A heros call review, by Lord Lundin
Please note that this review is just a quick draft and there might be updates to it in the future. I put it out there so I wouldn't forget about it.
* The aim of this review
* my initial reactions
* sound design
* story and game play
* the world
* game balance and challenge aspect
* the price
* closing, conclusion and my thoughts
The aim of this review
This review aims to shed light on my experiences with a heros call, the mideval fantasy rpg from outofsightgames, released on December 29th, 2017 after having been in development for some 5 years.
There are both positive and negative aspects to the game, of which I would like to highlight both types. This is more of a review for the developer rather than the end user, as I would like to give the developers feedback for future projects, both what their strong points are and their less than adequit points are as well.
My initial reactions
As might be expected, my initial reaction was excitement. I had just bought a pair of new headphones as well, and from the amazing audio teasers I've heard I knew I'd be in for a special treat.
I woke up at 2 AM that morning to find out that a heros call had been released and so I went ahead and bought it. The purchasing and installation process was really smooth and couldn't have been made any easier.
Interface is really important. Usually the best games have the simplest interfaces but most complex mechanics, we see this in titles such as the BK series, Perilous Hearts, Tactical Battle, Entombed - plenty of games do this. A heros call was no different. Never once did I pick up the manual during the first day of gameplay. See, if an interface is too complicated, most players will just not bother to learn it no matter how awesome the game would be otherwise. The trick is to have a very basic gameplay but intuitive use of mechanics. For example, never once were you told in Perilous Hearts that if you pissed off one of the big kitties, then went up a tree and teased him above the quicksand, he would possibly fall in and drown. But that game allowed for plenty of experimentation with what was given.
The radar and over all navigation system is about as revolutionary as Shades of Doom was back in the days, and I have a feeling future developers will base their navigation system on A Heros call. There were a few miner inconveniences, being that you couldn't turn less than 45 degrees with the keyboard, custom beacons being eremovable, and a couple of other small things which in no way breaks the experience and would be easy to fix without overhauling the entire navigation system.
Well what can I say? This game sounds absolutely amazing, from the scenery to voice acting to combat, this game has it all in terms of sounds. There are tweeks that could be done, particularly in the battle scenes - as well as some more ambiences while walking about in the wilderness. Who cares though really? This game's sound design definitely rival those in the mainstream market.
Story and gameplay
Unfortunately at this stage, this is where I will have to start critasising. While the story wasn't at all bad, there was nothing amazing about it either. It was just your average RPG story if even that. I feel that the stories such as the ones presented in the BK series offer more emotional investment.
I would've liked to see a lot more background information on the different characters, more conflicts - more something out of the ordinary.
One thing I have to give to the A Heros Call team however is that the story doesn't force quests down your throats, making it into a frustrating go-fetch-this-and-that just to advance the storyline. Quests feel like little extras available for you, and not something you have to undertake. There were no cheap scapes in that aspects, and by that I mean nothing that felt forced on you. If you want good examples of this, go listen to The Leviathan Cronicals.
The world, while small, is interesting to explore with a couple of hidden secrets here and there. I wish there would've been more descriptive audio, and a way to review your surroundings and get an actual description of it as the audio would've been nowhere near sufficient enough to represent everything - Terraformers did this really, really well.
As for the descriptions that exist, for items and characters, they are extremely short and generic and sometimes don't even describe the actual item but rather the history / use of the item.
Game balance and challenge aspect
The game is pretty balanced generally, between classes and various levels.
However, I'm afraid this section will also be riddled with negativity.
Boss battles in general really don't feel like boss battles somehow. There's too little strategy in this game as a whole. Even something like a fire dragon who would be impossible to defeat unless you were wearing fire protective gear would be a vast improvement.
While there was plenty of content and info to be had, they weren't used cleverly. All you essencially have to do is follow the instructions on the quest logs, which was hand-holding. The only two true puzzles there were which in themselves were fairly easy were the mysteries of deepwood poem describing the randomised order in which you have to press the carvings in the tree, and the dials to open a door in the mauseleum, I actually thought this one was pretty good ... though why the numbers were on the tombstones to begin with for no other reason than to solve a puzzle is beyond me.
Replayability, something which the game promised great amounts of, well ... it doesn't really feature much of that. The only reason I replayed it is to test that. Small choices effect individual outcomes, but doesn't change too much really. You still end up defeating the main boss and being a hero in the end.
Is it worth 20 bucks? Fuck yeah! Take my analagy using a pizza, a good-quality pizza in a well-known restaurant here costs between 10 to 20 bucks. I get full and satisfied for about 20 minutes or the time it takes to eat it. Compare this to a heros call which have brought me days of entertainment, it's money worth spent. In fact, the price tag is a bit of a joke seeing as there're lessor-quality games charging double or tripple the amount that a heros call did.
Closing, conclusion and my thoughts
The developer said the reason the price tag is so low as it's reaching for a mainstream audience. The interest a heros call will generate there is null, even if it was free. It simply has too little content to keep someone interested that's used to their experiences with mainstream games. Look at any browser game or mud and you'll see hundreds of players active both blind and sighted. And why is that? The social experience and the amount of content as these games don't feature voice acting or expensive sound effects, they are able to stuff more content into things.
I am sorry to say this, but I think a heros call is heading the wrong direction if they wish to reach a mainstream audience. It doesn't matter how brilliant the voice acting or the sound effects are, because at the end of the day, once the initial amazement is over bordom will strike again for anyone who has things to play like Battlefield 4 or amnesia or whatever you want to play that has more to offer than indi-devs ever will.
So my advice would be to not try and merge the VI-market with the mainstream market. Or if you're going to, create something like [wow] or mud-like.
Feed my ego with those thumbs up!