Bookrage's review of "Hero's Rise: The Prodigy"
I have another game to bring to you today, this one being the highly acclaimed "Hero's Rise: The prodigy," which many people who like choiceofgames tell me is pretty good. I've played it and I'll tell you what I think of it.
biases: I have a particular liking of the superhero Genre.
Genre: This is a superhero game set in a more high-tech future where superheroes are common and many of the prejudices of today are no more. I thought it would be more generic than it was and that I would be able to pick my powers and such, but you have flight and energy powers. That said, within your role it is still a fascinating game. There is one major problem with the genre that bothers me about the worldbuilding, but that will be discussed in the writing section. It also promises intrigues and relationship stuff, and it is something it delivers well.
writing: This game is quite long with 21 chapters, plus an epilogue and prologue, and it gives you a wide array of things to do. The game has its moments of superhero action, but often having to navigate the landscape politically is better written, and often more interesting, though I admit intrigues and jockeying for position socially are my cup of tea.
Battles are quite interesting, and the author gives you a lot of different cool things to do with your powers, which is one of the benefits of the author choosing your abilities for you when they wrote the story. This means that the game can be much more detailed rather than if you picked things like super-strength, elemental powers, or telekenisis or other common superhero abilities in an introductory chapter.
The intrigues are also quite good and may in fact, be the better part of this story, though the superhero action is by no means bad. The characters you interact with, for the most part, are real and breathing characters and most have distinct personalities, motivations, and methods you can figure out as you play, from the members of the hero group, to your grandmother, to Jenny, your hero agent. Navigating these relationships in the superhero world proved more fun for me than the fights.
There is some sloppy proofreading in places that should've been caught as certain sections of the story, particularly close to the end, have bad grammar and misspellings that even a casual read with voiceover catches, which suggests that more editing was needed. Truth be told though, though unfinished professional works bother me, this wasn't severe enough to really get me upset.
Probably the oddest thing about the game and the only real problem with the writing in my opinion is that the writer is unintentionally very hypocritical in their world. This is a world where things like transphobia, homophobia, sexism, and racism no longer exist. This is a nice thing to think about until you consider some of the characters. Several of them in their design, engage in stereotypes pretty heavily. Jury is an enormous gay stereotype, and while Jenny is more subtle, she isn't exactly free of lesbian stereotyping either. Processor is a computer that identifies as female and demonstrates that with huge light-up breasts in her avatar, and you see this elsewhere as well though I have named the most blatant examples here.
Also, sometimes the game can give you whiplash on decisions you make in relationships to tell the story. I said I agreed and sympathized with a character's dark secret, but the game had us have a fight and then kept referring to "how bad I treated them" in several future chapters even though my behavior to this character had been very kind and sympathetic throughout.
mechanics: This game is the first one where I've seen you have to really manage health bars in the form of your health and power levels in addition to the typical rocker stats that increase while others decrease and a few that simply go up and down independently like your relationships with your various contacts and other characters. I'll admit I'm not a fan of the health bar-like mechanics but I realize that not liking a mechanic is not the same as thinking it is bad, as in fact, it's a very good and creative mechanic that is managed well and offers gameplay that many other titles lack. Admittedly although a lot of stats are easy to understand, sometimes the application of them is difficult to map. However, unlike in many titles, this is not a bad thing. The game is more of a strategy game than most and it wants the player to use their brains and have to think about it. Usually choices, if you make the wrong ones, make sense in hindsight, which I think is intentional and not something to the game's discredit.
railroading: The game has a pretty specific background for you, and although I know the game branches in a few places, there is a degree of progression to it where you are led to several important events in the story. This part of the story does not bother me as it is a complex story that needs to hit a lot of points for a very satisfying climax and some of the tightening of the reins is actually not a bad thing here.
The part that does bother me is sometimes how the game makes you interpret your own actions or the way the world interprets yours. Because of certain emergencies late-game, they make a big deal that "charges will not be pressed," where no realistic law enforcement would question if I killed someone (and I didn't kill anyone) and sometimes the right/wrong aspect of certain actions seems a little skewed in the context of the situation if you really think about it.
Also, sometimes the game will force certain interactions with you despite your choices. I chose to be sympathetic and understanding with a character's dark secret, but the game, without dimming out that choice, made us fight and then kept talking about how I was horrible to this person for several chapters, just to manufacture a reconciliation that really had no purpose based on how I behaved.
romance: This game seems to do things a little differently than I'm used to with other titles. Most titles populate the world with romancible NPCs based on your sexual preferences or essentially introduce pansexual characters who don't make up their mind on what sex they like unless you approach them romantically. This game seems to, though I may be wrong as I have only played it once, have a standard population of characters who have not only sex determined automatically, but sexuality as well. Jury is Gay, Jenny is a lesbian, Black magic seems bisexual if I'm interpreting that part of the game correctly, and it seems based on how things are written, that that is how it works. In one way, it is very realistic as the world exists a certain way no matter how you lean. On the other hand, I admittedly found Jenny the most charming of the ladies in the game which was a bit disappointing for romantic prospects because I was male.
In the romance I actually had, it gets a little steamy and they practically threw my love interest at my head and things went really fast from first meeting to a fade-to-black scene. There is a bit of an in-world explanation for this but it didn't quite sit well with me. That said, I did find the way the character was written charming and attractive even so.
achievements: really good ones. This is the first title I have seen that has hidden achievements and I'm eager to find out what those are. Also, the game has a wide variety of achievements such as sparing a certain character, getting a perfect hero score by the end of the game, winding up an outlaw, winning a certain award, and the like. Most of them are quite complex and a lot of them are not possible to get on one playthrough which gives this game a lot of replay value.
closing remarks: "Hero's Rise: The prodigy" is a game that merges superheroics and politics, and does both of them well. Though there is some problematic content in terms of some stereotyping, some whiplash from odd writing, and alittle boxing in with a pre-determined, but very good backstory, to date, this is one of the better titles I have played. At the time I am writing this. It is #3 on my list, but it is not far behind choice of broadsides or diabolical in quality and although I have a few small problems with this game, you are definitely not going to regret spending your money for this one.