If you like to hack and slash your way through a game, then D&D: Heroes is for you. Fans of Baldur’s Gate and Diablo will absolutely love this game–especially when playing with multiple friends.
Let’s face it, leveling up and growing stronger is very addicting. Even though I’ve killed more rats, snakes, spiders, and other demonic creatures than I should, I still cannot put the controller down. I always want to know what is around the next corner and which special move I’ll learn next. Busting every pot and crate is essential because you fear that you might miss a rare and solid item like the Bow of the Bear + 2. Upgrading armor always racks your brain because you don’t know whether to go with a high defensive standing or stay with one that increases strength. Cooperative planning with your fellow companion is essential because you must divvy up your heavy weight load and see who could most benefit from the permanent increase in Dexterity potion. I can’t really explain it; dungeon crawling is just plain fun.
Heroes is just like any hack and slash RPG adventure before it. Just like Diablo or Baldur’s Gate, gameplay takes place through an isometric overhead view. Players must fight their way through dungeons, swamps, and caves to stop the ultimate evil. The more enemies you kill, the more experience and gold you will receive. The more gold you have, the better range of armor you can purchase from. As with experience, each level-up rewards you with more energy and magic points. Corresponding with the level you are on, you gain attribute points that are used to upgrade your stats or attacking abilities. For example, when you reach level 3, you will gain 30 attribute points. You are given the choice to save your points for a really expensive but powerful move, or you can upgrade yourself as soon as something becomes available.
Players can choose from four different types of playable characters: a human warrior, a dwarf cleric, a halfling rogue, or an elf sorcerer. Each character class has their own strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, you can only change your character’s name. However, the game really shines in the multiplayer department. Unlike Baldur’s Gate, up to four players can join in the cooperative quest. Getting four players to sit in one room at one time can be challenging so Atari built this game around this. Players can join in and/or leave at anytime. Just plug a controller in and press start to join, or just pause the game and hit ‘Leave Game’ in the options menu to exit the game. Players can even load a character into a current game or character via memory card.
As if deciding which character you and your friends are going to be wasn’t exciting enough, the action really kicks into high gear when you start your journey. Different kinds of mission objectives will keep the story flowing. You will do everything from finding rare items to saving princesses. Each has its own rewards and challenges. Every environment is pleasurable and supports a different look and feel from the last. Poisonous snakes roam free in the green tree levels while rats and other small crawly things dominate the caves and dungeon levels. Each set of enemies requires a different strategy when both attacking and defending against them. For example, it would be smart to equip yourself with poison resistant armor when fighting the poisonous snakes of the forest.
Without a doubt, the action in this game is intense. However, it never seems to stray into the realms of impossible. This is a good thing to prevent players from reaching fot the power button. Just be sure to equip yourself properly and keep a hefty amount of heal potions in your pack. If you feel the game is too easy or hard, the difficulty can be adjusted through the options menu.
Upgrading armor is an important part of staying alive. It is possible to purchase armor from the castle shoppe, but the best armor is usually found out in the field. Enemies might drop an item that contains an extra +1 attribute or possess some other kind of special ability such as resistance to fire. To keep the graphical quality in this game appealing, each new piece of armor or weapon that is equipped will change how your character appears. It’s visually refreshing to equip enchanted weapons, like a fire sword, because the blade glows with a dancing flame.
The play control is very friendly and customizable. The default control setting is a perfect setup for the intense action of battle. Moving is done with the left analog stick while the face buttons attack. Each face button can be assigned to the attack that you want. Changing your attacks and items are easily done and occur in real time. When the player holds down the right shoulder trigger, the game slows down. This gives the player the chance to change his/her attacks through a simple and quick menu system while still being engaged in the action. Plus, this is really handy when immersed with multiple players. Your friends will not want to stop the intense action just because you decide you want to change your finishing move.
Finishing moves are a charm. After you purchase them through leveling up, they can be assigned to any face button. When you perform your standard attack, a small meter will grow by your character’s profile. Once this gauge is filled, your finishing move can be used. Finishing moves are a great way to dispose of your enemies. However, each one of these special moves will cost Mystical Will (magic) points. Magic and health will slowly regenerate over time but an immediate restoration solution can be found in potions. Conveniently, potions are accessed through the black and white buttons. One is assigned to health while the other restores your Mystical Will.
The camera can be rotated freely with the right analog stick. Changing the camera is very important to see your entire surroundings but it can be cumbersome when playing with many people because your control changes with the camera movement. A teammate should announce when he is going to move the camera to prevent any confusion. Also, unlike Baldur’s Gate, the option exists to zoom in and out with the camera. Zooming out is great for a wide view, but it can also be fun to see the action up close to view detail.
In my opinion, I think Baldur’s Gate has better graphics. However, this doesn’t mean that D&D: Heroes is bad. On occasion, some textures just seemed a little washed out or muddy and the character models are not as detailed. But there are some very clean special effects, such as fire spells and poisonous clouds. The music is decent too. The tempo of the music fits the environment of the game and the sound effects suit the action. It is also good to know that the game runs in Dolby Digital 5.1.
The game seems to have a save point whenever you need one. The player is also given the option to save at any time through the pause menu, but save points can be used to go to back to the shoppe via a special return stone. Just as the recall potions worked in Baldur’s Gate, players can go back to the shoppe to sell any unwanted items and stock up on new supplies.
Even though this game is extreme fun, I still have a few minor problems with it. Firstly, only one person at a time can access the subscreen. Baldur’s Gate allowed both players to adjust their armor and other stats simultaneously. However, each player must wait his turn to adjust his settings. This can be a very long and drawn out process when playing with four players. I would have also liked to see this game online through Xbox Live. Downloading new levels, characters, and items could have increased the replay value considerably. Plus, online co-op play would make this game easier to play with people’s busy lives and schedules.
While not being as polished as Baldur’s Gate, D&D: Hereos is still a very fun game to play. The game can be a bore playing solo, but multi-player is a blast. While I enjoyed my time with this game, I would liked to have seen a little bit more in the character customization department. Changing the character’s physical appearance, randomly generated levels, and a combo attack with a fellow player would have increased the replay value, too. Nevertheless, Heroes is an excellent game that carries on the Dungeons and Dragons tradition. Now, go find a friend or three and try to reach level 100.