If you cut your teeth on A Link to the Past and get a thrill out of Rogue-like adventures, then Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos definitely needs to be on your radar.
Out now on PC and Switch, Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos feels very much like a homage to early Zelda games. Even its art style, down to the way that houses in the village look, is reminiscent of A Link to the Past. However, it’s given a unique twist by being part Rogue-like. Yes, just like in A Link to the Past, you’ll be making your way through a number of dungeons, but here, if you die, it’s all the way back to the start.
The blend of old-school Zelda-style adventuring and Rogue-like risk is perfect. Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos manages to take two well-established genres and fuse them into one without it ever feeling disjointed or messy. You see, outside of dungeons, Rogue Heroes feels like your typical adventure game. You’re free to explore, uncover secrets and complete various side quests. You have no risk of losing anything; your progress will save, even if you die. It’s only once you’re inside a dungeon that the game’s Rogue-like features reveal themselves.
When you’re in one of the game’s four dungeons (five, if you count the endless one that unlocks upon completion), death means the end of your run. You’ll be sent back to town, but you won’t be empty-handed; from exploring and killing enemies you’ll have amassed a number of gems. As such, no run through a dungeon is ever a failure even if you don’t make it to the final boss; the gems you earn can be spent on upgrades, improving your hero’s strength or health, amongst other useful things.
Those gems are fairly slow to accumulate in Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos‘ first dungeon, but even if you die quickly, you’ll have enough to unlock one or two upgrades. In fact, it’s very unlikely you’ll ever walk away from a run without enough to unlock something. Of course, the further you go, the more expensive upgrades become – but later in the game you’ll amass those gems at a higher rate. As a result, perhaps the main problem with Rogue Heroes is that it can feel too easy. Chances are you’ll quickly upgrade your character to the point where even formidable boss encounters are a walk in the park.
On the one hand, I could say that perhaps more work should be involved in levelling up your character. But that would likely only amount to needing to farm earlier dungeons in order to get more gems. There’s no denying that Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos is much harder when you first start out than later on in the game. And while it’s nice to feel powerful and appreciate the effects of your upgrades, it would be better if the same level of challenge carried through the game.
But combat isn’t all there is to Rogue Heroes‘ dungeons. There are plenty of puzzles to be solved as you make your way through them; some you’ll need to figure out in order to progress, and others will simply reward you with extra gems and upgrades. There’s a nice variety, and while the challenge of combat never goes anywhere, puzzles certainly do get more complex later on into the game. Simply pushing buttons and pulling switches gives way to puzzles involving timers, set across larger rooms. They’re rewarding to complete, and since not all of them are necessary, it’s also nice to have the option to skip it if you want.
Outside of Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos‘ dungeons, you’ll find a spot of town-building on offer, which offers a nice reprieve from adventuring. Your hard-earned gems can be used to erect new buildings in town. Some of these will be useful to you – such as a blacksmith who can upgrade your weapon, or a witch who can brew potions – but others simply offer a pleasant sense of progression. Building new houses will see new residents come to town. You can also build a small farm, which opens up a side activity of planting and growing seeds. You can sell your crops to raise a bit of money, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to. Still, if you find planting and watering video game seeds relaxing, the option’s there.
One more thing that sets Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos apart from the crowd is the ability to play in co-op. Up to four players can band together to tackle the game’s dungeons. As great as it is to join forces with friends, it’s not entirely necessary. Rogue Heroes may be billed as a co-op game, but in playing solo it never feels like you’re missing out. Simply, the option to play with others is a welcome addition for those who want it.
There’s an awful lot to love about Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos, especially for those who were huge fans of SNES-era 2D adventures. It wears its influences proudly, and mixes them up with compelling Rogue-like elements. Sure, a bit more challenge would be nice, but when exploring, solving puzzles and progressing is this much fun, who really cares?
Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos Review: GameSpew’s Score