1980 saw the development of a computer game known as Rogue, featuring distinctly unique mechanics such as randomly generated mazes and items, making for a challenging dungeon crawling experience. Rogue would go on to leave a legacy through its prototypical design for future games belonging to a genre we now know as “roguelike.” Like its namesake, games within this genre exhibit traits such as randomly generated maps and turn-based movement. Examples that we’re familiar with today include Spelunky and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon.
One Way Heroics takes the challenge and intrigue of the roguelike, adds a slight twist, and makes it accessible to anyone who likes RPGs. The concept is simple. You play a mysterious hero and travel across a sprite-based overworld with your trusty fairy companion Iris, defeating monsters in active battle and picking up loot. Above all else, movement is the most important element of One Way Heroics because with each step you take and every move you make, not only do monsters move but the left side of the screen will also be gradually consumed by a relentless curtain of darkness, the defining element of the game. As with any RPG, leveling up is key, increasing your stats such as strength and weight, the latter of which I found incredibly important because the weight limit system for your inventory adds a layer of strategy in terms of how you choose to manage your item usage.
If you happen to get caught by the darkness, perhaps by being preoccupied in a dungeon or surrounded by monsters, then it’s game over. This adds a very literal dark and unique layer to the gameplay, in which you can’t simply explore at your leisure, and you have to carefully manage your actions accordingly. The only way to stop this neverending curse of darkness is to defeat the Demon Lord, who will appear at different points in your journey, depending on your difficulty level. Other than a slim amount of flavor text from NPCs and the fairy Iris, that’s about all the story we get and that’s all you really need to enjoy this game. Though, if I had to single out a weakness in this game, I would say that it could use more NPC lines. After a few playthroughs, I had more or less memorized what everyone had to say.
The mechanic is that makes One Way Heroics an addictive experience is the Hero Point system. At the end of your journey, whether it lasted 30 minutes or 30 seconds, you will be awarded Hero Points based on how well you did. You can then use these points to unlock new Classes, new Perks, and more space in your Dimensional Vault. Each Class has its own strengths, catering to a variety of play styles. Hunters excel in long range combat, Adventurers have a knack for treasure looting, Pirates are pure brute strength, and so on. Perks are stat upgrades that can be assigned at the beginning of each journey, and the Dimensional Vault is a mechanic that lets you transfer items from one journey to the next. With this, the sting is taken out of defeat, if even just a little bit, and the promise of victory becomes that much closer with each attempt. Once you feel confident enough you can take on higher difficulties, as well as custom campaign worlds that include challenges like an all money run and a map with limited visibility.
One Way Heroics emulates the aesthetic of old school JRPGs without feeling like it’s trying too hard to recapture nostalgia. The main difference is the much higher framerate seen in One Way Heroics, which makes each swing of the sword look as swift as lightning and as smooth as water. The sprites look great and all of the sound effects have the satisfying click and crunch we expect from old JRPGs, particularly when attacking monsters. The portrait art looks fantastic as well, all of which are hand drawn to give the characters a more manga feel rather than anime. The game also features a surprisingly extensive soundtrack, ranging from touching piano tunes to rocking battle themes to sick samba beats. As much as I enjoy the music, I usually find myself turning it off to listen to my own music or have a video running next to the game. I don’t think that’s too much of a sin since that’s an option in the game.
The roguelike genre practically defines replay value, and One Way Heroics is no exception. With each randomly generated world each combination of Perks and Classes, and each difficulty level, there are infinite gameplay experiences for you. This game is heavily reminiscent of the Lufia series, which also has the same grid and turn-based movement system. So if you’re a fan of sprite-based JRPGs and want a break from traditional turn-based combat, I would highly suggest you check out One Way Heroics. The simplicity of the game makes it easy to get into and hard to put down, creating an experience that borders on addiction.
Did I mention that this is a $2 game? Pick it up at the playism site and get a free Steam key as well! Or you can just pick it up on Steam, too.
- Dialogue for NPCs is rather limited.
- Music is good, but sometimes forgettable.
- Easy to learn, hard to master.
- Hero Point system encourages you to keep playing.
- Curtain of darkness adds a sense of urgency and need for strategy.