Tuesday, November 22, 2016

First Impressions: Hero's Song

Hero's Song
Developer/Publisher: Pixelmage Games

DISCLAIMER: This game is still in Early Access. All thoughts and opinions herein are related to the game during its development state. Features/content are subject to change and this is not a final representation of the game.

A Micro-MMORPG is the best way I can think to describe Hero's Song. It wraps up so many elements into one, that nailing down a genre is difficult. We got the Diablo style Action/RPG, we have randomization of many in-games aspects and permadeath like Roguelikes, the crafting of survival games, and finally the multiplayer/co-op aspects. One could ask, by pulling in so many directions, can the developer Pixelmage make a cohesive game? Well, time will tell on this one but we can talk about the basic core concepts of Hero's Song which are unique, and very interesting.

It should be noted that the game is still in Alpha, many aspects are likely to change and may evolve in deeper ways. Pixelmage is making a concerted effort to put updates out regularly and take player feedback as well. Why I am mentioning this, aside from my huge disclaimer at the top, is that I am not going to be talking about any faults or glaring issues, despite Hero's Song having its fair share currently.

The main selling point for Hero's Song is by far is the god based world crafting. Depending on the map size you choose, you will pick gods with certain characteristics that alter the world in dramatic ways. From the size of settlements, the geography, to the amount of magic in the world, you can craft your own personal hell or a delightful world of order and peace. I personally crafted my own world of darkness and found myself immediately being killed by wolves as soon as I spawned. Be careful what you wish for or it might just come true.

The world crafting also creates random landmasses to explore, all riddled with hundreds of dungeons and interesting sights and sounds. The game constructs a long list of events that crafts the history of your world. I am very curious to see how these dungeons will feel meaningful in a randomized history. The possibility for some dynamic narrative is compelling if not slightly too good to be true. That being said, I absolutely loved moving sliders up and down and seeing what different effects this might have per world. While I may have tried the extremes of both ends, I hope the finer subtle details are not lost on balanced worlds.

Another impressive notch on the Hero's Song belt is the amount of classes there are, and even more are added bringing the total to twenty one. Each class will have its own set of unique active and passive abilities, and I can only imagine how much a nightmare it will be to balance all of these will be. This amount of classes in an ARPG is an impressive task alone and throw in the multiplayer into the mix makes for some epic sounding game play.

While my experience was short, I did have quite a bit of fun playing this game with my wife as we attempted to make it to a nearby dungeon. Sadly, we didn't make it very far, but did learn that melee classes are currently a death trap. After that realization, I stuck with magic/ranged attacks.

As we died and spawned over and over again we managed to find the games crafting system. As if Hero's Song wasn't already robust enough, on top of random worlds and a plethora of classes, the crafting system adds another huge layer of depth. While we lacked most of the materials to craft anything impressive, we did create healing potions, campfires, and a piece of bone armor. We certainly got a taste for how it would work. Scrounging materials from our slain foes and materials in the wilderness to make our survival supplies.

One area that I hope the developer does hold off on, is its attempts to be, "Hardcore". While I love Roguelikes and permadeath, forming a relationship with any character currently is very difficult as death is rather fast and sometimes unfair.

Hero's Song hopes to craft wonderful deep randomized worlds and I would like to explore it, and not waste time. I am sure as the game is developed, this will be contested many times but all I ask is that it is left as an option.

One area that has drawn some derision is the games aesthetic. Keeping in mind that nothing is final, I would argue that the style choice is actually a rather smart idea for making good but quick content. Given the scale and grandeur that Hero's Song hopes to attain, we find ourselves in a situation where the game may end up a mile wide but an inch deep. Something has got to give in this situation to get all these ideas into one game and make them work cohesively. Now while I do have some feelings of my own about the graphical style, I would advise people to hold off until we get a final product. Games radically change during development. Hero's Song is bound to as well.

The possibilities for Hero's Song are endless adventures with friends, in worlds where you can be the hero or villain. While the idea of seeing something new and different every time does sound too good to be true, keep in mind the team developing the game is experienced, and if anybody could pull it off it could be this team. Bringing this full circle, with a team of mostly veterans of SOE(Sony Online Entertainment) I think you can see why I call this more of a Micro-MMORPG. The sheer amount of work that is going to have to be put into this title seems to match its impressive predecessors.

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