Sunday, December 24, 2017

Review: Heart & Slash [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

The roguelike has become a popular way of changing up existing genres with a little injection of spice and, in general, I’m a big fan of how it has changed things up for the better. Making things a little tougher, more unpredictable, and ideally providing choices that must be made along the way it helps things from getting too stale. To this point it has typically been something you see with shooters, action titles, or maybe an RPG but to date I’d never played a roguelike brawler / beat-em-up and that’s where Heart & Slash comes in. Originally billed as being an attempt to bring the roguelike style to something like Devil May Cry it had some serious ambition.

You’ll play the game initially in the form of Heart 100 years after the Robopocalypse and roughly somehow following the direction of your long-dead creator. How or why really won’t matter though because aside from getting some odd help once in a while from him in the form of a heart to heal with or an upgrade he doesn’t enter into things much. The emphasis is on survival, throwing down with a variety of robots who’ll be in your way, collecting bolts that will help you upgrade yourself, and trying to reach the challenging boss. Since it is a roguelike you can expect to fail and die quite a lot and the goal is simply to do better than the last run.

To help yourself out you’ll be able to arm yourself with random 3 pieces of equipment at the beginning of each run. There will always be 1 weapon, the other 2 will either be weapons or other pieces of protective gear. What’s available for you to get is initially very limited and, for the most part, crap. As you progress and kill increasingly difficult enemy bots or complete specific objectives you’ll continue to unlock more powerful gear. In order to make headway you’ll then want to upgrade your gear using the bolts you’ve collected, to give yourself more speed, increased reach with your weapon, more power, etc and this varies depending on the gear you have. Two important notes are that if you don’t think the gear you have is very good don’t spend your bolts as they’ll carry over into your next run and if you only think 1 of your pieces of gear is worth using at the start recycle the other 2 since when you’re at full health recycling items gives you an additional heart!

Before listing the other issues with the game he most crucial, and crippling, is that in its current state I’ve had quite a number of problems with game crashes, though they’ve been oddly sporadic. In all of my time I’ve had the game crash 6 times now, and that’s a real bummer when it happens while you’re on a roll. Assuming that will be patched there are some other concerns that make it tougher to love. First is that the camera can be tricky at times and initially I had to struggle with it a bit. You do somewhat get used to it but it isn’t always ideal. Second is that the rate of speed in the game is a bit high and what I’d almost call twitchy. Again, as you get used to the game this isn’t so bad but it is a bit jarring at first. Last is that as a whole I’d consider aspects of it quirky. I’ve come to enjoy the game the more I’ve played it but getting over the frustration hump with it took a little more commitment than I’ve typically had with roguelikes so keep in mind that there are things in the game to enjoy as you unlock more and improve but it is a bumpy road early on.

Overall while Heart & Slash has some issues, the most concerning being that it is currently a bit crash-prone, it does a fairly good job of applying roguelike concepts to a brawler. While permadeath is obviously a guarantee the fact that you can carry over upgrades between games is a great benefit and since you’re consistently rewarded with new gear unlocks you’re heavily encouraged to continue to take on fights that are tough. If you love a stiff challenge and are willing to be patient with it Heart & Slash does pay off with some hard-won fun.

Score: 6

  • A wide variety of weapons and gear to unlock and upgrade
  • Upgrade points carry over between runs
  • Many risk versus reward decisions to be made
  • Needs patching to be less crash-prone
  • Action is a bit twitchy, generally throwing nuance out the window
  • The camera can be tricky