Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: FuRyu
Release Date: Dec. 3, 2019


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PC Review - 'Heroland'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on April 28, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Heroland is a 2D adventure that brings together quirky heroes for a new take on classic RPG-style combat.

Heroland is set in the titular Heroland, an amusement park that people visit to live out their dreams of being heroes. You play as a new employee who has been hired as a guide for the park's many visitors, including a disgraced prince and a man in an otter suit (or is it an otter pretending to be a man?). Beneath Heroland's cheery exterior lies a dark evil, and eventually, the heroes find themselves doing something more than just pretending.

Heroland spends the entirety of the game with its tongue in cheek. The cast are all self-aware and silly, and each has a bevy of charming quirks. A major part of this is the absolutely stellar localization job done by XSEED. The dialogue is funny and always reads naturally. Some of the jokes fall flat or wear out their welcome after a while, but that's inevitable given the quantity of jokes that the game throws at you. The characters and the story keep the game enjoyable, but you learn to expect clichés aplenty.

An average day in Heroland involves working for the company to earn $tarfish (living, breathing starfish used as company scrip), which you can use to purchase decorations, items or various other things. Then you'll report to your job of taking a tour group through a dungeon, and after a while, you earn rewards and repeat. That's basically the game in a nutshell: Lead tour groups to earn money, so you can buy items to lead stronger groups into deeper dungeons to earn more money.

Dungeons in Heroland take the form of small, linear passageways divided into circles, each of which has an event, treasure, monster … or something else. You can change which path your heroes venture down, but it's a march to the end of the dungeon, so you have to plan carefully. More monsters mean more experience and potentially more chances to screw up the tour and upset your guests.

The combat system in Heroland is not quite what you'd consider standard. Rather like Persona 3 or Final Fantasy XIII, most of the characters act on their own merits. Your control over the fight is limited by a meter that slowly fills up as the skirmish wages on. When it is maxed out, you can issue a direct command to a specific character, use an item, or issue a general command (such as "attack this foe") to all of the characters at once. Once you've issued an action, your ability to order goes on cooldown, and you're unable to influence the fight until it recharges.

This might sound awkward, but at first, it was pretty fun. It takes the busywork out of battles, and the character AI is generally good enough that you only need to issue commands at very specific moments or if someone is targeted too many times in a row. You can see both enemy and ally attack lines before actions occur, so if someone is doing something wrong, you can gently step in to correct it. Most of the time, this means making your heroes target minions before the main boss or defend when a huge attack is incoming.

There's also a meta-level of strategy involved in that your goal is to keep your guests happy and healthy. Using your commands wisely can assure everyone gives you a positive rating when they leave. Do poorly, and they'll leave you a 1 faster than an Uber passenger in a car crash. Higher rankings improve your guide's skills more quickly, which in turn means you can use more actions, so it's worthwhile to keep people happy whenever possible.

There isn't a tremendous ton of strategy in Heroland. Clever use of your abilities can sometimes turn a lost fight into a winning one, but most of the time, the key to overcoming a challenge is grinding. You can grind heroes relatively easily, and the game's speed-up function assures that if it's a dungeon the heroes can handle effortlessly, they'll zoom through quickly. You might not get quite as many rewards as if you carefully went through the entire dungeon, but usually, the extra time and effort don't pay off enough to be worth it.

The biggest issue with Heroland is that it overstays its welcome. It's slightly more complicated than Cookie Clicker, but the majority of its gameplay is automated, and there's not a lot of variation in strategy. The stats that are required for certain dungeons require grinding — especially if a dungeon has a "VIP" member who is below the average level. Heroland is also available on the Switch, where it feels like a much better fit than on a desktop or laptop. It's the kind of game you pick up and play for a few minutes at a time, and it's only the lack of paywall restrictions that keep it from feeling like a mobile game.

The art style for Heroland does a lot of the heavy lifting. The characters are static sprites on 3D "bodies" that bounce, grow, shrink and twist to express emotions. It's very simple but also bizarrely charming. The game makes great use of what is clearly a low budget to make everything work together well. The soundtrack is quite good, but it leans too hard on generic JRPG music . It fits the tone of the game, but I would've preferred more variety and quality.

Heroland is a charming game that simply lasts too long. The first impression is super positive, reminding me of Half-Minute Hero and similar delightful titles, and for the first few hours, the gameplay strikes a good balance between engaging and hands-on. As time goes on, it starts to drag, and only the quality of the translation can help push the game over the finish line. If you can play Heroland on something portable, it is far easier to recommend, but it just doesn't have what it takes to be a sit-down-and-play game.

Score: 7.0/10

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