Heroes of a Broken Land Review
Among my first computer games were Bard's Tale 3 and Wizardry 6, two first person dungeon crawlers, which I loved. They were defined by complex pen and paper party mechanics, tough fights, and slowly building up your characters to take on new and deadlier challenges. My first SRPG was Heroes of Might and Magic I, which had a world to explore with new and interesting things to find at every corner of each map. Heroes of a Broken Land tries to combine these two genres. It also tries to provide endless play by randomly generating the world, its dungeons, adventurers, and treasures.
You play a demi-god, a great wizard who has ascended to a semi-divine form and whose job it is to help to rebuild the world after a terrible catastrophe. You choose your wizard at the beginning of the game, and he or she gives each of your adventurers a passive bonus, such as an xp bonus or a higher starting defence. You also get a town. Your town only starts with your crystaline palace, from which you can recruit adventurers.
You also get a starting party of six characters, whose professions you can choose, and whose stats you can reroll within limits. Each character can start as a fighter, priest, mage, or rogue. Each class gains certain skills as it levels up, and access to certain equipment. However, classes are pretty flexible. Mages can learn fighter skills from books, and rogues can learn priest spells if they visit a temple. Despite this, certain classes have certain avantages that no other class can learn. Fighters can specialize with weapons, Rogues can disarm traps, wizards can cast spells for less spell points, and priests have spells which last longer.
You can build a limited number of buildings in your town. Each one offers different advantages and can be upgraded. The farm offers extra income each round, which is super at the start of a game, but nearly worthless at the end. In the temple you can buy progressively better cleric spells, and when fully upgraded, you can upgrade your fighters into knights or your clerics into bishops. The weaponsmith offers you better weapons, and if you also build an enchanter, you can get magic weapons as well. But you need a watch tower to prevent the large number of wandering monsters from attacking your town regulary, and are you willing to pass up on an arena to train your fighters and advance them into the gladiator class? These are tough decisions. You can get access to parts of these buildings on the world map. For example, I didn't buy a wizard's tower, but eventually found schools of fire, water, earth, and air on the world map, where I could buy certain spells and advance my mages to sorcerers (if they could past the school's test!). Also eventually you find other towns, which you can help by doing quests, and after enough of these, you can bring then under your control. In these new towns, you can build two additional buildings and recruit unique non human allies.
You'll need more allies too. You can have up to six parties of six characters each. Some dungeons need multiple parties to defeat. Each party enters a different part of the dungeon and opens access to areas for the other party or parties by finding and throwing switches. Also, you'll want a party to defend your town(s) or solve lower level quests, which you don't want to bother your main party with. In addition, you'll probably want to try out all of the elite classes and unique race-classes to find out which ones you want to include in your main party.
Exploring the map in Heroes of Might and Magic style, dungeon crawling in the first person perspective, managing your resources to invest in better skills, better equipment, better buildings, progressing into advanced classes, as well as figuring out how the game's complex character system works make for very addictive gameplay, especially at the beginning of the game.
I chose a large-sized world (size four or six) and have played about 45 hours already, and am only beginning to come within sight of finishing. After so much gaming time, I've become increasingly aware of the limits of the game. I can forgive the painfully mediocre graphics, which have a hard time competing with Wizardry 6's 25 year old sprites. I can also forgive the repetitive and somewhat out-of-place sound track. For me that is part of playing an indie retro game. However, for a game of this scope, which theoretically offers endless play, I would have hoped for more content. For example, there are skeletons, ghosts, rats, bats, slimes, and elementals in the game. Sure there are more than 10 different kinds of slimes, all with different colours and powers, but even so, after 40 hours I'm getting kind of sick of slimes. Also dungeons are divided into caves, mazes, towers, and mines. Even though the floor plans are random, I'm also getting tired of seeing the same tile sets repeat themselves.
Yuck! Not more slimes!
So would I recommend Heroes of a Broken Land? Well, I still enjoy playing the game after 45 hours, and found myself playing over five hours one sleepy Sunday afternoon, much to the chagrin of my wife. On the other hand, it's definitely a niche product. If you really like the kind of 90's dungeon crawlers and strategy games which inspired it, and you're willing to forgive the rather primitive presentation of the game, then I'm sure you'll have fun with Heroes of a Broken Land for a while.
- Great retro RPG mechanics.
- Fun exploration.
- Lots of options.
- Resource management is well done.
- Not enough variation among enemies.
- Not enough variation with dungeon tiles.
- Graphics are not only old, but unattractive.
- Music is out of place and too repetitive.