Battle Riders - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Racing / Action
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Battle Riders is a racing game. Plot twist: there are also weapons involved. You race around in your car while trying to destroy other racers. There are multiple game modes and three bonus types (ammo, boost, health) spread across the tracks. While the premise sounds simple, the execution is surprisingly fun.

The Good

  • Old-School racing feel and great car handling. The car really feels good to control. And the game is just fun.
  • Decent AI opponents: the AI is not unbeatable, but you’ll definitely need to practice and you will get surprised a few times when it takes you down right before the finish line.
  • The car models are great: those feel like a battle cars on the track. The feeling of car weight is also there, which really makes you feel like you’re driving a heavy, albeit fast, vehicle.
  • The cars are also upgradable, which gives a sense of progression for the game.
  • The music and sounds are alright. It puts you in the racing mood + engine roar/tire screech is really well done which is detrimental for immersion in the racing game.

The Bad

  • No joystick/keyboard control in menu: you’ll have to put your controller down and navigate with mouse
  • Can Get Repetitive: there are 9 tracks for ~100 campaign levels. Might not seem that bad, but campaign split into 3 parts. First part only features 3 tracks. That means those 3 tracks repeat over 32 missions. Yes, I enjoyed riding on those tracks for the first ~5 times. After that: that’s the first time I seriously wished that the game I like was shorter rather than longer. And to get all tracks / cars in solo racing mode – you’ll need to grind through all these 100 levels.
  • The backgrounds are somewhat bland. There are track surroundings, but behind them it looks like an infinite empty space, especially noticeable in the city tracks.
  • Extra mention goes to the strongest weapon, railgun: the shot does good damage, but it not feel powerful at all. It’s just a small red dot that appears/disappears when you actually expect something like a railgun from quake 2, leaving a good trail of particles for a few seconds.

Summary

What surprised me about the Battle Riders is the car handling. It just feels really great to drive and succeed on turning. It reminded me of driving in Need For Speed 2 and Need for Speed 3 – when you get so excited that your body literally follows the cars turn direction (I’m sure you know that feeling if you played racing games when you were a kid). The only serious drawbacks is the lack of multiplayer (would be tons of fun) and a small variety of tracks: there are 9 tracks, multiplied by two (the reverse directions are also possible). It might sound a lot, but first 32 races happen on 3 of them and it really starts to feel somewhat grindy to go through the same road over and over again, even if it includes reversed tracks. Other than that – the description of the game mentions “adrenaline pumping, high octane action and a lot of fun” and I agree to it. Despite the flaws – I can strongly recommend the game. If you love racing games and aren’t afraid of practicing the same track over and over again – that’s the game for you. If you are simply looking for a good game but maybe lack patience – that’s also a solid choice, but wait for 50% discount.

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Feature Image taken from the Battle Riders store page, here

Crawl - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Dungeon-Crawler / Local Multiplayer
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Crawl is a peculiar game. It recently left early access, entering the fully released stage. The game’s idea is really original: four players (either bots or humans) are playing at the same time. One of them gets the role of dungeon explorer, going through the dungeon. Other take the roles of ghosts, who can spawn monsters or possess the traps across the rooms. If someone manages to kill the dungeon explorer, he takes his role, while recently deceased player becomes a ghost. The player who manages to get level 10 and kill the dungeon boss wins.

The Good

  • Really innovative and fun gameplay: there’s also no downtime for anyone, because all players influence the game in a way. It’s like telling a story from two different points of view
  • Lots of content and variety: different bosses, monsters, weapons and items. As you play more games, you get more unlocks, diversifying the randomized gameplay even further
  • AI is really good
  • The game has its own style: the pixel art is well aligned and fits the theme well

The Bad

  • A bit of a snowballing tend to happen. If one player levels up while playing explorer, other players (ghosts) are getting stronger monsters. Technically, that tends to even out the disadvantages (weaker players have stronger monsters -> statistically they tend to kill explorer more and take its role) as the game progresses. But if weaker player gets the role of explorer – he still has to fight the strong monsters of at least two other ghosts which often won’t be in his favor. During the midgame this gap is felt the most, but then it evens out if the game drags on a bit. That’s really the only drawback I can name.
  • No online multiplayer: the game could really benefit from it.
  • Also, minor thing, but I could not switch active display on my machine (could not move the game to second screen). The option to do this is there, but it did not work if I changed it.

Summary

The game is good in singleplayer, because AI can use the surroundings well and both control and combat the monsters skillfully. However, Crawl shines brightest when played with friends: the hot-cold relationship that turns upside down when someone takes control of the explorer (and the old foe, in turn, becomes somewhat your friend) makes up for a lot of funny and exciting moments. The content unlocks also makes it really replayable. Overall, it’s a solid game with original premise and I highly recommend it.

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Feature Image taken from the Crawl store page, here

Sonny - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Not while controls/UI are like that

When you hear about the game “Sonny” some of you probably remember your teens: that was a really popular flash game. The same goes for me: I still have fond memories of playing it. This game on Steam, however, is not exactly a direct sequel of sonny1/2 from flash to PC. It’s a port from the iPhone game, made by the same author, based on the plot of the first game. It’s a turn-based RPG where you clear stages with your party, acquiring new skills and items in the process.

Pros

  • Content is decent. Lots of items, engaging plot (who does not like zombies?)
  • The combat system is well thought out: it’s easy to learn but hard to master, offers a solid challenge
  • Talent tree + possibility to evolve your abilities during battle, adjusting to your playstyle and improving the ways to defeat your enemies
  • Combat feels well polished: there’s really no attack animations for the character sprites, but hitting the enemies feel really good: lots of flashy numbers and colorful effects.
  • Solid and colorful graphics overall.
  • Sounds/music are good

Cons

  • All cons for me are essentially associated with UI/UX. The game might be ported to PC in terms of graphics, but UI/UX is still kept from Mobile. No difference between left / right / middle clicks in battle: if you want to see ability descriptions, you have to hold your CLICKED mouse button on them which screams “touch” from mobile. No skill hotkeys. The first flash game had similar mechanics, but it did not open a new window when you clicked the skill for description. That makes a huge difference. Here, when you want to check your skill out during the battle, you’ll also need to close the window with description (in case you don’t want to use it).
  • By the way, using right click on skill upgrade window teaches your character skill instantly in your talent tree. Learned it the hard way. So yes, there is a way to read about the talent, you just need to LEFT click it. The inconsistency is killing me.
  • Shop: no buy-and-equip at once. You have to buy your item, close the shop window, go to inventory window and equip your item there.
  • Hovering on stats does not explain them. There’s “Stat” info button that explains basic stats.
  • Big one: some debuffs are not visibly displayed on your character (you can find out that he’s debuffed only by clicking on him). Might not seem like a huge deal, but there’s literally a debuff that kills you when you attack.

Summary

Essentially, it feels like a good mobile game that tries to find the way to PC. By itself, there’s nothing bad in the fact, but the laziness in adjusting the UX for decent use on PC really breaks the experience. The game screams “mobile” right now. Honestly, I this is the first time I loved the the setting and gameplay, but was absolutely frustrated by the controls, as playing it on PC felt like playing the game on an oversized mobile. This type of controls work on mobile mostly for one reason: buttons are not too far from another due to smaller screen, you can simply touch them and navigating is much more convenient with your fingers. On pc, you have to scroll your mouse and click more buttons than necessary. The lack of hotkeys also hurts the game that requires you to do lots of clicking on skills. Overall, get it if the control issues are fixed. The gameplay is OK, but the controls are infuriating. If you have an iphone: get it there or wait for fixes on PC, I would not recommend this game in its current state, especially to Sonny fans out there. Better go replay the first game on the publishers website

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Feature Image taken from the Sonny store page, here

Codex of Victory - Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Turn-Based Tactics / Strategy
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: If you are a Turn-Based Strategy game fan

Codex of Victory is a turn-based tactics/strategy game. To describe a gameplay briefly: it’s a game with classical Turn-Based Tactics feel: the battlefield is split into hexagonal tiles. You control separate units with move and attack gameplay. Each action take action points, which you have limited amount. Capture bases to increase that limit. Technically, battles are nothing exceptional (but nothing bad either), just a classical process for this type of games. However, there’s a global planning map, where you build the units for upcoming battles and upgrade them, which introduces a good strategical/resource-management aspect to the game. Battles are won by tactics, whereas your success in a war is measured by the right strategy. Build the right buildings and units and your tactical battles will be much smoother. Plan and build poorly – and battles will be much more troubling.

Pros

  • A strategy with classical Turn-Based Tactics feel, which is heavily underrepresented on the market right now
  • Big campaign: multiple planets to conquer, lots of battles to fight
  • Unit upgrade system (modules) that affects the gameplay: you can add extra stats / traits to your units, altering the battle tactics
  • Resource Management and Unit production diversifies tactical gameplay and adds a strategic layer.
  • Neat graphics and decent sounds

Cons

  • No skirmish / map editor. I know it might seem trivial for some, but if you want to extend the fun – there’s no way to do
  • There’s a huge difficulty jump after you complete tutorials (namely: after Baron’s satellite appears): won’t be a problem for seasoned TBS veterans, but if you’re starting out this will be quite tough
  • Some units feel pretty much same (Looking at you, spider tank and heavy tank).
  • There’s a plot, but it feels generic. (Actually a good thing if you want more of fighting and less reading, just don’t expect a deep world description).

Summary

Codex of Victory is a solid game for Tactical genre fans. It you are a fan of the genre and are familiar with it – it’s a good choice to fill the void and you won’t be disappointed. There’s really no “WOW” factor here, but there’s nothing bad in the game either: you get what you see on the screenshots / videos.

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Feature Image taken from the Codex of Victory store page, here

Asura - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Action / RPG / Roguelite
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

First, Asura is having a bit of the controversial launch: there’s one negative review that is calling out the developers on dishonest practices (leaving fake reviews). The developers, on the other hand, are saying that their Chinese publisher left the reviews and they’ve already asked him to leave that practice, apologizing for this behavior. Here’s the reply from one of the developers:

“We are a two person team from India who have made the game and let me assure you that we would never ask anyone to review or promote the game in a misguided manner.

Now in this particulare case, we have a chinese publishing partner who is handling the chinese version of the game and it was one their members who did this.

We sincerly apologize on behalf of them.”

Nonetheless, the damage seems to be done: there’s suspicion all around and all the positive reviews are looked at with doubt. Essentially, it also affects this review. To address this: I welcome the fact check and critical approach, so if you are wary of this review too – that’s totally cool. That’s only one man’s impression: I’m going to evaluate the game by its qualities and describe why I think it is good. If you disagree – make sure to leave a comment and let’s have a weighted discussion.

Asura is an Action-RPG with roguelite elements. In Asura, you play as a demon, seeking revenge. You need to destroy 5 fortresses, guarded by mythical creatures. What makes it distinguishable from other games is the randomly-generated skill tree. Each playthrough that you are going to have has its own skill tree and it’s up to you how you want to utilize them. The gameplay reminded me more of Bastion rather than Diablo. You must rely heavily on dodging and dynamic movement in different directions, hence making combats really intense and action-packed.

Pros:

  • Great approach to game world: first, you play as antagonist (arguably; you’re the dude that got sacrificed at the stake); second – it’s based on Indian mythology, which by itself is rare for the video games and exciting to me.
  • Awesome graphics: the style looks very clean and colorful, the game is pleasant to look at as you play.
  • Challenging, hardcore gameplay. Action-packed combats where you have to masterfully dodge opponent attacks
  • Brave approach to game mechanics: random skill tree adds variety and replayability to the process
  • Lots of content: player skills / enemies / weapons. As you kill enemies – their strength actually grows for the next walkthroughs. For example, killing a boss on the first level adds a chance to encounter totally different, tougher, boss on a next walkthrough.

Cons:

  • The keyboard + Mouse controls feel pretty meh. You move and attack with mouse only. After trying that out, I played with controller only (as developer recommended). I still see no reason not to make WASD movement controls, because the game rewards active movement / dodging.
  • The burning mechanics destroys your items: might sound cool, but if you get to level 3-4 and get your weapon destroyed, you’re pretty much screwed because you can’t deal much damage and it’s hard to find a new one without killing monsters
  • As with most of roguelites, you can get screwed by random. If you find a good weapon at the start (randomly dropped from enemies / chests) – the game feels much easier. The situation is also made worse by the fact that your skill tree is also randomly generated (you might end up with totally useless skills).

If there really has been fake reviews – it feels totally unnecessary. Despite the flaws, the game feels great, highly polished and is offering a lot of fun. Overall, I got surprised by high quality of this one. All I want to say is that if you liked bastion / torchlight / diablo series – you won’t be disappointed, as this is a terrific addition to Action-RPG genre.

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Feature Image taken from the Has-Been Heroes store page, here

Spaceship Looter - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Action / Roguelite / Bullet Hell
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Disclaimer: the game is in early access, some things will probably change

Spaceship Looter is an action-roguelite. The premise is simple: your character visits abandoned spaceships to pick the abandoned goods there. The game is a mix between “Enter the Gungeon” and “Nuclear Throne”: lots of shooting, using the environment to dodge / kill monsters, some unlocks and money for upgrade purchases.

Pros

  • Great style, the game’s colorful pixel-art is pleasant to look at
  • Dynamic gameplay: small movement space and interactions with environmental destructibles make sure that you keep moving all the time
  • Challenging Difficulty: the game is not easy; good for hardcore players, but probably better avoided by casual players
  • Responsive movement / shooting controls

Cons

  • Performance is linked directly to your screen refresh rate: on my G-Sync 120hz monitor the game ran at double speed, making it essentially unplayable
  • The interactive obstacles sometimes fail to respond in time when you press E button (you just really need to be close to them, but it’s easy to miss this interval)
  • As with lots of these games, you can get screwed by random: some rooms get too much enemies and not enough obstacles or are too small; that makes it impossible to leave them undamaged

Summary

The game solves the problem that Enter The Gungeon had: Spaceship Looter has small rooms and that ensures that you get more action-packed fights and less movement. Right now, the game focuses on core game loop: the plot is close to nonexistent, just run, gun and use your surroundings wisely. There’s really not much else behind the gameplay process, but it’s well polished and addictive. If you don’t mind the lack of plot and consider yourself a seasoned gamer looking for an extra challenge – go for it, you won’t be disappointed

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Feature Image taken from the Spaceship Looter store page, here

Adventuring Gentleman - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Platformer / Roguelite
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Adventuring Gentleman is a steampunk roguelite platformer. You start your game as a gentleman in a club room: there are multiple other chaps sitting there and telling you the news (aka quests). As soon as you pick your quest: you are taken on adventure, where you need to clean 5, 10, or 15 rooms and defeat a boss. After clearing each room from enemies, you can choose a bonus which improves your weapon or your character. It can be double-jump, flight, double shot, explosive shot, etc. If you kill the boss at the end of the quest – the pool of random bonuses is increased. This improves your chances to beat the next bosses: after all, the unlocked bonuses are more powerful.

Pros

  • The enemy killing process is fun: jumping on platforms, charging your gun and killing weird enemies turns out to be awesome
  • Skill-based, challenging and adapting gameplay: most enemies are not easy to beat. You’ll have to dodge projectiles masterfully in order not to get damage. The bonus choice matters, it will affect your play style, so you can influence how each quest walkthrough plays out.
  • Amazing style and enemy variety: the game author has a great imagination and enemies won’t leave you bored: fly with a musket, robot-waiter carrying the bombs, giant mushrooms, tin soldier that uses a ballerina as a gun and much more.
  • Great Victorian-inspired atmospheric music and sounds.
  • Steampunk Style: the steampunk is pretty much underrepresented in games, so kudos to game author for making a good one.

Cons

  • Some enemy attack preparation animations are not long enough or not noticeable enough. This usually is not a problem, but this will bring you a few frustrating moments
  • When you unlock the flight bonus and pick it: controls get clunky, to the point of damaging the gameplay experience and not feeling like a drawback
  • The game is mostly about the core gameplay (not much plot): if you enjoy the run-jump-gun mechanics – the game is for you, as this turns out much cooler than it sounds like. If you’re into the games for stories – this one probably ain’t for you.
  • The style is a double-edged sword: it is well done, but you’ll either love or hate it, no middle ground

Summary

I’m really happy that I’ve discovered Adventuring Gentleman: the art and music make a great atmosphere in favor of Victorian setting. The gameplay might seem simple, but it’s easy to learn and hard to master. The good game design is also there: the player is given a real choice how to build his character, allowing to strategize between shooting and making important choices that affect the play style. Despite the flaws with some enemy animations, I loved Adventuring Gentleman and highly recommend it.

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Feature Image taken from the Adventuring Gentleman store page, here

Armor Clash II - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: RTS
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: On the fence about this one. Wait to see where it is going. I’d say No for now.

Armor Clash II is a classical Real-Time-Strategy game that involves Base Building. While the game offers everything that modern RTS Base-Building games could offer, it feels lacking for some reason.

Pros

  • Every cool RTS function is there: unit groups, build shortcuts, selecting all similar units on screen when double clicking.
  • Great unit models and graphics
  • Upgradable “general skills” that level up as you battle
  • Day/Night cycle is pretty cool (but I did not see it affecting the game in any way)
  • Good naval unit implementation: the naval units supplement the ground units well
  • Good variety of units

Cons

  • Balance issues: ships actually seem overpowered at high tiers, one side (the one with heavy armor/tanks) seems much stronger than other.
  • AI is not great
  • Only 8 skirmish maps, at the time of writing this review
  • Lack of internet-multiplayer. LAN Only games.
  • The fight for resources is not exactly intense: sure, there are points on the map, capturing those brings you extra credits. But other than that: you just build resource gatherer at the very start of the game (at your base) and just carry on. I did not exactly run out of resources.
  • Lack of polish in some aspects: it’s easy to miss level-up in the midst of the battle; the skirmish settings do not save between matches, etc. Lots of seemingly small stuff that make impression from the game worse in the end. Also, the ai difficulty resets completely when you change maps which adds to annoyance.

Some thoughts

Armor Clash II made me seriously think what makes RTS games good. Because the game has everything that you would expect from a classical Base-Building RTS: rock-paper-scissors unit mechanics (only with more depth), build queue, attack-move, general skills and factions. However, it still just did not seem enough. The reason for this is probably how the game is set up: balancing RTS is no joke, and while game author does a good job on implementing technicalities, it still is not enough to provide a meaningful tactical gameplay.

For example, if you look at starcraft 2 or company of heroes – there’s always a tradeoff between when picking a strategy. I.e. if you decide to focus on capturing points in CoH – you are exposing your flanks and cannot build strong defense effectively. If you decide to concentrate on building infantry – you will be lacking in vehicles. Essentially, you pick the way to play and if your way of play is better than opponents – you get rewarded. Armor Clash II does not have a lot of tradeoffs like this: there are two factions, but they don’t feel much different. You can build most of the buildings right at the start and it kind of kills the “technical progress.”

The AI is not terrible, but not great either. That would not be an issue if you could play over the internet. However, the game has LAN multiplayer only, so you probably won’t be able to play against other people.

Summary

I’m really on the line about the game. It’s not a bad game and despite the negative traits, I think the game has potential if developer keeps working on it. Right now, Armor Clash II is a game that you could go once a day and play one quick skirmish game against AI. If you want something like that – it’s not a bad RTS for killing 15-20 minutes. Whether you feel it’s worth $15 – totally up to you. Right now, however, I would not recommend it.

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Feature Image taken from the Armor Clash II store page, here

Lil Tanks - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Game Screenshot

Genre: Shoot-em-up / Action
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, but wait for 50% discount

Disclaimer: I got the key for free

Lil Tanks is a retro-styled shoot-em-up. You control a tank and his smaller assistant and try to singlehandedly repel an alien invasion. One of the innovative things about the game is the small assistant that also shoots and follows you. Its movement is comparable to movement in a snake game: the head moves, the tail follows in its track.

Pros:

  • Nicely drawn enemies / backgrounds, the game has its own visual style
  • Intense gameplay, a lot of things are going on at the same time
  • Difficult, challenging
  • Good music / solid sounds
  • Four different tanks that can be levelled up, eventually increasing in power. Each has special ability that can be used to your advantage
  • Different enemies with different movement patterns

Cons:

  • Only 3 different bonus weapons, not much variety bonus-wise
  • Level 6 deserves an extra mention: drive for >1 minute almost without enemies
  • Enemies do not spawn randomly, but bonuses do: especially on level 5, your fate is decided by random: if you get flamethrower bonus in the beginning on the round, you’ll probably do much better than if you get it at the end

Summary

I’ve played for ~4 hours and got to level 6 (I did not complete it, but as I understand, this is the last one). I’ve beat 4 levels on hardcore mode before that, but the 5th was just too overwhelming and it felt more frustrating than rewarding. I still say the game is good, but with 6 levels I honestly did not feel like it has enough content to justify $9.99 price. I’d suggest waiting for 50% discount.

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Feature Image taken from the Lil Tanks store page, here

Has-Been Heroes - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: RPG / Strategy / Roguelike (which is actually Puzzle / Roguelike)
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

“Has-Been Heroes” is a game from studio “Frozenbyte” – famous for its Trine 1 and Trine 2 games. I’m not mentioning it just because I want to: in my perception, Frozenbyte is a studio that is not afraid to take chances and experiment with the gameplay. The same is true for Has-Been heroes. In the game you play as retired (or actually dead) heroes, trying to escort the princesses to the academy. One unfortunate event happens though: the evil awakened in the kingdom and is actively trying to disturb you. Apart from the original premise of retired heroes – the plot is pretty cliché and very secondary. The premise of the academy seems to be forgotten entirely, since every play through is about killing the final boss.

The game offers an interesting and innovative line-based battle system: when one of your heroes attack, the game freezes. You can move another hero to attacker’s spot and attack again. All monsters have armor (called stamina), which you need to destroy in order to deal any damage. The catch is: every one of your heroes attacks different amount of times. Knight – once, monk – twice, rogue – three times. To be most effective, you need to score hits on the monsters that _exactly_ match their armor, otherwise it is regenerated. That leads to the gameplay that is based on effectiveness.

Pros

  • Awesome mix of puzzle / rpg / roguelike that is fun to play. Really innovative “attack optimization” mechanics are well thought out.
  • Tons of unlocks. I’ve played for about 8 hours and I maybe unlocked 20% of items / spells and less than 25% of all heroes.
  • Pretty graphics with its own style
  • Nice sounds and music
  • Challenging difficulty and skill-based gameplay. The more you play – the more you notice how much further you can actually go

Cons

  • Tutorial is seriously lacking. How do combos work? Why some attacks end up dealing more damage than another (even if armor has been broken)? The synergy between heroes is also not shown well, so when the game starts – you will most certainly lose fast, thinking that it’s too difficult.
  • It can get repetitive: in essence, this game fighting is all there is. For me: it has been pretty cool, but if you are looking for something more than awesome gameplay mechanics (plot? Detailed game world?) – you’ll be disappointed.

Summary

The game by itself has not been getting enough attention – which I think is a shame. Partly I think because the game description positions itself as a roguelike/rpg, where in truth is more like a puzzle game with a huge roguelike influence. It’s not a game for everyone, but if you enjoy puzzle games focused on optimization – this one is for you. I loved Has-Been heroes and I can recommend it to anyone looking for a mix of puzzle/rpg games with fighting systems. It fits perfectly for those who love combat but want something more.

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Feature Image taken from the Has-Been Heroes store page, here