Starting out life on the Apple Arcade earlier this year, HEROish became something of a hit with its MOBA-lite deck building action. Now though, developers Sunblink are ready for HEROish to make the transition to PC and consoles. It’s expected to bring tension-filled, card-based combat that’s easy enough for anyone to pick up and play. Should you immediately suit up and venture into HEROish, or is this hero malarkey not worth your time and effort?
Well, HEROish is easy to grasp that’s for sure, so that’s a major positive from the outset. The core concept of the real-time battle arena adventure sees you placed in control of one of six heroes. You don’t need to aim or manoeuvre too much, with moving left and right being your only concerns. Once an enemy is within range, the hero – and any allies – automatically engages by using a standard attack. Having this autonomous action allows you to focus better on the card playing aspect.
The cards at your disposal are used for everything, including buffs, special attacks and spawning minions to aid in your conquest. These are dealt at random from your deck, assigned to the face buttons on the controller, and cost mana to perform. Only four cards will be available at any moment, but upon usage, another is drawn to fill the void. It’s very straightforward and the controls are simple to understand, which is essential when in the midst of a confrontation.
Focusing on the single player offerings first, and there are three campaigns to work through. In terms of storytelling, the Cursed have unleashed holy hell on the world and the Imperial folk make it their business to put a stop to the evil hordes. Meanwhile, the anthropomorphic Feral creatures are sick of both of them and just want a quiet life, but will fight till the death to protect their land. Each campaign is centred on the aforementioned factions, with a concurrent tale flowing through them.
It’s a narrative that won’t leave a lasting impression to be quite frank, but the quirky humour and unique personalities of the heroes and villains are enough to keep you going for the fairly brief storytelling moments that arise. Furthermore, the main characters are fairly memorable in design, with cartoony and slightly accentuated characteristics. Flynn Diamond is a cross between Johnny Bravo and Thor, while King Bulvi is a fierce looking bear with a massive beard. It’s definitely down to the gameplay to hook you in first and foremost though.
For each of the campaigns you’ll get to choose between two different characters and whomever you decide to go with is locked in for that particular section. One is more of a ranged expert, while the other is better up close and personal, so that covers most people’s preference. Every character has their own unique abilities to bring into the faction’s standard decks, which could mean you’ll be able to throw Flynn’s mighty hammer or rain down a barrage of arrows belonging to Vega.
In order to progress through the campaigns, you must select main or side missions by navigating an overworld. What’s really great during the missions is just how much variety Sunblink have managed to squeeze out of the castle defense foundation. After the initial campaign, I expected to grow tired of doing more of the same, however that wasn’t how things turned out.
Sure, it’s occasionally a simple task like a case of defeating oncoming hordes while protecting a Soul Gem from which you respawn, or venturing towards an enemy Soul Gem with intentions to destroy it, but sometimes it becomes very creative. Such examples include having to breach defensive barriers at the same time as being chased by a beast; stealthily avoiding guards to enter dorms to turn rookie guards into skeletons; and going off the beaten track to gather water (in card form, obviously) to put out fires.
The fact that you’re constantly levelling up and being rewarded with new cards for your deck helps too. It means you’re regularly swapping things in and out, taking into account whether you want to create cheap swarms or go all in for powerful cards that pack a punch. You have to be picky because the decks are limited to only twelve cards and eventually there’ll be a fair few available to select from.
Again, the sheer variety across the factions is commendable and the decks really suit the kind of groups they are. The ability to cast a spell that kills and resurrects enemies is a personal favourite, but other types of cards can unleash useful allies like a frosty beast, a healing shaman turtle, a horse with a mounted guard. The only downside to having plenty of choice is that these can, and really must, be upgraded using coins, and so it’s tricky when you want to invest in a card that you may not be using for long.
After spending a good few hours finishing off the campaign, there’s the option to redo them using the characters you didn’t pick, but I feel as if it’s a ‘one and done’ kind of story mode. Hence, any added longevity is resting heavily upon the shoulders of the multiplayer. I’m not convinced by the 1v1 and 2v2 battles against friends or AI, mainly due to the repetitive nature of requiring one player/team to destroy the opponents Soul Gem.
Unfortunately every match drags on, which could be due to things playing out as Flynn versus Flynn more often than not, as he’s the only character unlocked initially. The rest are unlocked, alongside cards, through completing matches and if you’re not enjoying it from the off, then it’s unlikely you’ll spend time trying to get the rest of the gang. It works though and proceedings unfold without a hitch, so that’s something.
The same can’t be said for the technical side during the campaign however, where things do go awry. Specifically in the Feral section. The main hero sometimes gets stuck when transitioning between areas of a level, causing a necessary restart. While taking the fight to the enemy, your minions randomly stop dead and refuse to follow you, and other times a movement to another part of the battlefield sees them disappear entirely. It’s a little bit annoying, but not frequent enough to be off-putting.
On the whole, HEROish delivers a MOBA castle-defense type adventure that’s a lot of fun to play on your own. That’s mainly thanks to the clever ways in which Sunblink have brought variety to a well-trodden concept. The deck-building and gameplay is super easy to understand, with a great range of cool cards on hand to choose from. It’s just a shame HEROish suffers a tad technically and the multiplayer can’t recreate the enjoyment of the campaigns.
Even though the price for HEROish is a bit steep, it’s certainly still worth considering as a casual castle-defense deck-builder!
HEROish is on the Xbox Store