on June 12, 2010
Glory of Heracles isn't a game with overweening ambitions to be innovative. It follows the basic standard for strategic RPGS pretty closely. But what it does, it does well indeed.
The story involves your character (he's amnesiac, so you can name him what you want) who discovers that he's an unkillable immortal. Searching for answers as to who and what he is, he falls in with several other immortals who don't know why they're in that fortunate state, as well as someone who may, or may not, be Heracles himself. Their search for answers on their identities and fates lead them to become involved in an ancient war for the earth itself.
The gameplay is turn-based, but compared to some recent offerings that had scarcely any variety of attacks (I'm looking at you, Nostalgia), Heracles gives a wide choice of physical, skill-based and magic-based options, as well as buffing and debuffing abilities. The menus are easy to navigate, though, even if deciding on which attack to select may be tricky. Additionally, little minigames optionally allow you to increase the power of attacks, so if you want to spend a few seconds chasing circles around the touch-screen, you will be rewarded with, sometimes, double your attack power. Or, if you feel lazy, you can skip it (which is a nice option).
The story isn't quite as powerful as, say, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, but it has some nice touches about the power of love - between friends, siblings, spouses and parents and children. And, really, who can resist a game where the mighty Heracles rallies his team with the immortal warcry, "Don't make me look bad!"?
I really enjoyed this game, if nothing else because it managed to bring such a solid (but others might say boring?) turn based combat to the DS.
First things first, yes the game is set in Antiquity, Greece to be exact, but don't think this is a serious take on it. Creative license has been taken, wed and had babies in this title. Anachronisms and unlikelihood run amok too. Still, it's all to good effect because oddly, the story is interesting. I didn't expect things to be for the better when I found out that not only is the hero mute but he is also amnesic. But it works out to be much more surprising than the beginning would let you imagine.
The game adds a minigame gimmick to the spells and skills, in that you can increase the damage by a 100-170% multiplier for the basic spells and skills and up to 270% for more advanced ones. The games consist of tapping precise combinations, either by tapping numbers in order, or tapping circles when they overlap or dragging roman numerals into the appropriate boxes. There are other types of minigames, but the ones associated with basic spells tend to stand out. The idea is not new, as other RPGs have had timing/skill exercises to give an attack bonus, but it does use the stylus and touch screen capabilities of the DS, so that is kind of different. Other than that, they quickly become repetitive, and because of the availability of skills to your different characters, you will become very well acquainted with a few of them, to the point of annoyment. Sure the game lets you skip those minigames, but you don't get your damage multiplier and that can make a difference for boss battles and overkilling (ie, gaining MP) monsters.
Also, the gameplay is turn based, but the fact that you can only use a certain amount of elemental ether at a time, (and that ether doesn't regenerate too quickly) makes you look for the best use of those spells. Also, overkilling an enemy will replenish your MP, so timing attacks to the best effect or "wasting" a character's turn to overkill an enemy can be valid strategic gambits. Not to spoil anything, (because this will happen within the first two hours of gameplay) but some enemies will be undead and will keep rising from KO until no enemies are left standing or you overkill them. Making good use of the overkill is then the best way to fight your way through the dungeons of this game.
Another twist on the old school system of equipment is that you can add bonus skills, abilities or spells to your weapons. This is very useful to round off some of the weirdly unblanced spell selection for those characters that would have seemed to be fated to be spellcasters or to give bonus abilities to your melee fighters. One of the most useful ability (peak) allows your character's abilities to activate more often and the first time you get the first piece of equipment that gives this to one of your character is within the first hour of the game, on the lowest form of head equipment and you get to choose whether to sacrifice DEF for it. Same goes for equipping a shield or a secondary weapon. Altogether, maybe not a HUGE innovation, as other games have offered systems similar to this, but at the same time, it is very well done in this one.
Graphics don't make or break this game, but the black edges around the edges are very sloppy. The animation works for AoE (or attack on a row of enemies) show every enemy getting successively and that can get battles to become longer pretty quickly. The undead foes that keep getting up and that you either have to KO all at the same time or overkill also becomes time consuming, especially at times when the encounter rate is so high. (Underground Castle in Athens comes to mind). Another irritant is that the character can't run on the world map. That is very obnoxious and makes trudging to place to place like wading in mud. The world map also doesn't provide much interest, and exploring has absolutely no point.
The music is unobtrusive. I am no great judge, but it was good, mostly non-annoying but it isn't anything anyone will buy a soundtrack of.
The game is incredibly linear. Even some early games let the exploring determine when you'd have this item, or affect how you discovered things. Not this one. At times it nearly drags you by the hand, and at others forbids you from going back. From the start the game makes its own mechanics accessible to newcomers to the genre, the number of tutorials and the actual presence of tutorials on how to use items speaks for itself. Maybe the degree of difficulty is also uneven for this reason. At some points the enemies are complete pushovers. At others they pose a serious problem to the party, especially the "dangerous encounters" in dungeons. But the boss fights are the most uneven, some require almost no strategy while others require that you figure out how to even damage the boss and then demand that you engage in a long war of attrition in order to actually win.
Still for all its flaws the game has quite a few good moments and will yield about 35 hours of gameplay.