Trine developer Frozenbyte is about to release its next game in April, and it’s a difficult game to understand in screenshots. So let’s take some time to explain what it’s all about.
Has Been Heroes is due out April 4 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. It’s a roguelike (where you don’t have persistent progress from one session to the next and your foes take an action each time you take one) with strategy action where your goal is to control a team of three heroes in their quest to take twin princesses to school. You are trying to maximize your skills to get as far as possible during one of your runs until you are able to complete that task. In the moment-to-moment combat, your goal is to prevent waves of enemies from reaching the princesses. You do that by attacking with your characters, which will knock back and eventually kill the villainous hordes. But the challenge comes in the form of managing which lane your heroes should stand in while successfully using their special powers.
I’ve put a couple of hours into my Switch copy of Has Been Heroes, and I’ve started to get the hang of things. You can see me get through the entire first area in the video above, but let me also explain some of the nuances in Frozenbyte’s design.
Has Been Heroes mashes up a lot of different ideas into a fresh take on roguelike gameplay. During combat, enemies attack in Plants vs. Zombies-style lanes, and you can send your heroes out to attack the undead enemies coming down their column. But as soon as your hero strikes their opponent, the game freezes and you can make some of the strategic decisions. Now that your hero has rushed forward to attack, this creates a gap in their column and you can swap in one of your other two heroes into that space. This enables you to double- or triple-up on attacks, which is a mandatory tactic. By immediately following up with a second and third strike, you can break through shields or send strong creepers flying backward to give you more time to kill them before they reach you.
On top of your standard rush attacks, your heroes also have buffs and special moves. These enable you to do more powerful melee swings, to turn enemies against one another, and to push back the horde with a exploding potato.
When everything comes together, you’re juggling a satisfying amount of information. You want to ensure that you have your hero with the quickest cooldown timer in the column with the most imminent threat, and then you need to know when to attack with your standard strike or with a special move. Efficient positioning and power usage is the key, but it’s also deep and difficult. Has Been Heroes has a lot to master, but it clearly has the potential to put players in a zone where you are reacting on instinct after taking the time to learn the systems. And I really like that after getting just a taste of it so far.