I have said, multiple times over the years how I would love a multiplayer old-school Zelda title. You know, something like Link to the Past. (Which is the best Zelda game, don't @ me.) Just add some multiplayer features, a few new bells, whistles and some slight improvements that come with modern-day titles and your good to go.
You will never guess what has happened? Someone has only gone and made one. I think it was Oscar Wilde that said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” That quote has never been more apparent than in Rogue Heroes. It is so close to being a top-down Zelda clone that I cannot decide whether it is pure genius or just a tad lazy. That being said, I will tell you one thing, it's bloody good fun.
Imagine a top-down dungeon crawler, with online and local co-op that rolls in persistent upgrades and slight roguelike elements, sounds awesome right? I say slight because I expected more roguelike elements with the game being called Rogue Heroes but the roguelike elements are very thinly spread. I think in a game like this though, even though I love roguelikes, it makes perfect sense to keep these elements to a minimum.
I played this game completely with my two boys, and I will tell you something, I have not seen them so obsessed with a game since Fortnite. Every day it was; “dad, can we play Rogue Heroes” or “dad can we play when you finish work.” It was nice for all three of us to play something together. It is something I think we miss, with online being such a big feature these days. The feeling of sitting down together and playing games shoulder to shoulder.
In Rogue Heroes, it is your job to quell the Titans who are stirring in four dungeons. They are stirring because the seals that bind them are weakening and monsters are spreading across Tasos. This review will refer to Zelda quite a lot; there’s no getting away from it, I am afraid. Rogue Heroes’ overworld map, dungeons, weapons, tools and even puzzles scream Zelda, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. Why mess with greatness?
There are a few things Rogue Heroes does though that give it a slither of uniqueness and make it stand slightly ajar from the game it heavily takes inspiration from. The multiplayer, wow, the multiplayer, it's fricking awesome! You are free to play online or locally with three other players to quest, kill and upgrade as a team and the way it is designed as a co-op title that is pure brilliance.
While questing in each dungeon, you earn gems and loot. This loot can be brought back and slowly, and more importantly together, you upgrade your town and upgrade your stats with your hard-earned coin. The splendid thing is that you pay for new buildings together, you can chip into a kitty so to speak and decide how to split the price between you. This alone creates banter between players. You know, “You want the farm, you can pay most of it” or “You paid for my building last time, I will help you pay for that.” It's a simple system but splendid all the same.
There are games to play, sidequests to do, furniture to unlock and even new classes for you to use. There is so much to do between side quests and dungeon crawling that Rogue Heroes feels like multiple game genres sewn together, but it all works so flawlessly, like a well-fitted jigsaw of Zeldery goodness. It was so satisfying coming back from an hour-long dungeon crawl and deciding what to spend your hard-earned coinage on. More health, more attack power, more stamina, these choices will be vital in your ongoing fantasy-based pursuits.
The dungeons themselves are also so Zelda-like you can taste it. Even down to the twinkle soundbite when you unlock a secret door or reveal a hidden chest. You find keys, unlock shortcuts and even have to find a boss door key to take on the dungeons heft big-bad. Remind you of anything? It's how the multiplayer elements are added though that make these dungeons sing when playing with others.
Each room of the dungeon can usually be easily completed. Most of them have hidden chests to find by completing some sort of puzzle whether it's lighting all the braziers, moving blocks onto switches or working as a team to complete some hidden objective. Sometimes progression is also locked behind puzzles, and they really do really make you work together as a unit. Some games are touted as co-op, but really you're playing the same game separately. Rogue Heroes is a true co-op game; in some of these puzzles, you will have to communicate and work in unison in order to progress.
The puzzles are designed very well too. You can see how the developers have adapted certain rooms to work with the full amount of players. For example, there is one room where you all have to stand on switches to unlock something, but when we played with three, the fourth switch had a pushable block next to it so we could complete it. These randomly generated dungeons have been designed in a way that they play well no matter the player count.
Roguelike elements, you say? Well, each dungeon is randomly generated, and you lose all your gems every time you re-enter. So you need to spend everything you have before heading back out. There is a way to retain some gems, but at the start of the game, it's a very meaningless amount. I like these systems, I love roguelikes, and I think any harsher roguelike elements would have made the game incohesive.
I loved the resurrection system inside the dungeons too, and it did lead to some hilarious moments with my kids. When you die, you float around as a ghost and leave a skull behind. To get revived one of your teammates needs to take your skull to an alter and revive you. My youngest, bless him, would always charge in, die and we would end up carrying his skull, between the two of us to the next alter. There was a lot of laughter, and a lot of teamwork was needed to survive the floor of each dungeon. There were some hilarious quotes from my kids too like; “Dad, don’t forget my head” and “Can you remember where you threw my skull?” Brilliant.
It was also hilarious the odd time that my youngest was the last one left, he got scared, and we laughed as he ran over a trap and died by having pots dropped on his head. He is so used to following us two around that when he was left alone, he did not know what to do. Every time we played it was pure joy, there was a lot of giggling and at the end of the day, what more do you want? Is that not what gaming is about, having fun with friends? Or your kids in this case.
Rogue Heroes looks great, I know the pixel art style is a bit overdone these days, but Rogue Heroes presentation perfectly fits the style of the game. It looks and plays like, well, you know the drill. The music is fitting and the game performed almost flawlessly. I say almost flawlessly because there was the odd occasion we got stuck on a wall or door, to be fair though I think this only happened twice but I thought I better mention it anyway.
We laughed a lot playing Rogue Heroes, and I think we will continue to play it into the future. There is still some stuff for us to do, and my boys love it. I like playing games with them, and this is one that we all like, and we can all be successful in. If you like Zelda and have some significant others to play with, you can't go far wrong with Rogue Heroes. It's a sword-swinging good time!