Having entered Early Access on Steam earlier this month, after a moderately successful Indiegogo campaign, Hero’s Song is finally available to the public. Developed by Pixelmage Games, led by industry veterans such as John Smedley and Bill Trost, Hero’s Song pays homage to the hardcore RPGs of the past while making use of current technological advancements in regards to world creation and combat mechanics.
Hero’s Song is definitely still very rough around the edges as an Early Access title, but it’s very easy to see where this one’s going. The basis for an excellent game is already in place, however, it’s still just a foundation. The action combat feels great, there’s an incredible world building tool, and there’s an solid amount of class variety. Still though, the game feels very empty at this point. If you’re looking to play Hero’s Song right now, it’s best to go in with a mindset that you’re helping test a game and not thinking this is a finished product.
The Open World
Currently, the worlds built in Hero’s Song are daunting. Each player can build multiple, custom worlds by selecting their size and the deities that oversee them. The influence of each god can be modified, which has a direct effect on the world, and then that data is used to create a random world. Furthermore, 10,000 years of in-game data is simulated to create a unique experience every time. This means that it’s highly unlikely for any two worlds to ever be the same.
The biggest downfall of such a powerful world creation tool based on RNG is the simple fact that random worlds generally aren’t that interesting. Look at No Man’s Sky; billions of worlds and only a handful that are actually noteworthy. You could end up generating a world that’s mostly desert and devoid of life, or you could be stuck in a forest that looks exactly the same for miles. There are NPC run towns and villages, but each building I encountered had a similar NPC with only a basic stock of goods.
That’s another issue with the worlds right now; even the smallest setting is probably too big. Having the option to build a gigantic in-game world is awesome, but there should also be a choice for players who might want to navigate their entire realm in a couple of weeks instead of months or years. This leads to a very lonely experience, even when there are other players on your server. Despite playing with other people on a live server, no one was close enough to bother forming a party.
On the smallest world setting, simply traveling to the closest city literally took hours. In the time I could traverse all of Kalimdor in World of Warcraft, I made it to a single village in Hero’s Song. Initially, I attempted a similar journey on a medium world, only to give up after losing multiple characters to the permadeath function.
Not Kidding About Hardcore
This brings us to the next important point. Let’s all say this one together, “Hero’s Song is Hardcore.” I don’t mean Diablo 3 hardcore where you can get power leveled to 70 in a couple hours and then farm Rifts like they’re no big deal. I mean hardcore where you die right outside the starting zone. Then when you think you’re finally strong enough to venture further, a group of orcs and wolves 20 levels higher than you make a nice snack out of your corpse.
Whether by design choice or Early Access coding issues, Hero’s Song is a very difficult game to get started with and you’re going to die a lot. There is also a lot of balance discrepancy between the long list of classes. Currently, there are rather easy mode options like the Paladin and Necromancer, but most melee classes get punished and many game mechanics don’t appear to be working as intended.
The farthest I’ve made it with a single character is my level 11 Beast Master. He feels like a tanky Ranger with both melee and ranged skills, and he can tame wild animals. Being strong both from a distance and up close is a huge advantage in Hero’s Song due to the variety of enemies. For example, Gnolls will leap at you, which makes them a little more difficult to hit with arrows, but as soon as they land a solid axe swing will take them out.
The beast tame ability, however, could definitely use some improvements. Generally, beast master type pets are strong in online games because the player character is usually weak. In Hero’s Song though, what you tame is what you get. So if you decide to tame a level 1 rabbit, well it’s not going to provide much help. Furthermore, pets don’t seem to level with you and once they die they’re not coming back to life. There is a Mend Pet ability, but most animals are so fragile that it isn’t enough to keep them alive when fighting multiple enemies.
Hero’s Song Development Progression
Despite my complaints, I still have a lot of faith in Pixelmage to create an excellent gaming experience. All of my issues are things that can be fixed or reiterated upon to improve the game. Even in its rough state, there don’t seem to be any game-breaking bugs. The only crashes I experienced were occasionally while creating worlds, and even that wasn’t frequent. The combat feels great and the classes are unique. It feels like an amazing outline that just needs to be filled in.
Recently, Smedley made a Reddit post regarding the major focus of the development team. There are lots of little nuances the team is working on to make the worlds feel more alive and create a sense of purpose. Things like joining friends on Steam, books filled with lore, class balance and collision improvements. Placing roads that link cities together will improve navigation while new Biomes should make the worlds not feel so repetitive. Finally, an improved quest system and creature leveling will create a sense of progression.
These are just the short-term goals, and there are more significant features planned for the official release including: 200 player server support, open-world housing, additional classes, weather, and mounts. According to the developers, Hero’s Song should be finished within six months.
There is still a ton of work that needs to be done and I’m a little skeptical about that timeline. Can significant improvements be made? Of course, but there is a laundry list of features that need to be implemented before the game can be considered finished. If they can do it, however, then that would be very impressive.
At this stage, there are plenty of things to do and explore inside Hero’s Song. You can wander around a single world for weeks and easily get your money’s worth, but it still needs a lot of polish. Just don’t go in expecting a full-fledged MMORPG; instead have an open mind about where the game is headed and you won’t be disappointed.Related: Action RPG, Early Access, Hero's Song, MMOGames, MMORPG, Pixelmage Games, Preview, Steam