Sunday, January 12, 2020

The good, bad, and ugly of Heroland (or, why I'm thinking of walking away from this oddball RPG after putting 20-plus hours into it)

The topic of this post may surprise those of you who noticed that I named Heroland in my "favorite games of 2019 that aren't The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince or Lapis x Labyrinth" write-up.

Don't get me wrong, I stand by its inclusion there--despite the fact that I'm giving serious thought to pulling the plug on my lengthy Heroland playthrough well in advance of the game's end credits.

How could I both enjoy this unique PC, PS4, and Switch RPG--called Work x Work in Japan--and bounce off it before encountering its credit roll? That's what I'll hopefully explain here.

The good

Physical copies come with a frickin' instruction manual--And not only that, but Heroland's manual is pretty nice. It's 25 pages long, printed in full color, and filled with a ton of lovely illustrations. Oh, and it's small enough it actually fits in the game's case. I wouldn't suggest buying a physical copy of Heroland just so you can flip through this booklet whenever the urge arises, but it sure is a nice bonus if you purchase one for at least a couple of other reasons.

It dares to do things differently--I love role-playing games to death, but even I think they can be a little too samey. Well, Heroland approaches the well-worn genre from a unique angle. I guess I should've expected that. After all, it was made by folks who previously worked on Fantasy LifeMagical Vacation, and even Mother 3. Heroland doesn't play like any of those titles, though. It's actually kind of--gulp!--mobile game-esque in its design. To advance the story, you take on quests that revolve around guiding four-person parties through areas of a theme park. Said park has an RPG theme, so naturally it features battles with baddies. (Though the baddies here are just other humans in costumes.) Being a guide, you don't do any fighting yourself; rather, you bark out orders to customers who paid to partake in such tussles. That probably sounds boring to a good portion of you, but I've found it fairly fun so far.

Heroland's soundtrack is surprisingly magical--Or maybe I should call it sneakily impressive? I say this because Heroland's OST didn't strike me as superb right away. It wasn't until a couple of days after I started playing it, when I realized I was humming the game's main battle theme, that such a thought entered my head. On a related note, Tsukasa Masuko's work here is more playful than serious or somber--appropriate, given Heroland's amusement-park setting.

The bad

Everyone in Heroland talks too much--Everyone except the silent, afro-coifed protagonist, that is. I'm not always keen on silent protagonists in games, but Heroland's thrills me. I mean, if ol' Lucky (that's the main character's name) added his two cents to every conversation, this role-player would be even more blathery than it is already. Oh, well, at least Heroland's wall of text is witty.

I wish its developers would've gone further with the board game-esque playfields--Although it's possible things open up in this regard as Heroland approaches its denouement, I'm not betting on it doing so. Assuming I'm right, that's a real shame. While the game changes up its sorties now and then by tossing new environments and enemies at the player, they otherwise remain disappointingly straightforward. Personally, I would've loved it if the playfields that serve as the backbone of Heroland's silly quests were filled with twists and turns--or at least a few more slight bends.

The ugly

Battles don't become a whole lot more strategic or even interesting after the five- or 10-hour mark--Though there's more depth to Heroland's skirmishes than the game leads you to believe early on, things seem to level off in that regard once you're a few hours into its story. Admittedly, I'm still enjoying them quite a bit, but I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy them a lot more if I could make even a couple more choices while telling the park's customers what to do against the horde of adorable enemies they encounter during their Heroland adventures.

It lasts way too long--When I started playing Heroland, I assumed it would take me 15 to 20 hours to finish. Around the time I hit the 15-hour mark, I asked folks on Twitter how long it took them to beat the game. The answer I received shocked me: over 40 hours. Twenty hours in, I've long since forgotten the thrust of Heroland's story--which suggests to me it's already gone on far too long. How on earth am I supposed to give it 20 more hours of my time?

See also: 'A few impressions of the recently released Romancing SaGa 3 remake now that I've put more than 20 hours into it'

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