, Star Oceans, and Tales series dominated the console world.

As the independent gaming world grows more and more on this world as well as elsewhere, game makers look back on the distinctions between these two genres and use their skills to express their own take on them. Kentona, creator of Hellion and Runelords: Atramentus Rising, has decided to do the same with his third game, Hero's Realm. Adopting a similar story element to the original Dragon Warrior games in terms of gameplay and plot, the player leads four heroes and their customized groups to an ultimate goal of defeating Mephistocles, the Lord of Demons. Split into five chapters, each chapter before covers the adventures of a singular hero before they are all brought together in the final leg of the story, which focuses on the mysterious Child of Light and the prophecy of the Gurus-the game's resident Wise Men and their Poobah- which spells certain invasion from a Demon World.

With inspiration from Final Fantasy V and Dragon Warrior III, each chapter must be started generally with the choosing of your three compatriots. Twelve classes, split between three generic foci-magic, melee, and special- are available after a simple choice of gender and name. (which makes it tougher since you're told of female-only dungeons later on. Returning to Level 1 to change a class isn't exactly recommended by this reviewer, people) Each ability, from the collectible Tarot Cards from your Harlequin to buying tools and recipes for Engineers and Witches respectively, is effectively diverse while staying within strict parameters; While the Mesmer's buffing and status-aliment spells can be more effective and less random than the dual-wielding, money-tossing Ronin or the all-purpose Druid, but with each playthough, the different play-styles you'll have to experience with each class keeps the player from consistently using the same strategy in each chapter. As the hunter Holdana, the lycanthropic mage Zefiyirn, Ninja warrior Akira, or Monk Raj Ahtan, your local exploits get more prestige as you rise to higher and higher as a hero, when you are eventually called to battle to the main capital through a teleporter. This game is very polished; towns and dungeons hold treasure in boxes hidden areas, or in quests such as finding Bessie the Wondercow....and no, I'm not making this up. Combined with a ability-heavy battle system, innovative encounters and places to explore like the Amazing Funhouse, and even more detail with a day/night cycle which changes all towns, the player will be pressing Shift to search underfoot for all the little goodies. Those Tiny Medals are important. The difficulty of the game lies within the realm the old-school “Nintenhard” games with a dash of originality; early combat lacks the equipment for consistent survival, and the money drops are few. Status ailments are once again the player's friend as the enemy groups max out at eight, making buffers and subsequent combo or all-attack magics and class skills lay waste. The risk equals the rewards as the monster-in-a box returns after a long hiatus , and a token system allows for resupply by defeating certain classes of monsters for the prize and trading them at vendors found all over.

While Kentona is clearly well-versed at compelling and detailed gameplay, his sprite set is from Final Fantasy V and IV with (or without) a color swap. While I personally have no problem with developers using pre-established sprites, the community seems to. I respond to those opinions very simply:

Seriously. These developers work long and hard on these games on more fronts than just how their characters look; setting, story concepts, as well as gameplay. We're not all custom spriters, and it's what the Resources page is for....With that rant finished, my only real peeve falls some of the blatant references to sub-par and excellent anime series (guess which by the third chapter....sigh) and some bugs I've yet to get fixes for, such as the ability Goof-Off from a certain item. I'll never know laughter, at this rate. While the game is pinned by Kentona at just over four hours, all the exploration and item collection I found myself doing has placed this completely beyond that at about eight or more by the end of two chapters...and the game is released in these forms? Chapter 5 hasn't even been officially completed yet, but from an extremely intriguing multi-party system last seen in Final Fantasy VI fourteen years ago and the game hopefully becomes less linear, I have great expectations for this throwback to my childhood. Explorative, detailed gameplay with a strong setting is what you can expect from Hero's Realm, and I approve of that product and/or service.


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When you're so cool you can troll your own website.
NOTE: Aurabolt responds with "Suck it up, Cupcake!"

Thanks for the review. It is very well written.
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