The land of Tasos is a place that’s currently in a bit of a predicament. The four evil Titans, imprisoned in the four temples scattered around the land to stop them causing mayhem and more monsters running amok, are now about to break out and turn the land into chaos and ruin. Their seals are now breaking and the goddesses that once protected them are now feeling gullible and powerless. The only request. Can a team of trained heroes restore peace to the land and venture into the temples to administer a titan butt-kicking?
It certainly won’t be an easy task with just one house in the village and one villager without the strength and will to venture into the temple themselves. Instead, offering help if they can have the resources to build the necessary buildings and amenities necessary for our hero to attain victory in this hugely and deeply challenging adventure.
Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Talos starts on promising ground. Our hero begins in a small village with the promise that the village can once again be a force against the titans and bring back a community that can help and guide our hero to beat them once and for all.
On startup and as you can see from the screenshots. This world of Tasos is pretty much identical in look, style and pretty much every facet of the basic gameplay to Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The surrounding environment meticulously copies every small detail from the Zelda classic. From the squirrels scurrying in the woods and the fish jumping in water areas.The swipe of a sword on bushes leaving the circular root in the ground as you collect hearts or coins. The dungeons are also especially familiar as regards their layout and the methods in solving each room puzzle, requiring the manipulation of blocks into their correct markings on the floor. The clusters of pots smashing as you swipe with the sword to collect gems, items and hearts. And not forgetting the obligatory secret chest materialising on puzzle completion containing the keys to open those multitudes of locked doors.
The same applies to your inventory. Where the list of items includes the grappling hook for latching on to pillars.Bombs for taking out enemies. A bow and a magic wand for ranged attacks and varying items like the bottle for storing health and magic potions.
It’s only in the early moments of gameplay and through early exploration and progress, that you realise this game veers into a totally different direction from Legend of Zelda:A Link to the Past. Where the early classic as a strong lead character with players following a storyline. Rogue Heroes treads a different route altogether with a very basic character customisation element and a painfully thin storyline which is supposed to allow the player the freedom to do as they wish and as the first word in the title suggests..go roguelike.
To progress and make any kind of ground,the game adds on a town building element. Where players can add all manner of services like a blacksmith, a health clinic, gym, potion shop, general store and also houses that will bring in villagers into your community that will ask for favours (sub-quests). Players needing breaks between dungeon exploring can also opt to add a farm and a fishing dock and sell the produce for coins.
In order to make any kind of progress. Buildings in your town and upgrades to your character require green gems as the main currency. Coins that can be collected from the undergrowth and the dungeon can only get you so far with a basic weapon and item upgrades. A customary route on building a blacksmith for weapon upgrade and a clinic for health upgrade will bring up, at first glance, an extensive and pretty deep and microscopic upgrade tree. Where players can upgrade every single facet and element of the item in question. Sword, for example, has 4 nodes in increments of up to 10 just for sword damage. Further branches include everything from sword swing radius, critical hit and even shot deflection. This same amount of intricate detail applies to every item you collect. Bombs, grappling hook and bows have their own upgrade trees where every minute part of that item can be upgraded and expanded.
This all requires green gems of course. Green gems for every upgrade point for every node for every tree.
So where do I get green gems you ask?
In the dungeon.
And so begins the huge and time-consuming task of constantly visiting the dungeon to obtain masses of green gems to build and expand your village and build a stronger and more versatile character capable of progressing further to eventually taking on each temple/dungeon boss.
At each visit to the temple entrance, you are asked if you want to enter. Agree (and why wouldn’t you?) and each visit will cost you all the green gems you have left unspent and then taken inside and onto the first floor. The entrance is then permanently locked until you die or defeat the boss meaning there’s no escape or just randomly farming a few rooms and just getting out. It’s simply killing the boss or die trying!
For a large part and the first few hours, the dungeon exploration is engaging and quite satisfying. Each floor is a labyrinth of rooms full of treasures, items and monsters including skeletons, floating mages and electric wraiths with the obligatory and often annoying rats and pot concealed snakes thrown in for good measure.
Players will need to complete each floor and find a staircase down to the next level until they reach the final third floor. Where they will need to find a large key to open the boss room door and take on whatever abomination is behind it. Naturally, this is a roguelike game and for this title and once again a deviation from the Legend of Zelda game, each room in every dungeon is randomly generated.
For the first part of your early gameplay experience, this element works remarkably well. Each room seems to be made mixed up rather well as regards the puzzle elements and random objects and monsters combined with light or darkness added does seem to keep things fresh.
It’s only through constant playing and constantly revisiting the dungeon that a good deal of gameplay elements start to develop issues that grow and get bigger and wider to the point that it all begins to get more and more irritating and annoying, and I’ll explain.
To begin with, the grind of the dungeon can get tiresome so you may want to walk out of your village and explore the surrounding area. What becomes apparent is that you can’t do that. Head north and you’ll get to a point where you are blocked by two stumps that need a hammer. No shop sells a hammer and so the only way you can get the hammer? Defeating a dungeon boss.
Head West to a broken bridge that requires the grappling hook to launch yourself between the pillar on each side and because you only get a temporary grappling hook, bow, wand inside each dungeon and on each dungeon visit. So to get a permanent grappling hook?
Defeat a dungeon boss.
Let’s say you want to farm. You go to the dungeon and bring back the 800 gems required to build the farm section. Pay it and after building it there’s a problem. Apparently, there are no farming tools and you’ll need to get them from a barn with a rusted door. After discussion with a nearby villager, the only way to get into the barn is to acquire a magic power glove to break the rusted door. Where do you get the power glove?
Defeat a dungeon boss.
So you see what you originally thought was a free and relatively open world soon becomes a vortex of constant hands tied excursions into the only available temple/dungeon. This would be ok if its wasn’t for one defining factor with the emphasis on randomly generated dungeon exploration.
With similar titles such as Moonlighter and Binding of Isaac, random generation is a great way to keep things fresh and addictive as long as the difficulty balance is right. Get it wrong with games like Unexplored and you get extreme difficulty curves that are unfair, irritating and damage the whole system of character upgrade and progression. Unfortunately, Rogue Heroes sadly falls into the latter.
Dungeon floors are often relatively easy at times with rooms containing a few monsters in good light with plenty of gems in that you can often complete a whole floor with say 500 gems as reward for your minimal work. The trouble is that with the lack of balance in the random generation aspect. A revisit or an adjacent room can then throw twice as many monsters in a darkened room with half the gem count for your effort.
Combine that with issues with collision detection in that the snakes in the pots seem to take energy by bumping into you regardless of you constantly sword-swinging and a glitch stopping you from climbing steps in the rooms unless you leave and re-enter and you can feel the angst.
Things could probably help by the character upgrade system. But it’s just so painfully slow in the progression department to feel any effects from each upgrade that you are constantly at the mercy of the random generation element. Trust me. This game wants to kill you and kill you often and often unfairly without care.
To give you a better idea, it took me some 10 hours and 22000 gems to build most of the basic village and generally average character upgrades. It’s as slow as that!
Complete the first temple and you finally get the grappling hook for your efforts and you would think that crossing the bridge to the swamps in the west would loosen things up. Sadly, it seems the game is quite happy to keep dragging you at its own very cumbersome pace. To get to the second dungeon requires you to acquire a pair of special boots. You go back to the village to speak to the owner of the boots who will give them to you only at the request that you go back to the swamp and get a rare mushroom for their sick daughter! So one step forward, two steps back!
Overall then. Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is a game with some interesting ideas that just don’t come off as well as they should. That leads to so many elements that feel unrefined and unpolished. What starts promising, soon starts to grate and become dull and unsettling with players not feeling as rewarded or feeling that they are progressing as well as they expected.
Even fans of slow-paced character progression and welcoming the slow grind will start to buckle under the mechanics because it’s not that enjoyable an experience doing so.This is largely due to the classic Zelda having little interlinking stories behind the items, dungeons, weapons and rewards that helped with player motivation and the feeling they were playing a part in the lead characters journey. Here, everything feels so soulless and empty given the rogue treatment and the lack of freedoms and options that are sacrificed and put aside for constant repetitive dungeon crawling really spoils any fun.
Demo available in eshop.
Thanks to Team 17 for the code.